From £44,4347
Racing-inspired Transit is a fresh take on Ford's most popular van

What is it?

The MS-RT R-Spec Transit Custom is certainly unlike any other Transit we’ve ever come across.

Based on Ford’s regular Transit Custom - the best-selling van so far in 2018 - the R-Spec takes that winning formula of car-like handling, a punchy diesel engine and serious load-lugging capacity and, erm, adds to it. Rather significantly.

Before we delve into those additions, though, let’s talk about the company responsible for bringing the R-Spec Transit Custom into existence. Based in south Wales, MS-RT is a collaboration between Van-Sport and motorsport icon Malcolm Wilson that specialises in turning regular Ford commercial vehicles - Rangers and Transits in particular - into something else entirely.

That something else, in the case of the R-Spec, is a van that resembles the sort of vehicle Darth Vader might use to move house. MS-RT has fitted it with an extreme bodykit it says is inspired by those fixed to the cars run by Wilson’s Ford-backed M-Sport rally team, as well as 20in OZ Racing alloys shod in 255/40-section Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S rubber. It’s a menacing-looking thing, particularly when finished in black.

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That’s not to say the changes made to the R-Spec are purely cosmetic. Eibach springs lower its ride height, while the standard 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ecoblue diesel engine has been tuned to produce 205bhp and 359lb ft of torque. MS-RT has also equipped the R-Spec with uprated brakes, as well cosseting bucket seats up front. There’s a twin sports-exhaust system, too, to ensure you’ll hear the R-Spec coming long before you see it. It really is that loud.

What's it like?

Driving the R-Spec Transit Custom is certainly a novel experience. It’s also one that - unfortunately - wears thin after an extended period at the wheel. This is down to the fact that it’s a van - so it’s never going to be the most comfortable vehicle to drive long distance – and the rumble from that exhaust.

Don’t get us wrong, that rumble certainly sounds cool when you first start the van up. It’s brash, attention-grabbing and almost reminiscent of the noise an older Subaru Impreza WRX would’ve made. Only louder. Trundling around town is an entertaining undertaking, if only because you can really enjoy the sound this van makes under partial throttle, as well as the shocked looks cast towards the van by anyone you drive past.

Get the R-Spec up to motorway cruising speeds, though, and the sound doesn’t exactly go away. Volume-wise, it doesn’t quite sit on the edge of being deafening, but it did leave this tester with a bit of a headache after a blast down to Beachy Head and back. Luckily, there is a smartphone app you can download to alter how much noise the exhaust makes, so we’d advise getting that if you’re planning on forking out the £35,995 (excluding VAT and RFL) required to get your hands on one.

Ride-wise, the R-Spec isn’t particularly stellar, feeling a touch brittle - although not particularly nervous - over rough surfaces. Ensuring the three rear seats are occupied and the cargo area full (it has a capacity of 3.5 cubic metres) will no doubt go some way to settling things down. The cabin is decently insulated against wind noise, though, but there is a degree of road roar from those 20in alloy wheels.

The steering is decently weighty and reasonably communicative, although considering the R-Spec’s slab-sided shape and tall centre of gravity it’s never really going to be the sort of vehicle for taking on a particularly challenging stretch of British B-road. Still, if the mood takes you, you will find there’s a commendable amount of grip at the front axle, while the brakes provide plenty of stopping power.

Of course, body roll will never quite be eliminated in a vehicle shaped as such, although the Eibach lowering springs do an amicable job of keeping the van reasonably in check.

The tweaks to the 2.0-litre Ford Ecoblue diesel engine are particularly welcome. The added poke the Steinbauer tuning box provides means overtaking manoeuvres are dispatched with ease, while the six-speed automatic transmission is responsive enough when you need to call on the 208bhp and 358lb ft of torque.

Should I buy one?

If you have taken a look at the R-Spec Transit Custom and immediately come to the decision that your regular Transit just isn’t quite thuggish enough, then you’ll need to move quickly to get your hands on one. It’s a limited-run model launched to celebrate MS-RT’s second anniversary and only 50 will be built.

Compared with the regular short-wheelbase double-cab-in-van Transit Custom that it’s based on, it’s fairly reasonably priced, too; excluding VAT, it’s a shade under £3,600 more expensive than the top-flight Sport variant.

For the money, you get air conditioning, custom seats, a rear-view camera, a DAB radio, satellite navigation and smartphone connectivity via USB and Bluetooth, although all are housed within Ford’s now outdated Sync infotainment system. As far as fuel economy is concerned, we saw an indicated average of 27.9mpg during our time with the R-Spec.

The Transit Custom’s sales figures already speak volumes for the van’s success in the UK. And while the R-Spec does have its flaws, there’s no denying that it’s a fresh take on Britain’s best-selling van. It might not be to everyone’s tastes, but the fact that it exists at all is to be celebrated.

MS-RT R-Spec Transit Custom

Where East Sussex, UK Price £35,995 excl VAT and RFL; On sale now; Engine 4 cyls, 1995cc, turbocharged diesel; Power 208bhp at 3850rpm; Torque 358lb ft at 2430rpm; Gearbox 6-spd automatic; Kerb weight Not stated; Top speed 92.8mph; 0-62mph Not stated; Fuel economy 27.9mpg (test); CO2 Not stated; Rivals Renault Master, Vauxhall Combo, Nissan NV300

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Comments
5

25 April 2018
The MS-RT R-Spec Transit Custom, soon to be glued to your rear bumber.

26 April 2018

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26 April 2018
EuricanaCiara wrote:

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27 April 2018
EuricanaCiara wrote:

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17 July 2018
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