By Dave Turner
“Made to your measure from widest choice” – Transit
A detailed model listing and photographs of some of the models described may be found after the text.
If the success of a vehicle can be measured by the number of miniatures made of it, then the humble Ford Transit must rest up there with any exotic Ferrari. Naturally describing them all at once might become tedious as there are so many models and toys of the Transit. So I will divide coverage of the Transits and I will cover vans made after 1970 in a future posting.
It is alarming that for the 30 plus years this ongoing review of miniature Fords has been going, the Transit has not as yet been included. Especially (or maybe because!) since the late 1960s Transits, and few vans of other makes and of various ages, have been the basis on which the writers livelihood has relied.
Launched in the UK in October 1965, the Transit was the result of a directive from Ford HQ in Dearborn that a ‘common van’ should be created for the European market by Ford UK and Ford Germany…. in co-operation with each other! At that time in 1961, Ford UK were selling their forward control Thames 400E van quite successfully, while Ford Germany were selling their FK1000 Taunus van, very similar in outline to the 400E but totally different in detail, and already actually called Transit.
The main features of the new common van was that it should benefit from the better handling of a semi-forward control vehicle while at the same time maximising cargo space. Early experimental layouts were based on the US Econoline van while the idea of having the short nose required for a power unit like a V4 and providing a wider platform than was previously considered acceptable seemed to promise what was desired. Ford Germany had already produced a range of V4 (and V6) engines in 1962, the smallest for their Taunus 12M, while Ford UK were going to retain a bit of individuality by producing their own V4 and V6, their V4 making its debut with the new Transit in October 1965 simultaneously with the Corsair V4 passenger car.
From the start, the range and choices for the new Transit were vast. Two wheelbase lengths were 106” and 118”. On the smaller with a 1.7 litre V4 engine came 12cwt, 17cwt and 22cwt vehicles while the larger came with a 2.0 litre V4 plus twin rear wheels and offered 25cwt, 30 cwt and 35 cwt units. From September 1966 a 290 van arrived, based on the 17cwt chassis cowl, similarly treated the 35 cwt chassis cowl could form the basis of the 390 van while from January 1968 the smaller vehicles had the option of the larger 2.0 litre V4 engine.
With the increase in popularity of diesel propulsion, it was obvious that such a unit should be available in the new Transit. A crafty modification involving a 4” extension to the front panel, providing a distinctive ‘diesel nose’ enabled the Perkins 4/99 4 cyl diesel to be accommodated. From April ’66 this was changed to the Perkins 4/108. Selected customers could specify Fords rapid V6 petrol engine and this special long nose could accommodate the longer V6, and at the same time was ideal for hiding the identity of such a potent vehicle. Bulky but relatively light loads inspired the 100L conversion by Martin Walter, replacing the twin rear wheels on the lwb with singles and at the same time removing the need for the projecting mudguards.
Famously the Transit has come in every form possible, one of the early sales brochures from late 1965 included the initial range of Ford produced examples – the simple van of course and a Combi on all but the 12cwt, featuring bus type side windows as a basis for personnel carrier, caravan or ambulance conversion. Then there were complete buses on the 17,22 and 25 cwt base vehicles having a variety of internal seat layouts. For aftermarket body conversions there were chassis cab, chassis windscreen and chassis cowl options available. The simple choice of doors on the Transit van takes some understanding, like the two front side doors, the second van side door can be hinged or sliding, on one or two sides and with the two hinged rear doors there are no less than 16 door permutations possible. One option was for a lift up tailgate in place of the double rear doors and in Europe this was the more popular choice, the UK preferred hinged rear doors.
From July 1967 the Borg Warner 35 auto box could be specified, while in February 1968 the facia and grille were subtly changed. In October 1969 the 12cwt variant was uprated to 14cwt by upgrading the rear springs and tyres while at the same time the 17cwt was uprated to 18cwt. In November 1969 another small update took place when the front side lights were incorporated into the headlights, resulting in the flashing indicator now being a complete disc of amber.
More fully equipped ‘Custom’ Transits came with extra options such as a heater and better trim and initially can be identified by their plated bumper and white painted grille. In December 1970 some more substantial updates were accompanied by a re-styled front panel, providing a convenient point at which to pause in this first part of the miniature Transit story.
Where to start with the models themselves? abs seems to present an obvious alphabetical launch. This one-time vast range of white metal kits was recorded as producing a Strachan bodied Transit minicoach in MAR 68 (1992) in their 1:76 Streetscene range. this was intended as an item for a diorama, or model railway. As most of the illustrations of real Strachan Transits indicate that they were based on the diesel lwb chassis cowl it has to be assumed that the abs was such an item.
