PH Heroes Christmas Special: Ford Transit
Roadies, brickies, rozzers and robbers all like the Transit van. So does PH...
‘It’s a rear drive, front-engined motor and you need to pick it up on a Dagenham trading estate,’ the bloke told me over the Sharon Stone. Lovely, I thought, nice little Sierra Cosworth or maybe a 2.8 Capri – should be perfect for the job.
You’re having a Steffi Graf, I think to myself, how are we supposed to get around in that? But I might have misjudged this tea, two and a bloater. You see, not only has the Transit been the best-selling light commercial vehicle in Europe for 40 years, in the sixties the rozzers reckoned 95% of all robberies involved a Transit.
That’s probably down to the fact that not only do they have a front-engine, rear-drive layout, but many of the parts come from Ford’s car range, meaning it had decent handling for a van. I was hoping the milk wouldn’t turn out to be sour with this one, and the Transit would live up to its reputation.
The Transit has in fact been one of Ford’s best selling vehicles ever, and Jimmy ‘The Nonce’ Malloy said that he always remembers his encounter with the Tranny. The Transit we would be driving is thought to be the oldest known original model and has been restored with a period paint job.
The corn on the cob was simple: get the van, get the snapper to get a few shots, buy a pasty, read the Sun, drive around for a bit leering at women, buy another pasty, then dump the van before the fuzz catch up with us. The 1.7-litre Essex V4 in this Transit produces just 73bhp, which is probably a good thing as there are no seatbelts, and I'm guessing the only way we are going to lose the heat is if they are on mountain bikes.
As I nearly slide off a roundabout at 10mph I reconsider this earlier thought. There is a distinct lack of grip from the tyres and no amounts of Alessi-style lean seems to be getting the van back on track. Floor it and the rear wheels will actually start to spin, setting you up for a 1mph drift.
It’s crazier than a bad day in Bosnia and more fun than a barrel of monkeys. But worst of all my copy of the Sun repeatedly flies off the dashboard and there are no pasty holders. Worried that the Old Bill might be on to us it’s time to get rid of the van, sharpish.
The East End is too far to go and the speedo doesn’t seem to work, which isn’t Easter bunny with all those Gatsos around. Swinging right into an old council estate the Transit understeers manically but a squeeze of the accelerator and a dab of oppo sees us through, narrowly avoiding the hoodie on a skateboard who overtook us earlier.