Before Ford Transit was launched in 1965, Ford offered two independent commercial vehicle lines for European customers – the FK van from Germany launched in 1953 and the Thames van from the U.K. launched in 1954. As the Sixties dawned, there was a clear demand from van customers for greater ability. Customers wanted more load area capacity, more payload, more flexibility and more speed. Ford decided to replace the two models with an all-new generation of purpose-built vans that would address the needs of all European markets and be built in both the U.K. and Germany.
The first ever Transit came down the line at the company’s Langley commercial vehicle plant in Berkshire, England on August 9. in 1965. It was already packed with innovations like a printed circuit in the instrument panel, an optional steering lock, a side loading door and seatbelt attachment points. Soon after launch more innovations such as halogen headlights, tubeless tyres and weight-saving minimum leaf springs were introduced.
The original Ford Transit was powered by 74 PS 1.7-litre or 86 PS 2.0-litre petrol engines and the first diesel was a Perkins 4/99 with 44 PS. It was available in two wheelbases, each with three payload derivatives (short-wheelbase from 610 kg to 1,120 kg, long-wheelbase from 1,272 kg to 1,782 kg). Vans could be built with twin rear doors or a tailgate, slam or sliding cab doors, and with or without a side loading door.
In 1968 Ford began its own diesel engine production for Ford Transit at the Dagenham plant, in UK. In 1972 Ford introduced its first small high-speed diesel engine, called the York. It came in two power ratings, 55 PS for use in the short wheel base models and 62 PS for use in the heavier long wheelbase models.