Whilst today we have unusual breeds of dog such as the labradoodle, can you imagine what the net result would be if Mother Nature had a few sherries and got more creative? A lion crossed with a great white shark, an eagle with python DNA, or maybe even kangaroo and a sheep? In an equally mad moment the folks from the Ford of Britain PR team decided to build their own Frankenstein creation utilising the ingredients of a Transit van and a Focus WRC. This is the 2000 Ford Transit World Rally.
Based upon an ordinary full sized Transit, this van is now anything other than ordinary. Sporting the Martini World Rally Championship livery of the WRC Focus, it immediately states some serious intent. Numbers, sponsor decals, and some legendary names tattooed on its panels turns white van man from delivery driver to head turner. A unique carbon kevlar front bumper and splitter sits on the vans domed nose creating an aggressive frontal profile. The Meshed grill and roof scoop work in tandem to further relate to the rally car. Unique five bolt studded alloy wheels complete the transformation.
The external dimensions may well be still recognisable as a Transit, but the interior is from a completely different planet. Huge bolstered seats equipped with five-point racing harnesses are taken directly from one of Collin McRae’s rally cars. Those seats are the only real landmark in the cockpit as everything else has been stripped out. A spartan WRC dashboard with a few toggle switches is the only thing that slightly resembles a road car. A tall gearstick extending from the floor is accompanied by a vertical handbrake. These bare necessities are housed within a custom built roll cage with the rest of this van being a big open void.
You can’t simply turn a key and start the Ford Transit World Rally van, oh no… There is a whole sequence of switches, toggles, and primers that need to be attended to before you even think about hitting the starter button. Once the preflight checks are complete and you hit start the entire machine shakes into life. A continual vibration is a hint that all forms of refinement have been ousted in favour of performance. A standard Transit of this type would produce 75BHP, the World Rally van on the other hand has 165BHP on tap from its intercooled 2.4 litre turbo diesel engine. This makes it rather brisk and when you are wearing your lead boots it can get from 0-60MPH in 7.9 seconds and go onto a top speed of 130MPH. That is bonkers performance in a vehicle as large as this! Mash the throttle and grip that Sparco racing wheel as its turbocharge engine makes the most peculiar turbo sucking and whooshing noises. It almost sounds as if Darth Vader is having a panic attack under the bonnet, and he should be because the surge of torque is fantastic. Changing gear with its elongated shifter is interesting. It feels quite loose but at the end of the throw is a reassuring mechanical clunk as the cog finds its new home. Lowered suspension means that the Ford Transit World Rally corners very flat indeed with hardly a hint of body roll, not just for a tall van, by any standard. Turn into a corner and the van feels focused (never thought I’d write that sentence in my career) with loads of grip and responsive steering that promoted agility. The steering itself is a bit light for such a hardcore machine, but then it does make it more manageable. With the sound of stones hitting the underside and echoing around the interior, you can’t help but smile. I mean come on, it is a van turned rally car, something that was clearly dreamt up over a few beers and it is absolutely fantastic. The whole experience is a very visceral one with occupants living through every undulation, bump, and pitch change with the machine. A lack of weight and some special carbon racing brake pads brings proceedings to a close rather rapidly.
The 2000 Ford Transit World Rally van is as mad as a box of frogs, but the world is a better place for it. The chaps who put it together took a wonderfully childlike dream and turned it into a reality. Completely road legal, when it hits the streets I can imagine it blows the mind of every 6 year old boy it drives past. Heck, I went running up to it as soon as the keys were placed in my hand! This one-off now resides within the Ford Heritage Collection and is brought out of retirement for special events. Driving this WRC inspired behemoth was quite a way to celebrate 50 years of Transit.