In Transit - Blackbourn 431

By: Rob Blackbourn

Presented by

ford transit van ford transit van

Often, as with weather forecasts, things turn out better than you might expect

In a recent column I covered the fun and games that followed the failure of the fibre timing gear in my red-motor Holden near Glenrowan, Vic, decades back. A good mate who knows about the stuff going on in my life back then said: "You’ve only told half of that story. You need to do the sequel to finish it off."


Okay. In the yarn I mentioned that one of my mates turned up at Glenrowan in rescue mode in her Peugeot 504. Now, wind the clock forward a few years to when I was working in the UK, and the same mate arrived with her partner after a gruelling overland trip from Australia. Needing transport, and being low on funds until they got work, they bought a well-worn Ford Transit campervan. After helping them with some of its more obvious issues, I wished them luck with it, while cautioning them not to push that luck.


No surprise then that I was a little uncomfortable at the news a couple of months later that they were taking a little break in the old Tranny – not in Cornwall, not in Wales. Actually in France… As their mate with the tools, and as the mate they had generously helped out back in Oz, I knew that if they broke down on the trip I would want to help them out.

So when the evening call came a couple of weeks into their trip (a nervous fortnight for me), I braced myself. Yes, the motor had gone out with a bang, and yes, they needed help, and yes, they were sorry to trouble me. Then I put the question: "Where exactly are you?"


"Rob, we’re almost home, just past the Heathrow exit on the M4 Motorway. I’m sorry…" he managed to get out before I cut him off with: "Mate, great news. Not a worry at all. I’ll be there in under an hour." It didn’t matter that my dinner was on the table, or that it was raining – they weren’t calling from across the Channel and I didn’t have to gear up for the complexities of the Continental, bi-lingual rescue mission I had been sweating about for days. They had made it back to Blighty and they were less than 30 kays away.

ford transit engine.jpg

Before hitching the tow rope to the expired Tranny I danced about in the rain on the shoulder of the M4, high-fiving them, while telling them what true champions they were for getting this close to home. They were grateful while being slightly dumbfounded at the way I was carrying on. Not my normal behavior, I will admit… Another hour or so on we were unhitching the van in their driveway, unloading their gear, and uncorking a couple of their recently purchased vins rouges to celebrate their return.


As it happened, the firm where I was doing gasket R & D work used to put aside engines after dyno testing, many of which were of no further interest, some of which ended up all but forgotten. The boss didn’t think they had a V4 Essex motor but he gave me the nod to climb into the racks. Indeed there was a V4, a 2.0-litre Corsair engine. For a modest donation to the mechanics’ Christmas party kitty (I would guess no more than $200 in today’s money), I was able to take home an engine that had done no more than a few hours on the dyno since new. The following weekend the old Tranny was up and running and ready to kick butt with a good-as-new, high-compression, 2.0-litre V4 in place of its expired low-compression 1.7-litre version.

And I was square with the looking-after-your-mates card.


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