Repairs,updating and rolling restoration of a Mk 1 V4 CI ford transit campervan.
Restoring rusty body work and tired mechanicals.Converting to disc brakes and adding an overdrive. Sources of spares,information on old ford and other motorhomes .

Headlamp Bowls

Exhaust manifolds and pipes.

Updating brakes

Patching holes in body.

Spare parts

ford V4 engine

My Mk1 V4 motorhome. Similar 'bull nose' versions have a diesel or V6 petrol engine.
Transit Ci Mk1 coachbuilt motorhome 
The coachbuilt transit motorhome was bought on eBay,it is a CI motorhome originally registered in 1976. It's rolling resto and modifications have been carried out over some years.All work has been done outside,its too big to go under a carport or in a garage.
The idea was to get the motorhome back closer to its original condition with an on going restoration and without spending a fortune.I fitted an overdrive gearbox from a transit ambulance,rebuilt one engine (later replaced with another modified,reconditioned one) and converted the front brakes to disc.
With its original drum brakes,cart springs all round and the often criticised 2000cc Ford essex V4 as distinct from the later 'Kent or Pinto engines.The V4 petrol engine  was shared by some Ford Corsairs,Capris and Zephyrs, driving one of the Mk1 is like stepping back in time a few decades.
The door steps,floor and underneath.
Front wheel and door removed to make life easier,the step was loose and rusted through at the front edge.It had been repaired with rivetted patches and fibreglass a few times in the past.The steps were available as relatively cheap pattern repair panels,now such repair panels are probably obsolete although occassionally they crop up on Ebay.
The inner wings on both sides had been plated previously and a couple of rust holes needed welding, I mig welded bits of sheet metal cut from my scrapped mercedes van ,vorsprung durch technic etc.
Steel Mk1 transit wings are no longer made. 
Rusted Mk1 transit door step. 
The step and sill,part of the chassis section and  wheel arch inside the cab had rotted and broken away from the floor. I think it's as easy to weld a big hole as a small one so all weak metal was cut out.The areas round the hinges were strengthened with the doors jacked up to force the hinges back into position,both had dropped quite a bit the bodywork around them was weak due to the corrosion. Doors on old cars tend to sag,as do body parts on old people.
The off side wasn't quite as bad but the whole step was removed with an angle grinder.This was a few years ago when the door sill sections were still relatively easy to obtain.
The chassis section in front of the seat was thin with corrosion and replaced.When finished all the chassis sections were treated with Waxoyl or Eureka Fluid Film internally,the outside painted then undersealed.

Door step repair panels are getting harder to find.

There were small holes in the floor where water had collected under the rubber mat.These were cut out and small plates butt welded into the holes.

One area of floor a few inches square was thin and perforated in a couple of places . A piece of sheet was butt welded in the hole after it had been squared off. The floor had been undersealed and some surface rust was apparenet under it so the whole floor was wire brushed and painted after welding.

The front cross member was a bit weak along the bottom which was cut off along almost its full length and a strip of steel with 90 degree flanges along each side inserted into the cross member and welded along its length. A square plate was welded into the centre to provide a location for a jack or axle stand. The top section of the cross member was strengthened and is probably stronger than when the vehicle was new.

Both shackles have been welded but the welds aren't very neat.The underseal (which hadn't done much to slow rust was scraped off and the welds ground down,a large pointed hammer was used to test them and they seem solid so they were painted with genuine red lead and then given a coat of  black waxoyl.
Probably other bowls could be adapted to fit. 
Both headlamp bowls had rusted through at the bottom,using the top half to make a pattern new pieces were made and welded in.The funny little sidelights on top of the wings were removed and the mounting holes welded up.The bonnet had been badly patched with riveted repairs along its front edge,rusted bonnets are a problem with early transits.I bought a secondhand Mk 1 bonnet from ebay in better condition and repaired it.

The door pillar was rotten under a load of filler and was making the wing weak. The wings had been replaced at some time but fitted very badly with large gaps and poor alignment .New Mk1 transit wings rarely turn up,when they do they change hands for well over two hundred pounds.

