A spin down memory lane in an old Transit van: 'Back then a radio in the cabin was adjudged to be worthy of proclamation'
Published 09/09/2015 | 02:30
It's a grey, wet, windy, chilly Monday morning. You're up at four because you have to deliver to shops on your round. Or you have a cross-country drive to Galway, Dublin, Sligo or Cork.
You put on the kettle, slip out the side door, open the van, turn on the engine and let the cabin heat up a bit. And hope it helps melt the frost on the windscreen.
That, I think, is a pattern many a Transit driver might recognise in the course of their working lives back down the years.
It was tough and relentless but it was a livelihood when maybe there weren't too many other options - apart from taking the boat to England.
Now it's all more sophisticated; more comfortable. But there is still the pressure of getting the job done early and late.
Nowadays there are quick clearing screens and air conditioning and high powered heating systems. And comfortable seats and places to pull in for a cup of tea and a sandwich. But the core elements of moving merchandise and people remain.
Vans, like trucks, do the business of this country. They are a good barometer of economic activity because if they are on the move, then someone, somewhere is selling or buying or on the move.
Latest SIMI figures show there is a huge increase in their use and purchase since the old economy turned the corner.
It's a good time for Ford to be celebrating the 50th birthday of the Transit van.
A good time too to celebrate the economic turnaround. And a good time to raise a toast to the tens of thousands who earned or made a living behind the wheel of one since the first arrivals back in 1965.
I drove a few of the older ones last week and - you know what? - it took me back to when motoring was so basic that the presence of a radio in the cabin was adjudged to be worthy of proclamation from the highest hill.
It was great fun galloping around Mondello feeling every throb of the engine and turn of the wheel. Power steering, seat belts? Never heard of them. Now? Well, it's luxury unimagined really and so it should be. Vans are the offices and working environments of those behind the wheel.
Yes the pressure on drivers can be intense - our roads and towns' streets are often busy, crowded places these days - but at least they are operating in a better, and safer, environment.
The Transit has, as Ford put it, as many roles as owners. It's a nice way of summing up the work vans are put to these days. And there are a lot of them out there because one-in-four new ones on Irish roads is a Transit this year: be it a small Courier, mid-size Connect, larger Custom or 2-tonne Transit.
And behind every wheel there is a story of a life and times in Transit .