News : Backbone of Britain breaks cover

Andrew Elphick

2013 Ford Transit Custom

Finally, Ford’s new Transit Custom has broken cover away from the halogen spotlights of the show circuit. Ford whetted the appetite of ‘White van person’ (we’re very politically correct here at AROnline!) back in March with the taster Tourneo Custom concept luxury bus. Fast forward a month and the Commercial Vehicle Show previewed the forthcoming traditional commercial ‘van’ version.

However, in the metal, live on the M25 in Essex, we spied the traditional ‘white’ edition, soon to be scaring BMW fleet buyers everywhere in lanes three and four of our crumbling motorway network. First registered on 14 March (in black apparently) this is one of quite a few doing the rounds in the ‘Dunton’ heartlands, in various states – is it another Ford Slow reveal along the lines of next year’s Mondeo we wonder?

The ‘Custom’ is intended to be part of a three prong Transit attack – Connect is the small van, Custom is the mid-size (Vivaro/Transporter rival) van and the traditional Transit ‘large’ (and, if desired, rear driven) is as yet unnamed. Well, the second part of its Transit moniker anyway.

So why revive the ‘Custom’ label? Custom packs, as such, died with the Transit Mk4 in the late 1994 (Ford launched an ‘L’ model as well in 1986 and offered Custom packs as part of its SVO operations for fleet buyers) while the actual Custom badge on the back doors died early in 1986 when the Mk2 ceased production (which in reality was new wings/bonnet and moulded black plastic on the 1965 original). What was a Custom pack? Chrome tinsel and a radio, all trimmed with Nylon instead of leatherette usually, and the kudos of upstaging your fellow tradesman!

Why, though, three vans with the same name? One thing the Blue Oval and its ‘Whiz kids’ understood was marketing. And soon Ford’s Transit will be the best selling van worldwide…

2013 Ford Transit

Keith Adams


  1. Hmmm, its a bit of a ‘bitsa’ isn’t it?

    Rear styling like the soon-to-be-replaced Renault Trafic, front door is a bit VW T5, and there are hints of the unloved LDV Maxus in there…

    Well, at least it looks different to the outgoing Transit, who’s American-penned styling was very much a weak point against the far sleeker Sprinter/Crafter. Hope this one is at least as good to drive, or better, than the old Trannie.

  2. I had an 93 L plate LWB Custom for a short while, and that had the CUSTOM badges, and AFAIK you could still buy Custom spec ones at least until the smiley face ones came out in 94.

  3. I seen some of these vans when i was on a ford IDS diagnostic course in daventry,they are designed in Dearborn USA are intended as a world van and is to replace the econoline van as well.

  4. Does anyone know where Ford are going to make the new Transit?.After all the good news regarding car manufacturing it would be good if Ford keep production in the U.K.

  5. @ 6 – Turkey I believe, alongside the Connect. Southampton will still produce the special body Transits.

  6. ooh good bulging arches to catch on gateposts, and big rear lights to replace every time I reverse into a corner. brill not for me at all.

  7. @9- thegravestoneman,

    Yeah, that occured to me too. Along with badly designed side rubbing strips (painted!) that are too short to actually do the bloody job.

    Clearly, like the Mercedes Sprinter, which has the indicators placed in the most vulnerable position possible- on the outside edge of the door mirrors, the designer either has absolutely no clue what it is like to actually drive a van for a living, or it is a very cynical attempt to increase parts and repairs costs for the manufacturer and dealer’s benefits- it is most certainly one or the other.

  8. Doesnt look very American to me. Its default European commercial, Vauxhall Vivano etc with a hint of LDV Maxus. Doesnt look as business like as the current van. However, thanks to Network Rail, British Gas, British Telecom and the Royal Mail the roads will soon be full of them.

  9. @10 those indicators are always breaking due to driver/stonechips.Royal mail break so many MB do a SVO front wing conversion.

  10. I believe Ford are taking the commercial vehicles fight to Mercedes in the USA.
    Big V8 US vans like the Econoline are going out of fashion, the Mercedes (AKA Freightliner / Dodge) Sprinter is cleaning up over there.
    If it is to be built in Europe and sent to the states (as per the Connect) they actually have to send it as a passenger van and destroy the seats over there, or (as per the Sprinter) CKD it over.
    This is to get around the Chicken tax, which was actually set up to protect US companies such as Ford.
    These pictures the Transit looks like a chunky Maxus, but I think the bodycoloured bumpers / side strips are destined for scrates, and the rear lights will end up smashed.

    Why are school run vehicles covered in black plastic rubbing strips (most SUVs, Datsun Qashcows etc) while vans are increasingly getting bodycoloured items and fancy lights?