The door frame was patched with a single piece of metal running from the horizontal flange in the middle of the wing to the sill.To shape it to the wings curvature it was cut and welded then welded to the frame and wing.After welding the whole area was treated with a rust neutraliser which is phosphoric acid based and turns the metal black.

When repainting a couple of years later I cut a thin strip of metal from the back of the front wings.

Welding the edges together pulled in the wings so they aligned better with the front of the doors.

There were holes where fairly localised rusting had simply been covered with filler.Rather than replace the whole panel (which would have to be a better secondhand one as they are not available new) the damage was cut back to sound metal and repaired by patching with new metal.

First the rot was cut out and the hole 'squared'.

Using a paper pattern a small piece of sheet steel was cut and bent then filed to get an accurate fit in the hole.The metal was ground back around the edges and the plate tacked in place


The patch after it had been tacked in place.
The welds were then ground down flush.It would have been more satisfactory to have joggled the edges of the plate,it was far too easy to blow a hole where the panels joined.

The coach built living part
The only bit of the alloy body that needed work was an old repair to the front nearside covered with a riveted patch.Water had penetrated the wooden framing but the damage was localised and easily repaired from inside with the old interior panelling cut back.You never really finish a job like this work is still going on but the vehicle is now in use.
Alloy body on a wood frame standard older motorhome construction 
Early transit door skins are no longer available. 
Door skins.
Both doors were a bit grim,the bottoms had rotted through along their entire length.I plug welded
in long thin lengths of sheet steel to keep the inner and outer door skins together.To try and keep the bottoms straight I clamped a piece of angle iron along the base.Before removing the doors I measured the amount the outer skins would have to be brought back in by for a reasonable fit.
Getting the engine running.
The water pump bearing was worn and I removed the front panel to make replacing it easier.The panels fixing bolts inside the wheel arches were corroded and the captive nuts broke loose as soon as they saw a spanner,I cut them all out with an angle grinder.Corrosion from water running from the wing channels either side of the bonnet meant the landing panel had six inches missing either end this was repaired.I later removed all the horrible underseal in the engine bay and repainted it.
V4 engine seemed sound apart from leaking pump 

The box section behind the front valance was badly corroded,normally it is hidden.I had to remove a section of bodywork under the front grille with an angle grinder to get access to the rotten front section.The valance was repaired after the cross member had been welded and new mounts made for the bumper irons.

I had a few problems with the engine not starting when hot. Eventually it was traced to a faulty but brand new battery that would sometimes fail when warm.

The Mk1 transit doesn't have much underbonnet space

New engine rebuild.

