Turning back the clock as Ford reaches a ton
Monday, November 28, 2011
An invitation to Ford’s 100th birthday celebrations saw editor Paul Barker take to the track in a 1965 Transit
Ford of Britain is celebrating its centenary this year, and one of many activities that have been part of the festivities is a 100-vehicle parade at the 2011 Goodwood Revival event. The parade concluded a month-long UK tour to celebrate the anniversary.
Goodwood Revival has established itself as one of the world’s greatest historic motor racing events, and for one weekend per year, a corner of Sussex turns the clock back over half a century, with many spectators and attendees taking the opportunity to dress in period costume to enhance the experience.
This year saw the meeting assemble its largest ever collection of vehicles on track at one time, when 100 Ford cars, vans, lorries, buses, tractors and random other one-off and special models congregated for a celebration.
Most were enthusiasts’ own, invited along to be part of proceedings, including the world’s most famous Ford Anglia, the one that starred as a flying car in the Harry Potter films, but four of the 100 were from the Blue Oval’s own heritage fleet, including a lovely 1965 Ford Transit resplendent in its bright yellow GEC livery. And What Van? was the one with the keys.
The 100 vehicles ranged in age from the 1911 Model T that was apparently dismantled and then carried to the top of Ben Nevis, through to the 1971 Ford GT70 developed for rallying that was abandoned in favour of the Escort.
On the commercial vehicle side, a coach loaded with period-costume air stewardesses and football fans was a key draw in the display area ahead of the parade, while others of note included a 1929 tow truck, a 1928 model AA flatbed pick-up truck and a 1947 Fordson van.
Take the attention
The ’65 Transit grabbed plenty of attention before the parade, with several visitors peering in and commenting on how they remember driving one when they were (significantly) younger, while the basic interior, with just a heater and lighting controls on the sparse dashboard, was a surprise to younger attendees.
Picking through the crowds to make our way on to the start line was the most challenging part of the parade. Sandwiched between
a Model A Ambulance and a one-off Ford Zephyr camper van designed by Ginetta, inching a 1965 Transit, with its heavy steering and, by modern standards, unresponsive brakes through a rather distracting crowd of people dressed in outfits from half a century ago is something of a challenge. But we managed it without accidentally running over any post-war airmen or Austin Powers wannabes, and pulled up on the startline for a ceremonial lap of Goodwood’s race circuit.
The driver briefing strictly ordered all parade vehicles to stay in formation. However, the need to stay true to our van driver roots dictated that halfway around the lap, having been passed by a couple of blast-from-the-past vehicles, we dropped down to second gear and opened up all 63hp of the 1660cc engine and took flight in the ‘outside lane’ of the track past a succession of slower, older Ford commercial vehicles of various shapes and sizes.
Transit reputation firmly intact, we headed back through the mass of people to find a suitable spot for this original Transit, still reading just over 35,000 miles, to sit on display for the rest of the Revival event.
Ford’s assembly plant in Southampton was one of the tour stops on the month-long centenary celebrations.
Here, 11 Transits spanning 1966 to 2005 with a combined age of 315 years came together to illustrate the evolution of Ford’s iconic van and enjoy entertainment from singer/songwriter Talullah Rendall (pictured), who toured the country in her own Transit, called Nina.
The Ford Transit Owners Club was also present. “The Ford Transit is quite simply the backbone of British motoring,” said founding member and owner of nine Transits Peter Lee. “If
you have ever ordered anything, chances are it has been delivered to you in a Ford Transit.”