The 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed was packed full of exotic machinery, including a McLaren P1, Porsche 962 and 917, Peugeot 405 T16, and so on – but one of the coolest vehicles to run up the hill was a 1995 Ford Transit cargo van. No, we’re not completely crazy. This was no ordinary Transit: it was the 1995 Transit Supervan 3 concept car.
A brief primer: Ford first launched the Transit van in Europe in 1965. In 1970, someone in Ford’s marketing department thought it would be a smashing idea to build a race car out of a cargo van. Terry Drury Racing took a Ford Transit, stuffed a 435-hp Gurney-Weslake Ford 5.0-liter V-8 aft of the cabin, and fitted the beast with independent racing suspension at all four corners. The result – suitably called Supervan – was a beast that could sprint from 0-60 mph in 7 seconds and reach a top speed of over 150 mph.
Ford revisited the Supervan idea again in 1984, when it looked to celebrate the 2 millionth Ford Transit rolling off the assembly line. Supevan 2 looked like a second-generation Transit, but was little more than a van body stretched atop a Ford/Zakspeed Group C race car. A 590-hp, 3.9-liter Ford-Cosworth DFL V-8 — an endurance racing-spec version of the famed DFV – served up 590 hp, which was enough the rocket the box from 0-60 mph in three seconds and to a top speed in the neighborhood of 185 mph.
In 1995, Supervan 2 received a makeover, shedding its skin for a new fiberglass body styled after the fifth-generation Ford Transit van. In the process, Ford also replaced the DFL with a 650-hp Formula 1 V-8 engine, and renamed the van Supervan 3.
By 2000, Ford swapped out the HB for a 3.0-liter Cosworth Pro Sports 3000 V-6, allegedly in order to improve reliability. The result: a slight change in timbre and top speed, but with 260 hp on tap and only 1900 pounds to move, the Supervan 3 was still capable of hitting 150 mph.
As Ford reminded us this past weekend, the repowered (and restored) Supervan 3 still sounds pretty brutish, even when driven at moderate speeds at the Earl of March’s estatee.
But it also reminds us that it’s been too long since the birth of a new Supervan. We can’t help but notice the Ford Transit makes its U.S. debut later this year – why not introduce the North American masses to the van with, say, Supervan 4?
We can dream, but we won’t hold our breath…