The original engine developed piston slap when cold, although initally loud,it virtually vanished at running temperature,testing by removing plug leads,or squirting oil down the bores etc suggested it came from the two pistons on the left hand bank although when the engine was dismantled they were not seriously worn or damaged. It got no worse and probably would have carried on like it for years but removing the engine also meant it would be much easier to weld the weak areas on the front cross member.(see above).I bought another engine and rebuilt it ready to swap over.
Fords Essex V4 as fitted to the MK1 transit,Corsair and Zephyr 4 was never a quiet or smooth engine when new,they are rough and unrefined compared to modern engines but fitting an inline engine in a flat front Mk1 is difficult without altering the bodywork by fitting a diesel front panel and bonnet for example.The later Mk2 and Mk3 versions were fitted with inline engines and different front panel,wings and bonnets.
The bores and bearings on the replacement engine were good,the engine was fitted with new rings and bearings and the heads replaced with gas flowed high compression ones.The valves were renewed and the inside of the manifold smoothed and polished.One problem I did have was removing the big end bolts,the heads of which had been damaged by a previous dismantler using worn spanners or sockets.I found it impossible to buy new ones and ended up importing some aircraft spec socket (or allen) headed bolts,these are slightly heavier than than the originals and I domed the heads on a bench grinder to reduce their weight.They were weighed on an electronic jewellers scale.The new big end bolts are much stronger than the originals.To overcome problems with exhaust valve seat recession on unleaded petrol, I've been using Red-ex lead substitute I really can't be bothered to fit the cyinder heads with hardened valve seats. In some V4 engine applications the cooling system is only adequate rather than good the radiator cooling fan is now electric,controlled by a thermo switch fitted to the thermostat housing. Essex engines were prone to blocked waterways and corrosion can be a major problem if no,or poor quality anti freeze is used.
I fitted Pazon electronic ignition which uses the conventional points but fed with far less current,it seems to make the engine run smoother.All of the metal brake pipes were replaced with copper pipes.The rear suspension was beefed up with a pair of coil over shock absorbers,make unknown they were bought at an autojumble sale and fitted after a bit of modification. By changing the mounting,shortening the propshaft and remodelling the exhaust down pipes,I fitted an overdrive gearbox to try and improve fuel consumption and lower the revs when travelling on a flat road..Good fuel economy was never the V4's strong point especially in the heavy Zephyr 4 or transits but I'm reluctant to take the vehicle too far away from original by changing the engine for a diesel or inline four cylinder OHC pinto,which would involve using a diesel "bullnose" front panel and bonnet.I fitted disc brakes using the two pot calipers and solid disks from a Mk2 and a axle that had been scrapped some years ago.The hydraulic flexible pipes are different but this is an easy swap.While the axle was off my assistant and I replaced the king pins.
My assistant studies the old king pins.
A mk3 transit servo fitted under the bonnet of a Mk1.
 I didn't notice a big improvement over the standard twin leading shoe arrangement untill I changed the original Mk1 combined servo and master cylinder for one out of a Mk3 transit .The servo is much larger and greatly reduces pedal pressure.The bonus is that parts for Mk3 transits are somewhat easier to obtain than the earlier Mk1 and 2's.
I sealed the rear of the front wing/scuttle joins,water getting in here rots out the inner wings and door hinge panels,water ingress under the bonnet was a known transit failing,a shower could soak the engine and even let water into the inlet manifold via the air cleaner fixing screws.Trying to start an engine with water in the inlet can cause a hydraulic lock in the cylinders which could damage the piston or con rods. I welded a plate on top of the air cleaner so this can't happen.Mk1 and Mk2 transit spares are getting harder to find steel bonnets,wings and other bodywork are virtually non esistent,although fibreglass panels are still available.I soon realised that the days when transits,ford corsairs and Mk 1 cortinas were common in scrapyards and car breakers has well and truly gone for good,and of course in these days of the nanny state you can't find heaps of old cars to clamber over even if you want to.I'm always interested in buying new or secondhand spares for the early transits.There are links to part suppliers etc below.

 A ticking noise that quickly got worse turned out to be a crack in the off side exhaust manifold.When I unbolted it a lump of the mating flange fell off one side.The V4 manifolds are very hard to source so I tried to arc weld it with nickel rods.

This didn't work and made the problem worse as the parts no longer fitted closely together.The casting was very porous and thin.The welding looked OK but had not keyed to the casting and was easily broken.

Eventually,by heating the whole manifold to cherry red with an oxy-propane torch and then letting it cool slowly surrounded by scrap metal I was able to braze the parts back together.The finished job isn't pretty but the manifold is strong and doesn't leak.The down pipes and front silencer on the V4 are now long obsolete.

A few years back and a late summer evening at Gt Yarmouth,a collection of motorhomes parked for the night.Yarmouth council has like other seaside towns banned such activities.The area pictured is now part of the new Yarmouth inner harbour.
Southwold and Aldburgh are amongst other seaside towns who have banned motorhomes and their occupants.
Oh no its those camping people again 
I found out the hard way even old camper vans don't escape the attentions of car thieves.Luckily an alert neighbour and quick police action prevented some of the damage but the campers interior was badly vandalised.The transit has now been treated to a state of the art alarm system.Originally I was able to insure this as a classic vehicle. The insurance is soon due for renewal and I'm trying to find an insurer who specialises in insurance for classic motorhomes.
I can still get hold of new track rod ends,king pin kits,gaskets,shock absorbers,wheel cylinders,flexible hoses and brake linings etc at sensible prices.I also have a lot of wheel and master cylinder repair kits for transits and other early fords (Classic,Popular,Prefect,Anglia etc).If you're stuck for transit spares mail me or try the links below.
I am always interested in buying early transit (Mk 1 or 2) and fairway taxi or Rover P5b spares. I can normally arrange collection etc and will not mess about you can E mail me here

Links to other transit sites,spare part suppliers,clubs etc.I've used some of these, but not all.The comments are mine,true and accurate.
Transit MK1 and Mk2 repair panels,wings,bonnets etc.

