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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Matchbox 2015 Ford Transit TV New Van, 1990, 1995, and 2006 Ford Transit's, and Mercedes-Benz TV News Van



This latest release of the 2015 Ford Transit TV News Van has two important tasks: to continue the Ford Transit line and to replace the long-running TV News Van that is based on a 1980's Mercedes-Benz TN van.  Let's see how it has accomplished both tasks.






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The Early days of the Ford Transit

The Ford Transit is heritage to Matchbox not only because it is a long-serving European work truck but also almost all of the generations of Transit has appeared in the Matchbox line, including the 2010 Transit Connect taxi.  I have profiled the first and second-generation Transit's before, so now focus is paid to the 1980's to 2000's.  The first version was the 1988 Ford Transit panel van in the Ryder rental truck deco.  This generation gets the new aerodynamic look that is shared with other Ford models of the time from the Escort to the Taurus to the Sierra XR4ti.  The front has clear headlights on a smooth front-end and Transit carved out on the front bumper.  The sides show a typical boxy van look that is smooth and still modern with Ryder logo's and dual sliding rear doors (surprising for a 1980's van!).  The rear has stacked taillights with a large opening hatch with Transit logo's on the gate and rear plate.  The base shows off the drivetrain, fuel tank, and spare tire at the rear.  The 8-dot wheels are classy and the suspension works very well for this casting.






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The interior shows off an empty back area with the front carrying a three-person bench seat and a dashboard that is clean and simple with radio, hvac controls, two-spoke steering wheel, and floor shifter for the 5-speed manual and 3.0L V6 or 2.0L turbodiesel I-4.  In 1995 Matchbox updated the casting with the facelifted 1994 model that now has the headlights and rounder grille now part of the metal body, while the Transit letters are now reduced to the rear hatch.  The interior and base carries over, but the suspension is removed.  The engines and drivetrains are carried over as well.  This model made a return to the Matchbox line in the 2000 Hero City era first as a panel and then as an ambulance with roof lights.  The one shown here in yellow is the 2000 release paying tribute to the Union Jack flag.






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In 2006 the Transit is revived with a new body style that is now longer and wider than the previous-generations.  The side windows are larger with the Ford Truck kink to new exterior mirrors, a larger rear hatch window with smaller taillights, and a new front-end that extends out further with the return to clear headlights and metal three-bar grille shared with the 2006 Ford Fusion sedan, with side front bumper ends being part of the plastic base.  The engine is a new 2.2L turbodiesel DuraTorque I-4 and 6-speed manual transmission that is now mounted on the console.  Now for the disappointment: Matchbox got lazy and carried over the base and interior details of the previous-generation models, the latter an eyesore as it is badly 1980's vintage on a modern bodystyle.  At least the rear cargo area now has cargo from the dolly to the sleeping dog.  Many variations have been made, including two SWAT trucks, but this first release in Bilstein shocks is the best.




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The new 2015 Ford Transit TV News Van

Notice the difference here: Matchbox calls it the 2014 Transit, I call it the 2015 because the new Transit van was badged as the 2015 model, and for the first time the Transit van replaces the Econoline in the U.S.  Various roof heights, cab styles, seats, and rear axles are offered with plenty of engine and drivetrain choices, but the U.S. gets the 3.5L DOHC V6, 3.2L DOHC turbodiesel I-5, and the 3.5L twin-turbo DOHC Ecoboost V6 engines mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels.  While the body is a unibody construction, a chassis frame still remains that supports the weight of the vehicle and the live rear axle.  The dashboard takes a familiar cue from the Ford Focus with a simple and clean car-like layout, plenty of storage areas, and a very comfortable driving position compared to the awkward layout of the E-series vans.




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This new Transit van has competition from the Renault Master Ambulance that takes the Ambulance sector, and Matchbox might not have room for another van, so a thoughtful approach was a TV news van.  Yes, thanks to cost-cutting the body of the van is plastic while the base is metal, but at least the dark gray and red base approach looks great and hides the plastic lines very well.  The front has the Transit's large headlights and grille area with the lower bumper and foglights part of the metal base.  The sides show the proper tall-van look with exterior mirrors, hubcap wheels, and nifty El Paso news team logo's with a nod to Matchbox's Instagram page.  The rear has larger doors that swing wide open with a surprisingly large window area, detailed taillights, and plate area and step bumper.  Despite the nice details a few are missing: door handles for the sliding rear doors and the fuel filler cap area that should be located just between the driver's side front and sliding rear doors.



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The roof is already tall so there's no need for bulky equipment, so thankfully Matchbox made a clean look with a nifty feature: a satellite dish that pops up when in use and goes down flush when not in use.  May not have as much function as the previous TV news van but at least it looks great and true to the real TV trucks, though I would like to see the dish tilt back a bit to angle towards the orbital satellite's.  The metal base shows off the drivetrain components in a new way and not a carry-over like the 2006 model.  I was surprised the most at the interior: with the addition of the satellite dish there would have to be cuts made to the interior to make it work, but as it turns out that's not the case.  The cargo area is wide open and visible despite the rear rivet post blocking the view.  The front dashboard is nicely done with the correct details and even the 4-spoke steering wheel is at the right position even it it's part of the dashboard.




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The previous TV News Van

The new Transit replaces the previous TV News van that was based on the Mercedes-Benz TN even though there's no license to it nor any three-pointed stars on the vehicle.  Introduced in the late 1980's the TV news van appeals to the motto "more function than detail" as the interior is forgo'd to the funtionality of the roof-mounted antenna with seating area and the large and bulky newsroom camera that comes up.  Both are rotatable and seem unrealistic, especially as technology has advanced.  Access is made by a rear ladder mounted on one of the  rear panels doors next to detailed taillights.  The side profiles have one sliding panel door and enough space to put any TV news advertisements.  The roof also has a small vent sunroof, while the front has the stubby look of the TN van, Mercedes-Benz first foray into the cargo van arena in 1977.  This was the precursor to the Sprinter that took over in 1995.  Styling with the square headlights and flowing grille with no 3-pointed star matches the M-B look of the 1970's and 1980's.  The interior has a simple dashboard layout just like the 1989 Ford Transit, while powertrains relied heavidly on the turbodiesel I-4's and I-5's found in the passenger car line linked to a 4-speed or 5-speed manual transmissions.  Wheel selection relied on the smaller wheels for the Matchbox line until the 2000's when it switched to the larger modern wheels and the loss of the working suspension.



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Overall despite the plastic body this new Ford Transit looks modern and fresh compared to its predecessor's and is much better, modern, and realistic than the Mercedes-Benz TV News Van it replaces.  A novelty to the line and carrying on the tradition of the Ford Transit in the Matchbox line.

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