Richard Dredge
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Richard Dredge

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Richard Dredge
Author

Richard Dredge

Ford Transit Supervan 3

The only surviving Ford Supervan, the third and final take is also the most extreme

When Ford facelifted the Transit 3 in 1994, it came up with the idea of using Supervan 2 as the basis for a third take on the formula, in a bid to promote its new version of the tradesman's favourite workhorse. This was the first time that Supervan had been used to promote a new model, rather than a model already nearing the end of its life.

This time it was Suffolk-based DRL Engineering that came up with the goods, with the company adapting the bodyshell to replicate the look of the then-current Transit. ​That meant grafting on a new nose and updating the doors to the latest design, but the van's structure was carried over wholesale, complete with those NACA ducts.

When first built as Supervan 2 in 1984, this same vehicle was powered by a Ford-Cosworth DFL engine, the long-stroke endurance version of Ford's famous DFV F1 engine. When the van was rebuilt in 1994 this original power unit was swapped for a 650bhp 3.5-litre Cosworth-developed Ford HB V8 engine. Monstrously powerful but very costly to run, it was this engine that led to Supervan 3 being retired in 2001, as it was too expensive to run with such a highly strung powerplant. It also needed a highly skilled support team to get it running – and to keep it running – at each of the events where Supervan 3 appeared.

 

 

After Supervan 3 had been stripped of its engine it languished in a warehouse until 2004, when it was brought out of storage to generate some more publicity for Ford. With the Transit celebrating its 40th birthday in 2005, Ford had the perfect excuse to breathe new life into this iconic promotional vehicle.

With the F1 engine previously fitted long since returned to Benetton/Cosworth, as part of the recommissioning process Supervan 3 was fitted with a more practical Ford-Cosworth Pro Sports 3000 V6 powerplant. Although this was initially naturally aspirated, by the time Supervan 3 had gone through its initial post-recommission testing the decision was made to supercharge it, to make the vehicle even faster.

In a bid to make Supervan 3 look as authentic as possible, the decision was taken to restore the original Ford Motorsport blue-and-white livery that had been used when Supervan 3 had made its debut in 1994. For its final appearance at Brands Hatch in 2001, Supervan 3 had worn Post Office red livery, a colour scheme that had been applied to celebrate the fact that Ford had just become the Post Office's official supplier of delivery vehicles. But it seems that nobody at the Post Office had been asked permission for this livery to be used and they weren't best pleased when they first saw it being paraded in front of tens of thousands of petrolheads…

After its return to the show circuit in 2005, Supervan 3 made dozens of appearances of events where hundreds of thousands of petrolheads got to see it in action, get close to it and sit inside it. Of the three Supervans built, this final iteration is the only survivor and it now sits in Ford's heritage collection, ready for action.

 

Vital statistics
Engine Mid-mounted, 3.5-litre, V8
Transmission 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power 650bhp at @ 13,000rpm
Top speed 200mph approx

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