Courier's Ford Tran­sit

Mark Baker meets a live-wire courier driver who’s in love with his Ford Tran­sit and finds it’s all about the auto.

New Zealand Company Vehicle - - OWNER'S VIEW - Words and im­ages Mark Baker

Al­most the first thing Ab­dul Faizal says when we meet is “I love this thing.” The sec­ond is “It’s the auto – fan­tas­tic!” Based at Ho­bill Av­enue and driv­ing a lo­cal grid in Wiri with NZ Couri­ers, Ab­dul has run his beloved high-roof Tran­sit for a year now, and won­ders if it was the first red auto to ar­rive in coun­try. In that time he has put 26,000 km of al­most ex­clu­sively short-run, stop-start street driv­ing on the big red van and says his cus­tomers all know who he is when they see the big red in the drive­way. And in the worst driv­ing con­di­tions pos­si­ble, the diesel en­gine has shone through, backed by the best six speed trans­mis­sion Ab­dul says he has ever driven. He says for a busy courier driver, the Tran­sit is of course more than the auto. A mas­sive load-space par­ti­tioned off from the cab by a full safety bar­rier, con­ve­nient door ar­range­ments that make the load­ing and un­load­ing of cargo sim­ple, a range of tie points for large, tall or heavy items, the right load­ing height, and a rear bumper at the ideal height for par­cel scan­ning – these are things that mat­ter to courier driv­ers and van users. “It’s the whole prod­uct. I was a lit­tle bit wor­ried about its size but man, it just drives like a car. Smooth, quiet, easy to place on the road, you know where ev­ery­thing is in the cab.” The com­pany al­lows driv­ers dis­cre­tion to choose the vans they want as long as the vans meet cer­tain cri­te­ria. The cav­ernous load space of the Tran­sit caught Ab­dul’s eye be­cause he was look­ing for a big­ger, more prac­ti­cal load space for his lo­cal run. “I don’t ever tow, ev­ery­thing goes in the van – and that’s no trou­ble with the Tran­sit, that big square load area is great.” When he picked up the Tran­sit from South Auck­land Mo­tors, Ab­dul, a ten year vet­eran of the in­dus­try, was tak­ing a bold leap away from the smaller Toy­ota Hi­ace into his first Ford. “That’s a big change, you know, af­ter that time. But the Tran­sit made me feel at home as soon as I got in the cab. It’s the lit­tle things like get­ting in and out – al­ways a strug­gle be­fore but now you don’t even think about it.” In the yard at Wiri, sev­eral of the other driv­ers are run­ning man­ual trans­mis­sion Tran­sits. Grudg­ingly al­low­ing them a look at his auto-equipped ver­sion – and maybe even a drive – has brought unan­i­mous praise. Ab­dul says the other Tran­sit driv­ers will likely up­grade to auto when it is time. “Man­u­als just aren’t as handy for us. I would al­ways stick with the auto now – es­pe­cially this auto. I don’t know of any of our Tran­sit guys who’d change away from these vans either.” Ab­dul says he’s tried ri­val prod­ucts: “I’ve driven VW, tried lots of oth­ers, but you can’t beat the Tran­sit.” Fuel ef­fi­ciency is im­por­tant to

couri­ers, whose work is hardly con­ducive to econ­omy-run fig­ures – but Ab­dul’s mea­sure is real-time in real life: “My old vans would give me three days of run­ning be­fore I have to fill. The Tran­sit gives me a full five days – and we don’t think the man­u­als are any more eco­nom­i­cal.” Ex­tended ser­vice in­ter­vals (30,000 km) mean the van stays on the road longer be­tween work­shop vis­its. Ab­dul is fas­tid­i­ous. Stan­dard equip­ment he adds to his vans in­clude a broom for sweep­ing out road grit and dirt, pol­ish and cloths to keep the ex­te­rior look­ing show­room fresh. “I get the van clean and it looks great. My worst day is to do all the clean­ing and then I drive out and it starts to rain!” The re­sult – a one-year old Tran­sit, sub­jected to all the worst Auck­land (and Wiri) could of­fer in terms of driv­ing con­di­tions, and still look­ing fresh and new. Ab­dul is also a cus­tomiser: he’s added a smart set of 18inch al­loy wheels to the van, and in­side the cargo space he’s built ex­tra pan­els to pro­tect the Tran­sit from oc­ca­sional scratches or dings as cargo is loaded or un­loaded. The load cubby above the cargo pro­tec­tion bar­rier now sports a smart black hatch door and a pair of speak­ers. “In the cab though there was not much I could change, it just works so well, it’s well set out and so com­fort­able.” Ford has worked hard to make the new Tran­sit a real stand­out in the van mar­ket and the driv­e­train has been the sub­ject of some se­ri­ous at­ten­tion. A new 2.0-litre four cylin­der diesel re­ceived ex­ten­sive work to op­ti­mise it for com­mer­cial use in­clud­ing fat­ten­ing the torque pro­file at low revs, a new en­gine ‘ar­chi­tec­ture’ that fo­cuses on clean-burn­ing com­bus­tion pro­files and sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tions in emis­sions. Ex­ten­sive work was also done in­ter­nally to deaden the clas­sic diesel sound­track. Emis­sions work in­clud­ing so­phis­ti­cated af­ter-treat­ment pro­cesses for the ex­haust gases took the Tran­sit com­fort­ably through the ever more strict Euro emis­sions tests and when Euro VI ar­rived last Septem­ber the Tran­sit once more sailed through. The six speed auto and the en­gine’s max­i­mum 405 Nm of torque are wel­come fea­tures in the stop-start go­ing that makes up most of a courier’s day. The new six speed was spe­cially adapted to the Tran­sit with a new torque con­verter, new ex­ter­nal cas­ing and most cru­cially a remap to match the pro­file of the en­gine. The auto senses when the ve­hi­cle is on a steep gra­di­ent and shifts gear to meet the de­mand; it will adapt to a heavy load by ad­just­ing its shift strat­egy for great­est ef­fi­ciency. The re­sult is Ford’s most re­fined com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle ever – an en­gine-trans­mis­sion pair­ing that Ab­dul says is ‘amazing’. The sum­mary? An en­thu­si­as­tic en­dorse­ment. “It’s smooth, it’s quiet and it never misses a beat.”

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