  11. The roads of Blighty wouldn’t be the same without a Trannie and inch from your rear bumper. Shame they’re being made in Turkey now, takes the gloss off an otherwise nice looking van.

  12. Vans are driven like they are nicked and dont give a toss because the vast majority are contract hire/agency driver driven/not owned by the driver and the company owns it -that sort of attitude wherever you put the lights they will get broken.All transit chassis cabs/SVO are to be built in southampton for the foreseeable future.The wiring problems that plague the current transit are cheaply made mostly in turkey but im not saying they would be better made here.

  13. @16- francis brett,

    True- I was that ‘white van man’, and unfortunately, faced with ridiculous schedules (and ‘unhelpful’ sat-nav), you pretty much have to drive like that. It would help if vans came with rear view cameras though, as they are no longer expensive, and would easily save money in the long run. There is a vast blind spot behind the vehicle, not to mention you’ve got to watch out for idiot pedestrians who walk behind it as you back up…

    I worked for a company delivering white goods round the South of England, and South and West Wales. We had LWB Sprinter lutons that were almost invariably overloaded, and the vans were not maintained at all (trying to get money for a new headlamp bulb from the bosses for instance was not easy).

    The vehicles were in an appalling state. Never washed (unless we wanted to spend our own money on doing it), we were told to use washing up liquid in the washer bottle (very bad idea), one of them had a smashed-in front wing with jagged edges, two had only one working headlight (and we set out in winter from about 3am), mine had a large hole in the windscreen plugged with bathroom silicone- causing the wipers to stutter, and worse of all, the brakes were absolutely knackered. The poor van made a noise like it was dragging its entrails, which I suspected was a clutch thrust bearing, but I am no mechanic.

    The Yorkshire-based haulage firm we subcontracted to would drop off its white goods in the small hours, for us to do the final delivery. That firm would provide a turn-by-turn run sheet, with instructions like ‘Turn left after 600 metres (not very useful in a city centre you don’t know), and they calculated the milage, and based on this, they worked out exactly how much diesel should go in each van- allowing for 10 minutes for each delivery, and an average speed of 60mph!

    Clearly they’d never driven round the coastal roads and sunken lanes of Devon, where you’d be up and down the gearbox all day (trying to avoid 3rd, which jumped out of gear…). As a consequence, almost every day we’d have to top up the diesel with our own money, then try to cadge it back from the bosses.

    Well, the inevitable happened… After a 3am start my driver’s mate and I headed off to Cornwall to do our deliveries. Somewhere on the God forsaken A30 near Bodmin, the clutch pedal suddenly sank almost to the floor, and I could barely change gear. So, we pulled into the services and called the bosses. Who told us to call the van hire company. And yes, you’ve guessed it- the van had no recovery insurance, so I spent from about 6am to about 4pm acting as go-between twixt the hire company and the AA. The hire people even tried to get me to impersonate one of their directors! After hours of negotiations which would have had Terry Waite screaming blue murder, they finally got AA cover (very expensively) arranged.

    The AA man could not believe the state that four year old van was in- he’d never seen anything like it, and when he drew up at the next services for a tacho break, there was a group of fellow breakdown operators shaking their heads… All of them told me what VOSA, the executive arm of the Highways Agency, who do roadside spot checks, would do to me if they caught me driving a van in that state. I vowed to make the following day the last day for that firm… We eventually arrived back at base (after a change of AA lorry) at about 10pm- after a 3am start. It was lucky that day that we were not overloaded, as AA trucks weigh the vehicles as they are drawn onto the flatbed- and will not take loads in excess of 3.5 tons.

    The following day we had the newest van in the fleet, a 10 reg (this was 2010) Ducato. We started our rounds in Dorset, my mate was driving (we alternated being driver and driver’s mate), and I thought he was joking when he told me the clutch had gone… Needless to say, the hire company wouldn’t even confirm which recovery company it was registered with, and the bosses didn’t know. So, once again, we had to do our own negotiations to get it recovered, luckily, as a new van, it had manufacturer’s AA cover.

    That courier company even tried to bill me for an £800 range cooker that their warehouse guy had flipped off a sacktruck!

  14. Is that why courier companies tend to lob expensive electronics over fences and why car parts arrive covered in dents and buckled?

