A new era has begun for Wales’s automotive industry.
Launch pricing and official photographs of the new motorsport-inspired MS-RT Ford Transit Custom have been revealed as the model made its official debut this week.
The MS-RT Transit Custom has a fusion of style and practicality offered by no other vehicle on the road, with a choice of panel van or double cab options and two different wheelbases.
The stunning new van has been developed by the Welsh-based specialist coachbuilder MS-RT of Pontypool working in collaboration with Cumbria-based M-Sport, who run the Ford World Rally Championship team and provide other national and international services.
|The new MS-RT Transit Custom’s exterior styling includes a full front bumper and grill replacement with integrated factory fog lamps, extreme front diffuser, wide body arch extensions, sills, rear diffuser and rear spoiler, all of which are manufactured by MS-RT at its UK factory in Pontypool, South Wales.
It also comes with a twin sports exhaust system hand-made on site along with unique MS-RT exterior branding and decals.
The MS-RT Transit Custom also gets exclusive new 18-inch Anthracite OZ Racing alloys with 103 XL load-rated Hankook Ventus S1 evo2tyres, along with Eibach performance lowering springs. The combination improves handling and responsiveness, while at the same time ensuring the Transit Custom still delivers where it needs to by maintaining its payload capacity.
Inside, the performance theme continues with a handcrafted MS-RT nappa leather and suede seat facings, along with a distinctive MS-RT sports steering wheel with carbon fibre inlays. The rally-inspired interior theme is completed with MS-RT branded floor mats and dash clocks.
|Each van supplied by Ford for the conversion is stripped out, new leather seat covers are fitted in the Welsh factory, a hand-built exhaust is shaped on site, sports suspension fitted and the bespoke body panels are moulded, trimmed, painted and fitted over about three weeks.
At the moment, the team of 42 personnel at MS-RT turn out over 40 Transit vans a month but interest is growing from abroad and Ed has a plan to expand the business. They offer specialist apprenticeships and will this month take on more experienced workers.
Key to the quality control is traceability of components and assembly operations and production manager David Hopkins stressed, “Everything we do follows a laid-down process, is documented at every stage, checked and rechecked and nothing leaves here without a final inspection including a short roadtest.”
When everything is given a fully ticked scorecard a special production plate is fixed to the Transit’s frame. “I wanted to put ‘Made in Mamhilad’ on it but that would be too long,” joked David.
“But in reality it has been, and all the guys and girls here can rightly feel proud of what they have achieved, making a model in this corner of South East Wales which carries the warranty of a world-class motor manufacturer.”
All MS-RT vehicles come with Ford’s latest SYNC3 entertainment system with satellite navigation, dual side loading doors, loadspace lighting, a 230v power convertor, parking sensors, reversing camera, heated windscreen, heated seats and upgraded HID headlights with integrated daytime running lights.
Under the bonnet, the van has Ford’s 170PS EcoBlue 2.0 litre TDCi engine, giving 405 Nm of torque. A choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox can be specified.
There are also a number of cabin layouts – two-seat panel van, three-seat panel van, five-seat double-cab and six-seat double-cab, with a choice of long or short wheelbases and a tailgate or twin back doors.
Founding director Ed Davies, who has been in the automobile business for 25 years, and worked with the rally-team for over two years supplying specialist support vehicles before the idea of the road vans came to him.
“I put it to the M-Sport team owner Malcolm Wilson and he liked it so we came up with a plan,” said Ed.
“We were keen from the outset that the MS-RT van had to meet the highest standards and not affect the standard Ford warranty so it could be sold through Transit dealerships.
“We don’t modify the engine or transmission but have worked on the suspension and body-kit and the result is the Ford warranty is honoured.”
Director Jo Pace came into the business from the highly quality conscious aero-industry and said, “We are averaging close to 50 Transit models a month but it fluctuates and in March we hit 108 registrations through the dealers we supply.
“The sales split is about 60/40 in favour of short to long wheelbase models and two-thirds will be double cab.”
He believes the future is very good for MS-RT, adding, “We already supply a few for export but see this growing all the time and we will be working with an agent to feed into eastern Europe. Our customers want a reliable, respected van but also something which stands out and the MS-RT Transit Custom really does.”
Prices go from just under £33,000 for the short-wheelbase model and £34,500 for the Double Cab.
The eyes have it in any vote for the most striking Ford Transit you could buy,writes Robin Roberts.
The chunky front panel incorporating Ford-badged nose, deep sculptured vents and edgy wrap-around side sections take the standard headlights and driving lights.
To the side the theme continues with the added wheel-arch enhancements and to the rear you have twin exhausts showing either end of a deeper valence.
Open the doors, front or middle row, and you see high quality seat covers with MS-RT detailing and that all-important personal build plate on the frame. All MS-RT Transit Customs leave the Pontypool factory with standard wheels to meet homologation requirements but any optional wheels are put inside for later fitting by an owner.
Fire up the MS-RT and it sounds like any other Transit unless you specify the harmonic exhaust option and it then bellows a sports car sound.
On the road over a 90 miles drive through the Brecon Beacons National Park the MS-RT immediately felt firmer riding and more responsive, and turned heads.
The engine is a dependable slogger and you have to make use of the six-gears to make the most of the power underfoot. That comes easily and the clutch and gearchange are smooth and direct.
It slows and steers with confidence and I found the reversing camera fitted to the test model was very useful and clear.
I liked the tremendous amount of oddments and storage space inside the latest Transit cabin.
There was not a lot of road or wind noise, engine noise was low, but our development test model did reveal a low-range whine when moving very slowly in traffic, which I am sure would be sorted before customer delivery.