Smith and Deakin , good quality,strong fibreglass wings and bonnets for early transits and other early cars etc.Have had good reports from customers.

Spares from Germany. German company (old-cars de) supplying spares for Mk1.These vans (using cologne engines) were used in Germany as fire service support vehicles.

Essex V4 engines,gearboxes and running gear,new and secondhand.

Tickover , Some early ford capris used the 2 litre V4 engine and tickover know all about capris.Carry some spares for the V4.Replied to my queries quickly and gave good advice.

Essex engines. Engine spares for the Essex V4 and V6 as well as the Cologne series engines.Sell the hard to replacements for the fibre timing gears.Newer ones are normally alloy and much longer lasting.

Speedy Spares , a suprising amount of mail order spares for all types of classic cars and other vehicles,friendly fast service when I used them.

Burton Power, specialise in tuning parts for modern fords but supply some parts for older Fords including replacement timing gears for the Essex V4 and V6 engine.

Specialised Engines , spares,repairs and rebuilds of the Ford Essex V4 (and V6) engines.Replied speedily when asked about availability of ford engine parts.Reconditioned V4 engines still available.

Pazon Ignition ,now based in New Zealand make electronic ignition conversions for classic cars and motorcycles.No irreversible modifications,triggers the standard coil with a much reduced points voltage.A doddle to fit too.

Midland Classic parts , all sorts of spare parts for classic cars,well worth a look.

Truck busters , specialise in light commercial vehicle parts, mail order anywhere..

Dudley Transit Centre ,Breaking all transits and selling a wide range of new and secondhand spares.

Restore online , collectors and classic cars and adverts for spares and parts etc.Be warned that some adverts are very old.

Suspension,brakes other mechanical spares.

Jones Springs , repairs and new leaf springs (made to pattern) for all ford transits no matter how old.Quick to reply to queries and friendly too.

Owens Springs, another company specialising in repairs and refurbishment of leaf springs.New ones made to pattern.

Brake parts these still list linings and pads for the earlier transits.Mail order both quick and efficient.Handy diagrams and dimensions of pads and linings on their web site.

Brake world . wholesale only but they'll give you the number of nearest retailer to you.List a lot of older stuff,handy for part numbers and pictures of pads and linings etc if nothing else.( I can source brake cylinder rubbers for early transits).

Bosal Exhausts . online catalogue,gives parts numbers and pictures.V4 transits now considered obsolete,but later ones are catered for.Handy for working out what other exhaust bits you might be able to use to custom build an exhaust or repair an exhaust system.

Trim,windscreen rubbers,door seals and window glass etc.

Woolies , specialise in mail order of all rubber parts,door and windscreen seals and interior trim,when I ordered some rubber sections for the transit doors I found them helpfull.

East Kent trim, useful little catalogue gives dimensions of the trim they stock,mail order both quick and efficient.

National Windscreens. quoted me 90 to supply a Mk1 transit screen or 115 to supply and fit (summer 2005).The Mk1` and Mk2 windscreens are the same,the screen rubbers slightly different.Phone 01733 552244. I have some spare new windscreen rubbers for Mk 1s.

Clubs for old camper vans and motorhomes,spares,repairs,general old car sites,forums,insurance etc .

Classic Camper Club , a must see site if you are into restoring,repairing or using old,classic camper vans,caravettes and motorhomes etc.

Transit Forum.Do you need help or advice about your transit or do you just want to chat with other owners from all over the world?.Joining this forum should be an esential part of your transit ownership.Absolutely free,no catch.