  15. @19- not guilty of the above, on the other hand, having had a car bonnet to deliver in the back of a van, it was not easy to keep it in pristine condition…

  16. @19 i work at northgate vehicle hire and when they come in for routine service(which is free,as is assistance and replacement-no plug intended!)anything down to driver abuse is recharged right away ,especially road worthiness items,you name it i have seen it-5 tonnes in a 3500kg sprinter luton to i only hit the kerb at 10 mph-how come the prop is through the fuel tank and the axle off the springs then pal?!i have even had “i have come off the M56 mate and the transit is on its roof in the field,can we sort it on monday” nothing shocks me any more.

  17. @20- francis brett,

    Just as well the Transit Parcelforce gave me wasn’t from Northgate Hire then.

    Last day of working my temporary delivery job I had to go up Cooper’s Hill, just outside Gloucester (the hill famous for its annual ‘cheese rolling’ due to its steepness). A local told me it would be passable, despite the snow, so I thought I’d give it a go, however, in a lightly loaded RWD van, it ws no go, so I reversed very gingerly downhill, but still managed to get stuck.

    After much shunting back and forth, and digging out the back wheels, I called it a day, and called on a local farmer. He had one of those ginormous Manatou off-road fork-lift farm loaders (4wd, and about 5′ tyres). Being towed downhill and backwards on frozen snow, and at some speed, the vehicle was all over the place, I had absolutely no control (steering ineffective), and I thought I was either going to crash into a wall, or overturn it. I was even dragged through a ditch!

    I didn’t like to take too close a look underneath, but I did pull a large plug of grass from out of the exhaust pipe. One thing is for certain, I’ll never buy an ex-hirevan!

  18. I’ve seen at least one self drive hire van randomly weaving over 2 lanes of the M60 at 70mph.

    I’m guessing this was due to it being poorly maintained, overloaded or just badly driven; or any of the 3 options.

  19. @23. Richard,

    Unfortunately not everyone who gets behind the wheel of a hire van is competent to drive one, regardless as to whether their license says they are entitled to drive one.

    Whilst they are not particularly hard to drive, some people are very intimidated by their size, and are not used to the effect that crosswinds can have, especially lutons. That, and the lack of all-round vision, and the tendency to tailgate because they can see over the car in front therefore don’t feel unsafe doing so (until car in front has to react to something), can lead to unsafe behaviour. This can be exascerbated with vans that do not have ABS brakes (thankfully very few these days), because a lightly loaded van, especially on a damp road, can very easily lock the rear wheels.

  20. @23 Richard

    That could also be the result of the driver f***ing about on a mobile phone – seen that TOO many times.

    I was flabbergasted when I discovered my 2008 Berlingo doesn’t have ABS when my wife’s 2007 Berlingo car does. I found this out, almost to my cost, going down a hill after a very sudden snowfall on my way home from work. Haven’t nearly filled my pants like that in a long time……….

  21. @24, Paul T.

    Years ago I hired the first generation Sprinter to help my mum move to North Wales. I was told it had ABS.

    It didn’t- as I found out when a light went red in front of me- so I thought- ‘its got ABS- I’ll stand on the brakes’. The van went very sideways indeed…

    That was a base model non-turbo model. Frankly, Mercedes should have been sued under the Trades Descriptions Act for calling it a Sprinter. If it went any slower I’d have been booked for kerb crawling…

  22. I do suspect this will be a ‘world van’ to replace the ‘full-size’ Econoline van in the USA and to compete vs. the M-B Sprinter. I might suggest that they could be made or have major components made in Mexico to cut costs. They need to replace the NA Econoline as it has been around for at least 20 years in it’s current form.

  23. I don’t see what the fuss is with the Sprinter.. in my view they wallow about everywhere when loaded to the max weight limit whereas the Transit, may accelerate a bit slowly, however it will still take a decent load with the fussy stability ‘issues’.

  24. @27 ford cant compete with a 4 metre sprinter in the panel van stakes,ok a 313 0r 316 may be a bit lethargic but try a V6 CDI and they leave sports cars standing-even greater manchester police armed reponse units have them in the vitos and they fly!

  25. Vitos get a good rep, saw a fair few at the North West 200, the bikers must love them as support vans.

  26. @27. The_Saint,

    I don’t find Sprinters wallow excessively unless seriously overloaded, and even a basic 311 luton can still move reasonably well with a more than full load- bear in mind I’ve driven top-heavy lutons on A and B roads overloaded with white goods. Unlike a panel van, all of the load is placed several inches above the tops of the wheelarches- which does give it a high centre of gravity.

    Sprinters will wallow badly on unmade roads, however, due to using a transverse leaf spring on the front- which means that large road wheel movements are converted into a very uncomfortable side-to-side pitching motion. At which point the driver’s mate will have to release his seatbelt, since despite Mercedes fitting a height adjuster to the seatbelt mounting on the B pillar, clearly they don’t expect any passenger to be below about 6′ 5”. Even at the lowest setting, at 6′ exactly I am too short to comfortably wear a belt, as it doesn’t lie across the shoulder, but constantly chafes the neck- something even a collared shirt does not relieve- another clue that some van designers have little understanding of real-world van operations.