More 1:76 metal kits come from John Day, a list of which have been kindly supplied by Maz Woolley and a caravan was described by Maz in MAR 179.
Still in 1:76 scale, the Best Box van was part of the range of pocket sized diecast toys produced by a company set up around 1960 to employ disabled redundant mine workers in the South Eastern part of Holland. (DAF was another mid ‘60s operation initially employing ex miners.) Their Transit van originally came with opening front doors and lifting tailgate but when the range was re-launched as EFSI in 1971 the Transit had only a functioning tailgate. A variety of liveries have been noted.
Brekina has produced H0 scale (1:87) model vehicles since 1980. Their Mk 1 Transits have been produced with both pre and post 1970 front ends in both van and 9 seater bus form. Like most European based models they invariably feature a lifting tailgate rather than twin rear doors. They also appear in the Faller roadway range of vehicles, modified to follow the magnetic track.
In 2005 Corgi introduced the Mk 1 Transit in their Trackside range, listed as 1:76, the 00 model railway scale, but actually 1:72 when measured. They came in either plain white or as a Post Office van, and for a change on a ready made model they had right hand drive and hinged rear doors! The base is marked simply “Trackside”.
Railway modellers finally got a new 00 gauge Mk 1 in 2015 when Oxford issued their very long wheelbase – no less than a scale 164” – RAC and AA recovery vehicles. In 2016 a swb van joined the range – an excellent little model nicely detailed, down to clearly legible licence plates – GYH 194D – a London issue from 1966.
Smaller still are the N gauge 1:148 scale metal kits from Rod Parker, who apparently made the masters for the John Day 1:76 Transits. These tiny productions were described by Maz Wooley in MAR 238.
The Schuco Piccolo series offers something a little different – their 1:86 scale Mk 1 Transit, like all Piccolo miniatures, is a hefty semi-solid one-piece casting featuring delicate rubber tyres on plated wheels/axles that are rather insecurely crimped to the base of the body. A variety of liveries can be found on these endearing little Transits. The first red coloured issue was a sharper rendition than the Piccolo miniatures had previously been and marked the change from the annual ‘special’ being presented in a wooden box to coming in a red tin.
Going back up to 1:68 scale the Husky Mk1 was described on its base as a Martin Walter Caravan. It bristled with detail while the interior contained everything including the kitchen sink, visible by lifting up the tailgate. From 1970 the Husky name was replaced by the Corgi Junior logo.
The Dinky Toy Transit came along almost alongside the first real Mk1, arriving in 1966 in Kenwood and subsequently Hertz livery. Featuring sliding drivers door, hinged left side door and hinged back doors it featured single rear wheels, so was it intended to depict the 100L Transit? It was also produced in various emergency service guises. A pair of slightly smaller plastic lwb Transits marked only with the familiar “Made in Hong Kong” on the base were obviously taken from the Dinky as so many little details confirm. A van and bus, these both have a flywheel motor on the back axle, plus respectively a ladder and a roof rack but like the Dinky have only single rear wheels. It is known that Mk 1 Transits were included in the Lucky range but they are invariably marked Lucky on their base. A single sheet Lucky Catalogue No 1 shows the van in several forms but no bus.
From Mea in France came a 1:43 resin kit for a swb van and the decals that come with it create a Team Castrol vehicle for Barry Sheene. Leaving them off and you have a nice plain standard van.
Another 1:43 Mark 1 van came from Minichamps along with a 9 seater bus both featuring a rear tailgate rather than hinged doors. The van has also appeared in the Atlas partwork and has “Atlas Verlag’ on the base in place of the Minichamps logo. They are very similar apart from lacking external mirrors and featuring a different badge on the tailgate while the roof is lower at the rear than that on the Minichamps. Also looking very similar is the 9 seater bus from Norev now having the ‘Norev’ name on the base but also noticeable in that like the Atlas issue the roof is lower at the rear than that on the Minichamps bus.
Corgi’s Mk 1 that came in their Vanguards range in 2001 was hailed as a masterpiece at the time and indeed the detailing on the first issue – Post Office Telephones, supports this. Etched wipers and separate plated door handles are among its highlights. Unfortunately, when they issued “The Millionth Transit” Combi the side windows were present only as a decal, on top of which the example to hand has deteriorated terribly since purchase – metal fatigue and peeling paint. On top of that, the actual millionth real Transit was a diesel nosed example! Corgi had already produced an excellent diesel fronted van, albeit retaining the same base with V4 petrol exhaust layout, or V6 petrol. They gave it “Eddie Stobart” livery and reg number JLA 347D – a London 1966 issue. Did Eddie Stobart ever run Mk 1 Transits? Numerous additional liveries have been issued since including a 40th Anniversary example in plain white.
