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Feature: The Ford SuperVan legacy

FORD’s electric-powered SuperVan 4.2 is set to wow crowds at this month’s Repco Bathurst 12 Hour.

Packing 1050kW and accelerating from zero to 100km/h in under two seconds, it’ll be the fastest car at the event.

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TICKETS: Buy your tickets to the Repco Bathurst 12 Hour

While the technology underpinning it is cutting edge, Ford’s SuperVan story is also one of rich history – the nameplate’s lineage stretching back to 1971.

The original was the brainchild of John Dale, the boss of Ford of Britain’s commercial division, who wanted to raise the profile of the humble Transit with an outlandish, attention-grabbing variant, while touring car squad Terry Drury Racing did the build.

The engine and drivetrain from one of Ford’s Le Mans-winning GT40 sports cars was fitted to a bespoke spaceframe chassis, with a genuine metal Transit bodyshell draped over the top.

A huge hole had to be cut in the rear cargo floor to accommodate the 400-plus horsepower, 5L Gurney-Weslake V8.

In action at Silverstone in the UK. Pic: Supplied

The original SuperVan made its public debut at the Brands Hatch circuit’s Easter Monday meeting in 1971 and immediately turned heads, raising the stocks of the Transit brand with a series of high-speed displays on tracks, drag strips and even tarmac speedways around the United Kingdom.

Every good origin story deserves a sequel, and SuperVan 2 followed in the first machine’s liquorice straps in 1984.

This time, a fibreglass replica of a Transit body was used over the top of the chassis of a Ford C100 Group C sportscar, complete with the race machine’s drivetrain, suspension and normally-aspirated Cosworth DFL V8 engine – a 4-litre version of the F1-dominating DFV.

SuperVan2 with caravan in tow. Pic: Supplied

While not as sleek as the Mulsanne-streaking C100, its Transit-bodied brethren was still capable of hitting 280km/h in a straight line.

Ford completed the trilogy in the 1994 with SuperVan 3. A seven-eighths scale fibreglass Transit bodyshell was fitted to the same C100 chassis that underpinned its predecessor, while the elderly DFL was replaced with a 650hp Cosworth HB engine, the same type of 3.5L V8 being used in F1 in the early 1990s.

This SuperVan had the longest active life of any of Ford’s Transit-based creations, performing public demonstrations until its initial retirement in 2001, and in a wide variety of liveries. At one stage, it was dressed up in the red colours of a British Royal Mail van!

SuperVan3 in 1995. Pic: Supplied

SuperVan 3 returned to action in 2004 after a full refurbishment, with its body restored back to its original livery and the engine replaced with a Ford-Cosworth Pro Sports 3000 supercharged V6 that was far more practical to run than the ex-F1 unit.

It continued to make public appearances as late as the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed, where touring car legend Anthony Reid took it up the hill.

Five decades on from the creation of the original machine, this year’s Bathurst 12 Hour will mark the first time any of the SuperVan family have hit an Australian racetrack.

Read all about the Ford SuperVan in the Repco Bathurst 12 Hour program.

Read the full feature on Ford’s SuperVan 4.2 in the 2024 Repco Bathurst 12 Hour Official Program.

The 104-page publication is available now in the V8 Sleuth Superstore and will be sold trackside at the event’s Official Merchandise stand.

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