    Other Sprinter issues are that Mercedes don’t bother to paint them properly, so even in young vehicles, rust can be an issue. And the bosses 313 panel van we were issued with for a day leaked water into my lap out of the overhead courtesy light every time we went around a corner- so not quite up to the best car building standards then. In fairness, however, I have driven a Peugeot Boxer that overheated, and a Transit that decided to dump all its coolant all over the M5.

  27. Srevice on a transit is easier,but a sprinter clutch and DMF ican turn around in forty minutes flat-that how easy they are,whereas a tranny DMF does not last two minutes in a 350 panel van or tipper,doing them on warranty gets on my tits too because you have to obtain RVC’s which takes nearly as long to get the ‘box out!DMF’s in avan are a bad idea let alone a car!

  28. Got a lend of a Sprinter minibus from a minibus driver friend once to help us move house.
    It had covered over 400k and was still going. It sounded a bit rough, but it didn’t sound like it was going to fail at any point soon either. (He drove it though so not sure what the clutch was like)

  29. @33, Will M,

    A properly maintained Sprinter can do ridiculous milages. Some Americans believe that ‘there ain’t no substitute for cubes’, but most sprinters seem fine with a relatively small 2.2 diesel- regardless of how hard they have to work.

    Neglect them, and like anything else, you can expect trouble.

    Transits are arguably a bit nicer to drive, but if I was a fleet manager I doubt I’d consider anything but a Sprinter.

  30. The trouble is with the Sprinter its just Volkswagen underneath. The engines are great but the gearboxes are shit.
    Give me a Transit any day of the week (coming from a typical white van man/ courier driver), The fastest thing on Mercedes vans is the rot, contrary to popular belief……

    • At least the 1st gen Sprinter and 2nd gen VW LT did only share the body, but few mechanicals. They also drove quite differently. I do not know how this is today, but I think they will still use different drivetrains.

  31. @34 sorry pal 100% mercedes on the same production line like the last generation LT engines different yes,we have 21000+ transits on our fleet and i can tell you the gearboxes are a pile of piss as are the DMF’s Fwd transits lose a pin from the gearchange turret that falls in the ‘box and then smashes through the crownwheel casing-three a week an internal fualt that plagues transits not to mention pump failure in the RWD MT 5 and 6 speed boxes,then regular software upgrades,egr valves,front crankshaft torsional damper failure,vacuum pump spindle leaks,crank rear main leaks,nsr abs wiring failure,airbag squib wiring failure etc etc etc.keep your transit.

  32. @38 for all its faults,the current version drives well and carries well,i work on them and other vehicles everyday,vauxhall are selling more vans than ford (vivaros are shagged after 80k of abuse)the new one is another kinetic design that has a front end similar to the fiesta/focus its bound to be a best seller-incidently the current range with redesigned TDCI engines with stop/start are almost silent when running and are much more refined swansong.

  33. This left hand drive Transit was sat on my drive on Monday night and it now has a few more battle scars!

    Yes they are now made in Kocaeli, Turkey. Not a van driver myself but was quite impressed by it. Looks smart and the front end looks like the new Mondeo, S-Max, C-Max and Focus.

  34. I was chatting to fitters at a local Ford dealer we look after this morning and they all say it doesn’t look that brilliant to be honest, and the bodywork will easily pick up damage. The rear panels on the van are a pure rip off of Peugeot/Citroen smaller vans. There will be some cracking deals going on shortly to shift the out going van range.

  35. I have the Transit Tourneo brochure, and the ‘glasshouse’ is ridiculously small. Those side windows are so narrow, it will make the interior somewhat gloomy and claustraphobic. That stupid side bulge that serves no purpose is robbing the van of interior light. Typical automotive designers, not actually thinking about what these vehicles will be used for.

  36. Another Ford slow reveal?

    As in the “new” Mondeo (that looks like the current one with an Austin Mini grille) that by the time it is released, we will be too familiar with it.

    In fact, if the front end of this new Transit looks like the Fiesta/Focus, it will be out of date when the deep grilles come in.

    Maybe thats the 1st planned facelift model? Good old Ford, still building in obsolescence.

  37. Driven a lot of transits over the years and owned a couple. Fantastic in a straight line on a good road. Crap in both wet and, ofcourse, ice.
    Never drove a Maxus, would’ve liked to.