UK camp site , A brilliant web site,includes a forum with loads of info on transit Mk 1 and Mk 2,camp site guides and loads of other stuff of interest to campers,motorhome owners etc.Free to join,seem very friendly.

Waveney Motorhomes. Near me in Lowestoft,repairs servicing for motorhome and an online shop.Small family run business who also operate a mobile service.

T and J Commercials Lowestoft. It can be a problem finding a garage equipped to undertake MOTs on large motorhomes.These can MOT ones of any size and you can book online.

Caravans and motorhomes for sale.Lots of motorhomes and caravans for sale,popular site and a big selection.  

Motorhome links.Loads of links to all sorts of motorhome and campervan sites,well worth a look.

DIY mig welding. Welding tips,welders compared and tested,handy for welding wanabees,even a forum.

Ex-pressed steel panels , these produce new body panels for older fords.Cortinas,Mk 1 Escorts,Anglias,Prefects,100Es etc.No transit stuff as yet though.Keep watching.

Collectors car parts ,specialising in older fords.Exhausts,shock absorbers,struts and engine parts.Based near heathrow airport.

Old Ford Auto Services ltd ,fibre glass wings and body panels for some older fords,suspension mods and parts.

Classic cars, used cars at Classic Cars and Trucks for sale, Muscle Cars, Street Rods and More.

Preloved, all sorts of secondhand gear and car and commercial vehicle sections  

Early days,the transit on the way to its new home.
Transit heading for its new home.
Ford Transits a potted history and spare part swapping etc.
The V4 Mk 1 Transit was current from 1965 to about 76 when it became the Mk 2, when along with other mods the V4 engines were changed to the OHC inline fours.( A few MK1's were fitted as standard with a four cylinder inline engine) Very early (to about 68) models had different clutches,after 1970 the pedal assembly was completely changed and moved from the floor to the bulkhead.The pre 1970 modles have a solid rod actuating the clutch,the later ones use a conventional cable. The V4 engine (called the Essex because thats where it was built) was used on some Ford Corsairs and Capris (as an alternative to straight four cylinder engines),it is not the same as the Ford Taunus V4 (known as the Cologne and also fitted to Saab V4) although confusingly German built transits did use the Cologne V4 engine.(Australian transits used much larger engines see the transit forum for pictures and details) The 2000cc and 1700cc versions of the V4 engines are virtually identical externally,their internal components aren't as the increase in capacity was gained by using a crankshaft with greater throw and different pistons.The Ford V4 is inherently unbalanced and uses a seperate internal balance shaft to try and absorb engine vibration,when the bearings of the shaft wear,vibration and noise become apparent.Ford V4's had Autolite,Zenith or Weber carbs,the Zenith and Ford are swappable the twin choke Weber (which was used on the 2000E Corsair) needs its own manifold.The 2 litre OHC meant a redesigned front panel and bonnet,disc brakes also appeared on the front wheels.1986 was the next big change.Late Mk3 and subsequent transits use independant front suspension with coil springs the early ones use a beam front axle and leaf springs.The suspension components on Mk 1,2 and early Mk3 are swappable,the doors and glass are as well. Most Fords of this era had common door handles,bits of interior trim etc so any auto jumble is always worth a look for spares.The road springs on pre 70 vehicles were a different rating to the later ones although many will have been changed by now.Rear axles vary in type as does the prop shaft,on long wheel base versions a two piece shaft is used.The current ford transits share their name only with these early versions.
A popular swap with transit owners was to copy some ambulance and police vehicles and replace the V4 with fords 3 litre V6 usually by using a transit diesel front panel and bonnet,uprating the front suspension to carry the extra weight..The resultant beast was as fast as it was thirsty and loads of fun.The Essex V6 was fitted in ambulances up to about 1988 often with an overdrive gearbox,the V6 found its way into a lot of other cars from AC's to Reliant Scimitars and Fords own Granadas and Zodiacs.The V4 is in some ways a V6 with a couple of cylinders missing as the six cylinder engine was developed from the four.
The V4 engine is rubbished by some sections of the classic motoring fraternity, its a bit rough and not very efficient,but its also one of the only engines that will fit under that short bonnet and the engine design is now well over 40 years old..I think some of its reputation for unreliability was a result of its use in the very underpowered Zephyr V4,where a hard working engine and low radiator gave frequent air locks and over heating problems.The fibre timing wheel driving the camshaft and fragile oil pump drive are weak points.The timing wheel was weakened if the engine overheated and apparently shrunk at very low temperatures.The original all fibre timing wheel was superceded in the mid 70's by a wheel using nylon teeth but this was not a total cure.It's possible to replace the timing wheel with an all steel one although these are expensive (mail me for details or use the links above) and using modern lubricants and avoiding revving a cold engine should help the oil pump drives survival rate.The engine was used in the Corsairs,a few early Capris,the odd Marcos and at one time sold as a conversion for the NSU R080,it also turned up as an industrial engine driving waterpumps and generators etc.
The German ambulance and fire service used Mk1 transits with Cologne V4 engines suprisingly recently.(one is often featured on the transit forum,there's a link to the transit forum site above).
I accept no responsibility for errors in the above,I'd welcome other owners input and comments.I'm also trying to put together a list of parts from more modern vehicles that will fit these early vans and welcome suggestions.Please e-mail me.
You don't need much in the way of special tools for the older transits.I sell hub nut sockets to fit the transit range (and IVECOs) here .A mig welder,tin snips and a hammer and chisel will take care of the body,a decent tool kit the mechanics.All you'll need then is time and enthusiasm.

