He’s never owned a car and has 25,000 items in his loft dedicated to Ford’s long-running load-lugger. We guess Peter Lee has the Transit bug bad.
What was your first Ford?
A Transit, believe it or not. A 1968 1700 V4 panelvan, that I passed my test in — the instructor was not impressed! I went to Spain in it, and ended up living in the back of it for 13 months while I worked on a strawberry farm out there. I’ve always had Transits — I’ve never owned a car!
How many Transits do you own at the moment?
There are nine in the collection, which is probably the limit right now. The earliest is my restored 1965 white panelvan from the first month of production, and the latest, a 2011 Jumbo which is great for carrying all the club stuff to shows like the NEC.
What’s your favourite to drive?
The Jumbo, it’s like a spaceship!
Are you restoring any at the moment?
I finished a 1972 Dormobile camper over the Summer, so I’ll have a break this winter — it’s bloody cold in my barn! I’m probably going to donate my ex-Michelin factory Mk1 ambulance to a museum in Ireland which will free up a space for a new project to start around March or April time.
How did the Transit Van Club come about?
In the early 2000s I was helping Ford out at the Commercial Vehicle Show, and one of the guys suggested I set up a club, and that they would give me some support. So the Transit Van Club was founded in 2004, and a year later we helped Ford celebrate 40 years of Transit production with a 280-strong convey from the Technical Centre at Dunton to the factory at Southampton. The club’s been fantastic — it’s a real community, and I’ve made friends all over the world. There’s no committee, I’m the founder member and with help from my family, I do it all!
You’ve got a massive collection of Transit ephemera, haven’t you?
Yes, 25,000 items and it’s growing! I’ve had to convert the loft into a big storage room to house it all.
Is there a Holy Grail item you’re still after?
A couple actually. In 1995 Ford produced a fantastic logo to mark the Transit’s 30th anniversary which featured a Mk1 and a Mk5 with a zip between the two. I’ve got every promo item they produced with that logo apart from the mug. Also, there’s a record by Joe Loss called In The Mood Transit Style, which I’ve never been able to find a copy of.
You’ve just had your second book on the Transit published, have you got any more up your sleeve?
I’d love to do a book on all the promotional vans like Supervan that were built by Ford, especially in the ’70s and ’80s. There’s a lot of incorrect information out there so it would be good to set the record straight. I’ve gotten to know a lot of the people who were involved in building them and they’ve come out with some great stories, so it would be great to share them.
What’s your most embarrassing Transit-related moment?
In 1971 I was working at the Transit factory at Langley looking after a section of the production line. I got on quite well with my boss, and he invited me round for dinner with him and his wife one Christmas. I had one too many drinks and started telling him how to do his job and how the line could be improved, then at the end of the night called a taxi. As I went to leave, I turned to speak to the taxi driver at the door and in the meantime he and his wife swapped places — I spun back around and shook his wife’s hand and gave him a kiss on the cheek! I was pretty embarrassed when I went back to work, but on the upside, a couple of weeks later, Ford put a suggestion box in the works canteen.
What’s your favourite event?
I love going to Beaulieu Autojumble, it’s so enjoyable, though a lot of traders now recognise me, and pester me for information on parts they have, and how much they’re worth. There’s so much stuff there — this year I had a list of 200 items that club members were looking for, for their projects. We had a huge kart with us to carry all the finds in!
Transit Van Club:http://transitvanclub.co.uk
Photo Adrian Brannan
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