CUSTOM MK2 TRANSIT
Custom vans are all about doing things differently, but Trevor 'Digger' Gardiner's Mk2 Transit blows them all out of the water. It's on air, is economical and best of all, was all put together in his shed.
All the gear — and plenty of ideas.
To begin with, we have to make few tihngs clear. This is Trevor 'Digger' Gardiner's Transit and Digger does things differently.
For a Start, Digger is into vans which tends to mean you are in a sector that follows its own path. A path that has one hell of a lot of history going right back to the early days of this country's custom car scene that went totally insane during the '70s. And that is exactly where Digger's roots lie - his Dad was trucker and the ultimate to him, is a van, pick-up or, a truck.
"The early British van scene was a huge influence on me, but specifically a Ford Econoline Series-2 called Gladiator, which was on the cover of US magazine, Truckin
when I was 14. Something like that, I’ve always wanted,” he reckons.
And he certainly gets the building done. His inventory of previous customs is huge, starting off with a red Anglia at 16 fitted with 5.5Js and a red and black fur interior followed by a highriding V6-powered Fiesta van on 4x4 tyres.
The custom scene means that certain facets are very big in Trevor’s life — he’s got a rather whopping collection of slot mags and they do appear on everything. Show rods too are right up there — witnessed by the fact he also has a C-Cab street rod called Digger’s Express Delivery. It’s all scratch-built by Digger, it’s filled with chrome and a polished-to-death small-block V8, and yes, it features slot mags.
The Transit project started off as an idea to build a trailer to tow behind the C-Cab. But the thing is with the C-Cab, you can really only stand driving it for about 100 miles. A van is much better from the point of usability. What was about at the time was an unfinished Transit in an advanced state of build by Paul Brown. “He’d done loads of work, including 90 per cent of the body restoration.” It wasn’t quite what he wanted because it was fitted with Mk3 Transit front suspension and a Rover V8, but it was a long way towards the sort of thing Digger was after. All he had to do was stamp his mark on it.
It’s definite driver-status meant an economical powerplant was needed, so out went the Rover and in went a straight-six Mercedes diesel. “I had one as a daily and was seriously impressed with the economy and performance, so I bought an E300 as an MoT’d runner, ran it around to check it over, then used the lot as a donor.”
But it didn’t just stop at the drivetrain. Digger has used as much as he can including the dash, interior and gearbox. It had to be like a modern van and it certainly is inside. That’s not to say the build wasn’t easy because Digger was very much on a learning curve. “If I’d have known what I know now, I would have used a standalone ECU for the gearbox and everything else to simplify things. Trying to get everything to talk to everything else has been very, very trying, but we’re sort of there now.”
Out too went the inherited suspension and in its place a more custom-era Jag front and rear suspension that’s controlled by air bags. “There’s a bit more work to do there but it does its job…”
A cliché maybe but this really is a, more-youlook-more-you-see, type of build and you may well have to know your Transits to see the differences. For a start the side doors are suicide — now converted so that the hinges are hidden, plus, as Digger puts it, “Custom vans have
one-piece tailgates — I’ve always wanted one so this has one, too!” The paint matches that of the C-Cab (although that is white pearl) and fittingly so do the graphics, which naturally had to say, Digger’s Express Delivery but with a II after it. And they are hand-painted graphics at that, and the work of Sam Trench. “I took a bit of a leap of faith and gave her free reign.” And if you’re wondering on the significance of the rear door, that’s a tribute to Digger’s Dad. “The song we played in his honour at his funeral.” With so much influence on him, you can see why Digger did it.
For us, vans are cool and this one’s got all the hallmarks of a complete package: it sits right, goes as it should and is totally practical, too — the rear seats fold flat to form a bed meaning he got his camper!
Best of all, Digger built it to pass the BIVA inspection, which in these days of tightening regulations means it’s future-proof. You can’t stop a good man having his fun…
“VANS ARE COOL, AND DIGGER’S HAS ALL THE HALLMARKS OF A COMPLETE PACKAGE”
Digger’s a big fan of Mercedes’ 3-litre turbo diesel, so that’s what the Transit got. It looks tight, but it fits. Digger loves slot mags — they do look good on the van. Mercedes dash was grafted in. Steering wheel is a machined-down 10 inch slot mag from a Mini!
Transit is a companion to Digger’s C-Cab street rod. IRS rear end works in-conjunction with air bags. Whisk doubles as an aerial. Handy for camping trips...