Ford’s Qualified Vehicle Manufacturer (QVM) programme is normally spoken about when discussing the seamless and warranted work of a bodybuilder supplying something like a tipper truck or a box body.

Its list of accredited specialist converters includes big names in bodies like VFS, Paneltex and TGS, and it even includes interior modifiers such as Sortimo and Bott, who can fit out the vehicle loadspace – perhaps drilling where necessary – and still leave the vehicle covered by the warranty.

All QVM accredited converters match the base warranty on their vehicle conversions, so it’s complete peace of mind that the work is done well and that the van is still covered should there be a problem.

New bodies being added and interior items being added are one thing, but what about replacing Ford’s own components? In the case of South Wales-based MS-RT, who modify Ford vans in the old ‘Max Power’ sense of the word, the exact same QVM guarantees apply.

The Pontypool outfit had the Transit Custom approved for the QVM programme last year and now it’s the turn of the Transit Connect. Order your base vehicle – it can be of any specification or trim from the Transit Connect range – and MS-RT will customise it at its factory with body kits, wheels and even an exhaust. Short-wheelbase vans are currently being produced as part of a Launch Edition of 40 special units, but next year the long-wheelbase variants will also be available.

On visiting the factory it’s not only clear to see why the work involved requires the firm to be a QVM but also why it has been accepted on to the programme in the first place.

As we are guided around each of the manufacturing stages, from the injection-moulding of the body panels through to the priming, polishing and painting of the parts, it’s plain there’s real thought and attention to detail in making these body-kitted Connects come to life.

The conversion itself consists of a full body kit with aggressively styled front bumper and diffuser. There’s a new grille too, and side skirts, rear bumper, rear diffuser and spoiler. In all there are some 20-plus individual parts carefully moulded using a fast-curing exothermic plastic that go into the body kits of the new MS-RT Transit Connect. Each is sanded down, by hand, while any moulding edges are shaved off before being cleaned, primed and painted in an on-site spray booth. The vehicles are then stripped of the parts they no longer need and the new components are added over the course of a day.

The interior gets a similar going-over. There’s a carbon inlay sports steering wheel as well as handmade nappa leather and suede seat coverings. Then come the wheels – 18in alloys from OZ Racing, covered in a low-profile (for a van, at least) 225/45 Michelin tyre. Finally, there’s a quad-pipe stainless steel sports exhaust system to make the regular, unadulterated 1.5-litre Ecoblue diesel engine sound a little perkier.


Ivoty _500x 500

 2.MS-RT Transit Connect class=

(Continued from page 1) There are also options, including upgraded bronze-alloy wheels as well as a sticker pack to help draw even more attention to the bulging body kit.

Black exhaust tips also make a decent addition, particularly on the Magnetic Grey of the limited-run Launch Edition.

Perhaps the option that these MS-RT vehicles are best known for, though, is the Maxhaust, which uses a marine speaker fitted underneath the van to create a realistic exhaust noise to blow your socks off. It’s controlled using a smartphone app, which sets the idle volume and subsequent peak revs noise of the ‘exhaust’.

It’s linked to the throttle and works seamlessly with the actual rising of the engine revs. It can even be disabled altogether if you want peace and quiet, but as a £1,500 option in a modified van costing £23,995 you’re unlikely to want to go completely incognito, are you?

Completing the spec for the first 40 vans is high-level kit from the standard Ford van including LED loadspace lighting, satellite navigation, reversing camera and bi-xenon headlights.

Up close with the van, you can really appreciate the work that has gone into designing these moulded parts.

Contrary to most aftermarket kits these aren’t just simple jelly mould-type parts; they have really complex shapes in them that complement the existing lines of the Transit. When making the rear bumper, for example, additional pieces have to be inserted into the mould to create the negative surfaces that would otherwise trap the freshly formed bumper in its own mould.

On the outside, these translate into the cooling vent scoops you can see at the edges. Examples like this can be found throughout the new body kit pieces and really help to make the additions seamless with the van, rather than like aftermarket add-ons.

On the inside the leather seats feel and look of the highest quality. They fit snuggly into all the contours of the original seat and aren’t just a pillowcase-like addition.

Then there’s the steering wheel. Our test vehicle has the standard sports wheel rather than the upgraded carbon option and feels thick between your hands. The chunky rim is contoured like a racing seat would be to grip your thighs and torso, except its grooves are for your fingers and thumbs. If we’re entirely honest it takes some getting used to and perhaps isn’t our cup of tea, but it’s certainly in keeping with the ethos of the van.

The rest of the MS-RT Transit Connect experience is really all rather standard – it drives and performs exactly as a regular van would. It’s nimble, nippy and really great fun to drive.

The ride is comfortable and the steering is sharp and communicative. The MS-RT enhancements do, however, cause a few lingering glances, which is pleasing for two reasons.

Firstly, the van is doing its job as a head-turner designed very much with the owner-driver in mind, but secondly because around the towns and villages near the Pontypool factory people seem to genuinely know what they are looking at and that’s because MS-RT is providing plenty of jobs and developing new skills for a local workforce in an otherwise highly deprived part of South Wales.

If you’re in the market for a fierce-looking Transit Connect (or a Transit Custom, as they still make one styling kit of the mid-sized van) then MS-RT is the place to come, and come in the knowledge that as it’s a QVM you’ll still get a three-year, 100,000-mile warranty, which is something that Citroen Saxo you ‘improved’ as a teenager never would have enjoyed.

MS-RT Ford Transit Connect

Price (ex-VAT) £23,995   
Load length  1,831mm
Load width. 1,226/1,538mm
Load Volume 2.6m3
Payload  860kg
Engine size/power  1,498cc/120hp  
Combined fuel economy 56.5mpg
CO2 130g/km

Comment: I love the sound of breaking glass

Did you ever see the Toyota Hilux in a glass box with the tagline ‘Break in case of apocalypse?’

It was housing a limited-run 50th anniversary edition truck that could certainly take on a zombie uprising. It has a special wheel and tyre combination and has been created in partnership with Arctic Trucks and Bilstein. Modifications include a performance suspension system, new 16 x 7.5 ET05 alloy wheels that are only available on the Invincible 50 and finished in satin black with a machined lip.

They’re fitted with 265/75R16 BF Goodrich KO2 all-terrain tyres, with the whole packaging raising the vehicle height by 40mm at the front end and 20mm at the rear. There are loads of styling tweaks to make it look even more rugged, but there’s just 50 of them out there and I’ve got my hands on one. It’s been let out of the glass box, which in this instance was broken in case of Brexit, and it certainly lives up to expectations.

The local farmers’ fields have not been safe since. I sense a head-to-head against a Ford Ranger Raptor in the offing…

George Barrow is the UK judge for the International Van of the Year, the prestigious prize awarded by leading European LCV journalists.

The International Van of the Year report is sponsored by

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