Way out of reach of the average Ford collector, the Premium Classixxs 1:18 scale lwb van lacks nothing in detail and desirability. At close to a couple of hundred pounds each it came in both Ford Motorsport and Porsche Racing livery, those active in the latter sphere will be more likely to have the wherewithal necessary to buy one of these beauties.
All is not lost, a ‘poor mans’ Ford Motorsport Mk 1 came in 1:43 from Spark along with a few other team vehicles. It even features the same registration number as the Premium Classixxs model- TOO 448R, which is itself a mystery as that is a 1976 Essex issue and from long after the first type grille had been modified. Nevertheless it is a nice model and has a delicate looking etched roof rack that is far more robust than it appears. Spark also did a diesel nose lwb van in Firestone livery and it differed from the Ford Motorsport version by not having side doors but depicting twin hinged rear doors rather than a lift-up tailgate. The base did retain the V4 petrol exhaust pattern – or was it a V6 engine inside that diesel nose?
More motorsport Mk 1s have been produced in 1:46 by Ixo, appearing under a variety of umbrellas such as DeAgostini and Eaglemoss. The Ford/Castrol issue depicts the lwb single rear wheel 100L type. From DeAgostini it was accompanied by a Mk11 rally Escort on a trailer, despite the absence of any means of attaching the trailer to the rear of the van. This Transit carries licence number JVX 316V, again from Essex but this time from 1979. The ‘Michelin’ Mk 1 from Altaya has single rear wheels but they are back to front, like the outer on a twin wheel set up. At least the licence plate on this is correct datewise, AEH 953H – Stoke-on-Trent 1969. A red Mk1 from Ixo comes in Porsche Racing colours from Eaglemoss.
The German Mini-Auto operation used the brand names R.W. Modell and subsequently Ziss and finally Euro-Modell from the 1960s to around 1980. Their Mark 1 Transit swb van and Kombi were marked 1:43 on their base but were much closer to 1:40 and featured a sliding drivers door and opening tailgate. The van in this collection appears to be a promo as it features decals for “Modelisme automobile international” as well as circular silver stickers on the doors “Mini-Auto-Club”.
It was natural for the German diecast makers to join in during the early years of the Transit as they were just as involved making the real thing as the UK was. The Siku range included a Mk1 lwb mini-bus as early as 1967, featuring an excellent plastic insert grille, opening front doors and rear tailgate but lacking any seats behind those at the front as well as having those rather narrow track axles so typical of early Siku.
On the ball in the UK, Lone Star issued a Mk 1 recovery truck around the same time in their Impy Road Masters series. This depicts a lwb van that has been cut down to accommodate the crane, retaining the rear lights and quarter bumpers.
A white pot money box in the shape of a diesel Transit van found some years ago at a local garden centre is labelled “Van Blanc” on its sides and was possibly blown-up from the Vanguards diesel van.
|Ford Transit 1965-1970|
|abs||UK||1990s||Strachan bodied mini coach||1:76||metal kit|
|Best Box||Holland||1960s||2522||swb van||59mm||1:76||diecast|
|Efsi||Holland||1970s||411||swb van (Best Box)||59mm||1:76||diecast|
|Brekina||Germany||2003||34100||swb 9 seater bus||50mm||1:87||plastic|
|Husky||UK||1968/9||40||swb Martin Walter caravan||65mm||1:68||diecast|
|Corgi Junior||UK||1970/1||40||swb Martin Walter caravan||65mm||1:68||diecast|
|Corgi Trackside||China||2005||DG2000000||swb van||61mm||1:72||diecast|
|Corgi Trackside||China||2005||DG2000001||swb van Post Office||61mm||1:72||diecast|
|John Day||UK||TRV01||swb crew bus||55mm||1:79||metal kit|
|John Day||UK||TRV02||swb caravan||55mm||1:79||metal kit|
