IAIN ROBERTSON 

MS RT Connect

MS RT Connect

A South Wales-based tuning company is to launch a new van to sit alongside its Ford QVM-approved Transit Custom Conversion, writes Iain Robertson, and it looks like a real ‘bobby-dazzler’ by any reckoning, with a truly fine pedigree.

Recalling a one-off test example of the Ford Transit Connect, sent to me by Ford Motor Company a few years ago, I was gobsmacked by the performance of its full-house Ford Cosworth turbo engine (340bhp) and running gear. Created by means of a ‘Saturday Club’ by the firm’s technicians at Lommel, Belgium, it gave me a different perspective on light vans.

Although created as a strict one-off, with no aspirations to develop it as a road-going series, it was every inch a full-production machine. Its seats came from a Focus RS and most of the swappable cabin detailing was carried into the van. Not governed by ‘drive-by’ noise legislation, its exhaust was both slightly raucous and open enough to allow over-run flame bursts. While it rode on adjustable Bilstein springs and dampers, which took into account its nose-heaviness compared with a Focus RS, its most interesting feature was a lightweight tube reinforcing framework below its van body, which removed any body flex.

MS RT Connect

MS RT Connect

Of course, the modified/customised van market has grown like Topsy in the past few years. We covered the launch of the full-size Transit model last year on BCingU, so the new van will hardly come as a surprise, even though it is based on the smaller version of Ford’s popular commercial vehicle.

MS-RT, which uses styling and technology pioneered by Ford’s works rally team that is run by Malcolm Wilson, has revealed the first images, pricing and specification details of the new MS-RT Transit Connect, developed, designed and built in-house at its factory in Pontypool, South Wales. The new model complements the MS-RT Transit Custom, introduced in 2018 to massive acclaim. The compact van features a styling kit designed and manufactured by the company at its Welsh factory. The conversion consists of a full MS-RT plastic injection-moulded body kit that includes an uniquely styled front bumper, grilles, front diffuser, side skirts, rear bumper, rear diffuser and spoiler.

In addition, it receives a quad-outlet, stainless steel, sports exhaust system, 18.0-inch diameter OZ Racing alloy wheels (like that one-off original), Michelin tyres, a carbon inlay sports steering wheel and a hand-made Nappa leather and suede interior. Customers will also be given an exclusive MS-RT ‘gift pack’, consisting of a special logoed bag containing products to help keep their cherished van in tip-top condition. The conversion has been designed to pass QVM approval with Ford, which is already a key feature of the MS-RT Transit Custom.

MS RT Connect

MS RT Connect

Priced from £23,995 with a six-speed manual gearbox, or £24,995 with automated-manual (Twin-Clutch) transmission, it is set for a summer 2019 launch. MS-RT has also announced a limited run of 40-only Launch Editions. Finished in Magnetic Grey (as pictured), the Launch Edition will include upgraded alloy wheels as standard, along with a unique Launch Edition interior, sticker pack and ‘Limited Edition’ numbered plaque. They will be built during the summer for delivery to the first 40 customers in September 2019, with standard production vans available for registration from October. MS-RT is offering the Launch Edition for the same price as the standard van, which seems like a conspicuous bargain to me.

All MS-RT Transit Connects will come with a three-year, 100,000-mile warranty. A long-wheelbase version will join the range in 2020. They are all equipped with LED loadspace lighting, a premium infotainment pack (with sat-nav and a reversing camera), bi-xenon headlights and twin side loading doors. Options will include an upgrade to bronze alloy wheels, a Maxhaust tuned exhaust system, a rally sticker pack, black exhaust tips and a full carbon steering wheel option.

MS-RT founding director, Edward Davies, told us: “We’ve enjoyed unprecedented success with the MS-RT Transit Custom, with the order books completely full since launch. Our customers absolutely love their vans and the uniqueness of them, so we expect that the Connect will develop a similar following among those who want a commercial vehicle with genuine motorsport heritage, fantastic sports styling and a full manufacturer-backed warranty. We can’t wait to deliver the first Launch Edition models later this year.

MS RT Connect

MS RT Connect

All that remains would be an engine swap for a truly complete, tuned package. Interestingly, no details are given about the engine line-up, which we have to presume (at this stage) will be the same as the standard production van: three turbo-diesel engines are available, with 72, 97 and 117bhp power outputs. Naturally, being based on a regular production van, the full package of driver and electronic safety aids is included from the van’s well-equipped standard specification. The list of cabin upgrades will mirror what Ford already offers on the Transit Connect.

Conclusion:   It is my belief that a customised Transit Connect will fire up the imaginations of potential customers fed-up with the choice of different makes and models of car. If you opt for a passenger carrying variant, you could have all of the benefits of a people-mover, with bags of storage space.