The first generation of Ford Transit was introduced in the UK in October of 1965 taking the reins from the outdated Thames 400E. The first gen Transit was designed with a front mounted engine to combat the restrictive load area as seen in the Thames.
This, combined with its broad track width gave the Transit much more attractive load carrying capacity over comparable vehicles of the day. Ford also used the relatively short Essex V4 engines which enabled them to minimise the additional length needed to put the engine out in front of the driver.
When the Transit hit the road in 1965 it cost just £540 and with around 100,000 units built in its first year, it started to push its competitors out of the running straight away. With the initial success the Transit kept growing in popularity and sales, it also began to evolve with heaps of variations for its various different uses.
The name ‘Transit’ became synonymous with any large white van, much like Hoover for vacuum cleaners, it truly is a motoring icon deserving of its place in vehicular history.
This Transit is a first-generation facelift model with a rounded rectangular grille, it was purchased by the current owner as a celebration of their building firm’s 45th anniversary as the first vehicle the current owner bought for the building firm was a first gen Transit, the vehicle was even used in promotional photos for the firm.
The previous owner had the Transit for over 20 years and used it only for holidays in the summer which might go some way to explain the low mileage. It was well loved with the previous owner who cared for it mechanically and even treated it to a coat of paint which will be discussed further down in this description.
The current owner had the custom motorhome unit removed from the van and replaced with a 1975 aluminium drop side rear bed; it is noted that this Transit is not a tipper.
The Transit is now surplus to requirements and the owner has taken the decision to move the vehicle on.
This 51-year-old Transit has a long history of old Mots, parts purchased, old tax discs , going back many years. The previous owner had this Transit for over 20 years.
There are also receipts for work done as well as an operator’s manual and a very early Haynes Manual which has been extensively used, which leads us to believe that a lot of the work was done to the van by the previous owner.
Also the current owner has had the van looked over thoroughly to check for any mechanical or structural issues and has found everything to be in order.
The inside of the Transit is delightfully ‘make do and mend’ with the mismatching seats and floor carpet. The simplistic, antique wooden dash is a joy to behold in today’s sea of plastic and ‘space age’ materials, the single dial sat in front of the driver hints to just how simple and effective these vehicles were back in the day.
The door cards are seemingly original and have lasted very well during their time and the headlining isn’t sagging, ripped, worn or stained. In fact, there is very little wear considering the trucks ripe old age, it really transports you back to the 70’s where you could easily see hundreds of these ferrying things back and forth to places.
The interior is well spaced out and open plan with there not being any centre console or storage units to take up cabin space. The gear lever sticks out of the floor in-between driver and passenger and the movement is as you’d expect from a 50-year-old running gear.
The exterior of the Transit is perfectly serviceable, as mentioned, the previous owner had given the cab a coat of paint themselves. The finish isn’t terrible, to paraphrase the current owner, it won’t be winning awards in the show and shine but it’s a solid finish and in the metal it's actually not bad at all, save for a few runs here and there.
The tiny 14” wheels look to be too small to carry any serious weight, but they have stood the test of time and continued to allow the transit to haul its load for all these years.
The frame and chassis work you can see underneath the aluminium bed is structurally sound, there is some surface rust as you might expect but very little corrosion. The aluminium bed itself is in good condition also and all pins, hinges and fasteners are in good shape ready for the heavy duty work this van would have seen back in the 70’s.
The chrome work on the front of the Transit is in good condition also, there is a bit missing from the passenger side indicator bezel and a small dent in the front bumper but that was all we could see upon inspection. All electrics are working as expected and the mirrors and glass are all serviceable and without chips or hazing.
The drive train of the Transit is all working as intended and the engine started up attentively and idled steadily. Upon pulling away and driving there were no malicious noises, rattles of bangs coming from the engine or drivetrain and the suspension is simplistic leaf springs which were in good condition as well.
It is worth noting that there is tape around the fuel filler neck which might indicate a small leak, this would be easy to fix for a body shop or fabricator but might mean the fuel needs to be drained.
The vehicle has been on the ramps to check all oils, wheels, brakes, chassis suspension etc and no nasty surprises were had. The engine has had a new starter motor and battery to ensure it would start and charge efficiently and the engine has undergone compression testing which it passed with flying colours, a positive sign for much more life left.
A real treat to see a first-generation Ford Transit in any condition let alone a diamond in the rough such as this. This Transit has seen a lifetime worth of occasional use with the previous owner and has been kept in fantastic running condition by both the previous and current owner.
The Transit was applauded back in the day by having the performance of a car and the space to carry 1.75 tonnes of stuff and it was the favourite of builder and bank robber alike. The First generation was in production for 12 years before receiving a face lift in 1978 and was produced all over the world in Ford many factories, during that time the Ford Transit had the market for vans tied up and that legacy still persists to this day.
Surely such a rare and well-kept Transit has to be worth saving for future generations. Whatever your plans are for this Transit, whether It be to use it for TV and Movie work like the current owner, or a motorhome like the previous owner, this van is set to continue to be an icon of the hardworking tradesmen and women the world over. We love the Ford Transit.
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1971 Ford Transit Mk1 Flatbed
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