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Monday, December 28, 2015

Hot Wheels and Matchbox Ford Transit Supervan



One of the most craziest experiments done by an auto manufacturer is making a high-performance track machine out of a panel truck, but that's just what Ford did between the late 1960's to the mid-1990's by taking the Ford Transit van in the U.K., slipping in a motor from a race car in the cargo area, and making the van track-worthy.  Here's two different versions of the crazy van called Supervan.



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The first version was created in 1971 as a promotional vehicle for Ford's UK operations.  The idea was to take a frame and engine from the Ford GT40 and put a Ford Transit panel van body over it.  The result was a wild panel van that looked just like a stock Transit van.  The first Transit van looked more like a Mini Panel Van with a slight front overhang, dual panel doors at the rear, and was quick and swift enough to be a popular choice for bank robbers and thieves.  The wheels are flared past the fenders, the central exhaust below the rear bumper is anything but quiet, and in the engine bay sits the GT40's 400hp Ford V8 motor with eight carbs and the full-length headers.  The truck had the optimal balance, yet the worst aero drag body!




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Hot Wheels did an excellent job with this casting, metal body on metal base, rubber tires with blacked-out 6-spoke wheels that look much better than the dinky tires on the real truck, white paint with blue stripes on the sides that also read Supervan at the rear, and comical Custom V8 badges on the front fenders.  The front has detailed round headlights, signal lights below, FORD letters on the hood, and the eggcrate grille of the stock Transit.  The sides do have a few custom mods: the flared fender lips, the closed-up panel doors, and exit vents on the rear 3/4 windows.  The rear has the stock panel doors, taillights, and the cool dual exhausts on the metal body's base tab.  The interior has the right-hand drive layout with the stock Transit dash that is devoid of any features aside from the central gauges and 4-speed manual shifter on the floor.  The seats are racing buckets with 5-point harness, and then there's the noise from behind: shine a flashlight or if you disasseble the truck you can see the fabulous engine details from the exhaust headers and valve covers that are part of the interior floorpan to the center carbs that are part of the metal base.  Nice job, Hot Wheels!



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On the other spectrum is the sequel to the Supervan, Supervan II.  Here, things get more advanced as the platform is now based on a tubular race car frame with body panels that are custom made for the chassis and carry little to relate to the stock Transit body this time around.  The engine is still located amidship, but is now a Cosworth 3.9L V8 from the Ford C100 Group C race car and 5-speed manual.  The body is now fiberglass with a lowered stance, front spoiler and large rear wing above the rear window.  Top speed was recorded at 174 mph.  Matchbox made a replica with the same white with blue graphics based on the first Transit Supervan in 1983; the last use of this casting is the working lights and sound version that debuted in 1997 with an Ambulance deco on the sides, two lights on the roof, screws instead of rivets to remove the base to access and replace the battery, and the front suspension works to contact the battery to the lights and sounds when pressed.


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At this point having no interior didn't matter as the non-light and sounds version also did not have an interior; +1 points for Hot Wheels here.  This Supervan looks like a race truck with the deep chin spoiler, side NACA ducts to feed the V8 engine, large rear wing, and vents just below the rear window.  The front grille and headlights are separate from the body and give it a more modern look that follows the US Ford trucks in the late 1970's, but still grafted to the same tidy body of the previous-generation Transit.  It may not look that bad on this cool Supervan II but it looks really awkward on the stock Transit with the new and longer hood tied to the smaller rear half of the body.

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No one makes the Supervan III yet in diecast, and this one was based on the new Transit in the 1990's with more of a racing pedigree and a turbocharged V8 motor.  After that the Supervan project was ended while the Transit line continued on it's usual working man's duty (I can't imagine the current 2015 Ford Transit's tall body with a racing V8 engine midship!), but anyways kudos to Hot Wheels for creating a classic panel van that has an added bit of spice (and cool details) hidden inside the cargo area.

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