The Ford Supervan was built in the early 1970s by Terry Drury Racing, they used an actual Ford GT40 chassis including its Gurney-Weslake 435 hp V8. It was the fastest van in the world when it was built and Ford used it extensively as a promotional tool, visiting race tracks and drag strips across Britain.
From a distance the Supervan looks close to factory original, it’s only when you get closer and notice the bubble wheel arches that are struggling to cover a set of wide racing slicks that you begin to realize it’s a little unusual.
Fast Facts – The Ford Supervan
- Ford built three Supervans, the example you see here was the first and it was followed by the Supervan 2 in 1984, then in 1994 the Supervan 2 was rebuilt into the Supervan 3.
- The original Supervan was made using a retired Ford GT40 chassis with its body removed, a Mark 1 Ford Transit van body was then grafted onto the top.
- The top speed of the Supervan was listed as 150+ mph (240 km/h) and it proved successful in 1/4 mile races. It also ran display laps and show races on circuits around the UK, often racing against other Ford vehicles from the era like the Ford Escort.
- The Supervan was a major PR win for Ford in the UK, helping to promote their commercial vans which at that time were the vehicle of choice for many tradesmen.
The Original Ford Supervan
By the early 1970s the racing world had moved on, and the Ford GT40s that had been such a dominant force at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and international endurance racing were no longer competitive on track.
Somewhere deep in the heart of Ford UK someone had an idea to promote the Transit, the company’s wildly successful commercial van. It’s possible, in fact probably likely, that the idea was conceived in a pub due to the fact that bolting a Transit body to a Ford GT40 chassis is unlikely to have been formulated in a sober mind.
Hemmingway once said “You should always do sober what you said you would do drunk, and that’ll teach you to keep your mouth shut.” Luckily for us, this is exactly what happened with the Supervan, the executives signed off on the idea and the construction work was contracted out to Terry Drury Racing.
The build was completed in 1971, and Ford unveiled the car to much amazement at the Easter 1971 race meeting at Brands Hatch. The Supervan completed a number of hot laps, setting the best lap times ever achieved by a Transit, as the 5.0 liter 435 hp V8 howled from the rear cargo compartment.
The Supervan was capable of 0 to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds, 0 to 100 mph in 21.6 seconds, with a top speed of “well in excess” of 150 mph.
It became clear that the box-like aerodynamics of the van were limiting it when circuit racing, but this proved less of an issue on the drag strip – and as it happens drag racing was enjoying a surge in popularity at the time.
So popular was the Supervan that Ford had it updated in 1978 with a new Transit body to keep it current, then they had the Supervan 2 built in 1984 which was later rebuilt into the Supervan 3 in 1994.
The above video gives a great look into the original Supervan in its heyday, and it’s not hard to see why it was so popular.
All images courtesy of Ford UK
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