In Pictures: 50 Years of the Ford Transit
Newcomer to North America Has Long History in Europe
The curtains may be coming down on Ford's long-running van workhorse, the E-Series Econoline van, but that doesn't mean Ford is giving up on the van market. Far from it. The 2015 Ford Transit is a much more versatile, efficient, and configurable platform than its E-Series predecessor, and carries forth a proud 50 year tradition of the Transit in Europe.
The forerunner of the Transit was the German-market FK1000 van, a van with styling resembling that of the Volkswagen Microbus, based on the popular Ford Taunus passenger car of the day. In 1961, the FK1000 was renamed the Taunus Transit, the first time the Transit badge was used on a Ford van. The model that received greater recognition as the "true" Transit was the 1965 Ford Transit Mark I introduced in the U.K. The Transit Mark I replaced the Ford Thames 400E in the U.K. essentially the British-market equivalent of the FK1000.
The Transit Mark I was noted for its "American" styling, with expressive details such as prominent front fenders and headlights and a wide track, which made it easy to load and unload and quickly made it a favorite of commercial couriers. Although it was an engine-forward design with a short hood, it employed a unique V-4 engine to keep the hood short and minimize drivetrain intrusion into the cabin. A later "long nose" version was introduced to accommodate an optional Perkins diesel engine, and this later facilitated the offering of a gas V-6 option.
The Mark II version kept similar overall proportions and shape to the Mark I model, with much more modern styling, featuring rectangular headlights, and more powerful engines, including a 3.0-liter V-6, and in some markets, a 4.1-liter inline-6.
The third-generation Transit was the biggest departure yet for the van, with a sleek, futuristic "one-box" design, with the hood and windshield having the same angle for improved aerodynamics. The third-gen model also marked the arrival of independent front suspension on short-wheelbase models. The comfort of drivers took a decisive turn for the better with the third-generation model with the addition of air conditioning, power windows, and electric mirrors as options.
Although the third-gen Transit broke new ground in styling, the fourth-generation Transit was revolutionary in being offered either in front- or rear-drive configurations, which were virtually indistinguishable from each other externally.
The fifth-generation Transit continued the tradition of front- and rear-drive configurations, and added an optional 3.2-liter five-cylinder turbodiesel on rear-drive models. The Transit won the International Van of the Year" award for 2007.
The sixth-generation Transit made its debut at the 2013 Detroit auto show, signaling Ford's intention of selling the new model in the North American market. The sixth-gen model diverged the styling of the rear-drive Transit and front-drive Transit Sport somewhat, with the Sport sharing more of the Kinetic Design language from Ford's passenger cars, with the larger rear-drive transit melding the style of Ford's trucks with the Kinetic theme. Although externally almost identical to models that will be sold overseas, the U.S.-spec Transit will offer two engine options that will at least initially be exclusive to the North American market, the 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V-6 and the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. However, the North American Transit will share its optional 3.2-liter turbodiesel I-5 with Transits in other markets.