|John Day||UK||TRV03||swb van||55mm||1:79||metal kit|
|John Day||UK||TRV04||lwb diesel bus||65mm||1:79||metal kit|
|John Day||UK||TRV05||swb dropside truck||1:76||metal kit|
|John Day||UK||TRV06||lwb diesel dropside||1:76||metal kit|
|John Day||UK||TRV07||lwb diesel van||65mm||1:79||metal kit|
|John Day||UK||TRV08||lwb mini bus||65mm||1:79||metal kit|
|Dinky Toys||UK||1966-74||407||lwb van Kenwood/Hertz||124mm||1:42||diecast|
|Lucky?||Hong Kong||3002||lwb van (Dinky copy)||110mm||1:47||plastic|
|Lucky?||Hong Kong||3002||lwb bus “||110mm||1:47||plastic|
|Lone Star||UK||1967||31||lwb Breakdown Crane||82mm||1:59||diecast|
|Mea||France||18||swb van Team Castrol||102mm||1:43||resin kit|
|Minichamps||China||2004-7||82210||swb 9 seater bus||104mm||1:43||diecast|
|Atlas||China||swb van (Minichamps)||104mm||1:43||diecast|
|Norev||China||2007||270526||swb 9 seater bus||104mm||1:43||diecast|
|Oxford||China||2015||76FTB001||vlwb RAC recovery||93mm||1:76||diecast|
|Rod Parker||UK||NG 11||swb van||1:148||metal kit|
|Premium Classixxs||China||2009||PRE 30060||lwb van Porsche Racing||1:18||resin|
|Premium Classixxs||China||2015||PCL 30061||lwb van Ford Motorsport||1:18||resin|
|IXO||China||2015||CLC 285||lwb Porsche Racing||1:43||resin|
|IXO/De Agostini||China||2017||113mm||lwb 100L Castrol Ford||1:46||resin|
|IXO/Altaya||China||lwb 100L Michelin||113mm||1:46||resin|
|R W Modell/Ziss||Germany||1970s||400||swb Kombi||109mm||1:40||diecast|
|R W Modell/Ziss||Germany||1970s||401||swb van||109mm||1:40||diecast|
|Spark||China||SO275||lwb diesel van ‘Firestone’||121mm||1:43||resin|
|Spark||China||SO291||lwb van ‘Ford Motorsport’||118mm||1:43||resin|
|Spark||China||SO293||lwb van ‘Castrol’||118mm||1:43||resin|
|Vanguards||China||2001||6603||swb diesel van ‘Eddie Stobart’||104mm||1:43||diecast|
|Unknown||diesel van “Van Blanc” money box||210mm||1:24||pot|
Illustrations: Ford Transit 1965-70
1.Unknown 1:47 plastic from Hong Kong: lwb bus
2. Husky 1:68 diecast from UK: 40, swb Martin Walter Caravan.
3. Siku 1:61 diecast from Germany: 268, lwb bus.
4. R W Modell 1:40 diecast from Germany: 401 swb van ‘modelisme automobile international Mini Auto Club’
5. Lone Star Impy Road Master 1:59 diecast from UK: 31, lwb cutdown van with breakdown crane.
6. Dinky Toy 1:42 diecast from UK: 287, 100L Police Accident Unit – police fittings removed and converted into a civilian van.
7. IXO/Altaya 1:46 resin from China: lwb 100L Michelin, single rear wheels back to front.
8. IXO/De Agostini 1:46 resin from China: lwb 100L Castrol/Ford.
9. Minichamps 1:43 diecast from China: 82260, swb van.
10. Vanguards 1:43 diecast from China: 6603, swb diesel van ‘Eddie Stobart’
12. Minichamps 1:43 diecast from China: 82210, swb 9 seater bus.
13. Spark 1:43 resin from China: SO291, lwb van ‘Ford Motorsport’
14. Vanguards 1;43 diecast from China: 6613, swb Combi ‘One Millionth Transit’ with badly fatigued body.
15. Minichamps/Atlas 1:43 diecast from China: swb. van ‘Mann Filter’
16. Vanguards 1:43 diecast from China: 6600, swb. van ‘Post Office Telephones’
17. Unknown 1:47 plastic from Hong Kong: lwb van.
19. Efsi 1:76 diecast from Holland: 411, swb van ‘Aer Lingus’
20. Schuco Piccolo 1:61 metal from Germany: 05852, 2005 Special swb van.
21. Brekina 1:87 plastic from Germany: 34100, swb 9 seater bus.
22. Oxford 1:76 diecast from China : 76FT1001, swb van.
23. Corgi Trackside 1:72 diecast from China: DG2000000, swb van.
24. Spark 1:43 resin from China: SO275, lwb diesel van ‘Firestone’
25. Unknown 1:24 pot money box: diesel ‘Van Blanc’
26. Corgi Junior 1:68 diecast from UK: 40, swb Martin Walter caravan, interior view of a ‘well played with’ example.
27. Norev 1:43 diecast from China:270526, swb 9 seater bus ‘Ford Old Timer Motor Sport Club’
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