  38. bring back the sherpa van 200. but this time put a triumph 2.3 petrol engine in it . also the 400 with square sides more pracktical

  39. @44 arelbe,

    I think how good a van behaves in the wet and ice is determined by tyres as much as anything.

    A couple of years ago I did a Christmas delivery job for Parcelforce. The first couple of days I had a RWD MWB Transit 100 which was actually pretty damn good on the very icy roads I was driving on. There was only one hill I could not get up. Then I had a more powerful 115 model, again MWB and RWD and that was nowhere near as good on ice. Also unlike the first van it was very easy to stall, so all in all I preferred the 100 despite being less powerful and having only a 5 Speed box.

  40. Hmmm, looks like it was designed by a comittee.

    The brief was something like ‘Let’s make the front a cross between a Fiat Ducato and a Sprinter, and lets make the sides look like an Iveco Daily.’

    Job done.

    Not very well maybe, but Ford van styling has been a weak point for a very long time now. Clearly not a priority. By comparison, the now ageing Mercedes Sprinter still looks great even after 6 years of production.

  41. @49 The sprinter like most vans have a ten year cycle,the new one will look good if the new actros is anything to go by.

  42. When I was doing my assessment to become a bus driver, they had us drive an old S reg Mercedes Sprinter around the town first to see how we could handle something of an in-between size before putting us in a proper bus. The Sprinter in question had recently been acquired from as surplus from a nursing home as a hack and had covered.. and I double checked just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. 1.36 million miles. Still felt tight as a drum and everything worked perfectly. I was astounded.

  43. @51 one on our hire fleet covered 646k miles-just over 2 years old,just changed axle on warranty!

  44. @53 yes a courier firm that collects and delivers human organs and samples from hospitals etc,spotlessly clean MWB sprinters used 24/7 serviced all over the country at any of our depots!twelve vehicles on thier fleet,on the other extreme we have had transits off-hired after three years from local authorities with 6k on the clock!

  45. That’s one of the highest mileages I’ve heard of, I was impressed by someone mentioning a Taxi a while back which had done 700k.

    IIRC the record has been set by someone who has driven a Volvo P1800 3 million miles over 40 odd years.

  46. I remember VW running an ad years ago regarding a gentlemans passat doing i think 500k miles.I suppose thats the norm nowadays.

  47. Don’t really like the look of this. Seen one parked outside my local Ford dealership for a while now. Looks like with the way it’s styled, especially the back doors and down the side, it’d be pretty awkward to sign write, compared to the current Transit with it’s flat sides…

  48. I don’t think I’ve actually seen a new Transit on the road yet, yet they used to be 10 a penny, I wonder what happened to it?

  49. I did actually see one, a crew cab variant.

    Truth be told, it looked more like a Hyundai van than a Transit.
    Though that’d be Ford going after the international market, this is going to replace the old Econoline in the states too, where the Connect is already a high seller.

  50. I prefer the current one, this looks like a lame attempt at copying the ugly Vito mixed with a dash of Iveco Daily. Doesn’t look like it will have much room inside with that swoopy body. To comment on previous posts about Sprinters versus Transits, I’d like to say I have driven both and would never touch the Sprinter again. Mine was unreliable, noisy, handled badly, grossly and dangerously underpowered even unladen and it rusted and dropped to bits, pathetic van, whereby the Transits I’ve driven were always competent, nice to drive and never gave me any trouble.

  51. @58 Its a van,therefore fleet buyers will buy any Mk7 Transits there are,they are workhorses making money first and foremost.They dont care what the 2013 Transit looks like as long as it get the job done,the company i work for has ordered 18000 which will trickle through over a 18 month period, on top of the sprinters,caddys,NV200 and all the cars.
    The new Transit offers loads of room over the old one,dont let looks decieve you.
    @60, Well from working on sprinters and transits i would have the sprinter anyday,even the 3 year unlimited mileage warranty is cast iron,they go the distance.

  52. Mr Brett, you just work on them, not drive them for up to 12 hrs a day, and I’m sorry, but the Sprinter is a hateful van, and all of them need to be dumped in the sea. Too many design flaws, and mirrors that are next to useless, and they are not that well made either like all Mercedes products nowadays.

  53. @62,The service van i use every single day is 316 CDi,so i know a thing or two about the things…………….. as for the mirrors-do you mean the ones the driver always breaks the indicators on? Not well made?what qualifies you to come to that conclusion?in comparison to what?
    Please dont make me laugh and say the transit.
    F.Brett.MIRTE,MSOE,I.Eng,MIDiagE. I just do a little more than just work on them-like to dirty the hands.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.