Buying an older transit van or camper.
Finding a van is probably the hardest bit.Have a look on the transit forum (link above) which is also the place to ask any questions you might have.Ebay is another selling place or the ads in any local paper,theres ad trader and lots of other places to look,try and look at as many as possible,try to avoid buying the first one you see (unless its a bargain of course).Keep asking questions,if it all goes wrong you could end up with a very large and heavy lump of iron thats impossible to get rid of.Bear in mind your neighbours might not be thrilled to have a rusted old van parked in the road outside.
Rust on transits can get a serious hold on the front cross member and the front spring hangers and is the first place to look,it can be very difficult to repair.The sills and chassis sections are easier to repair but the rear spring hangers are also difficult and a current MOT should never be relied upon as to the structural integrity of any vehicle.The body panels are expensive and very rare in steel,even fibreglass parts will make a big hole in any restoration budget.Although some mechanical components are hard to source the early transits are quite tough mechanically.The springs will have almost certainly settled after thirty odd years and replacement is expensive,try and get at least three fingers between bump stop and the axles.Axles whine especially on overun but generally carry on for years even so but the noise can drive you potty on a long journey.Gearboxes should be quiet,the clutch musn't slip as replacements are now difficult to find.The early transit drum brakes aren't really up to modern standards and finding the hydraulic parts to repair them is tricky.The first transits had pedals emerging from the floor rather than the later pendant type pedals and parts for these are scarce.It is possible to convert the early type,but the bulkheads are different so the conversion is somewhat involved.The ford essex engine isn't smooth or silent at the best of times but look for blue smoke (worn rings or valve seals) and heavy knocking noises and vibration (worn bearings). Check the coolant for oil (head gasket problems) also have a look at the exhaust system as the twin down pipes and front silencer are now unobtainable.The very early (before 68) engines are the least reliable and some of the internal parts like oil pumps are now unavailable,a badly worn one will prove an expensive job to put right.Don't be afraid to ring or contact any of the people above to check on the availabilty and prices of parts before deciding to buy any particular van.I recommend joining a club for help with spares and advice.You'll not do much better than 25mpg and you'll need a lead replacement compound (unless the owner tells you the engine has been converted to lead free).
Don't get put off by the first bit of rust you find or the first parts storeman who says "I thought they'd scrapped all them by now".Enjoy owning,driving (and repairing) your own little bit of motoring history.I've now started work on restoring an old london taxi and a Rover P5B .
The Mk1 transit on holiday in Norfolk.

Baconsdozen home page. 

BSW whitworth sockets and spanners

Gunson Colortunes.

Imperial AF spanners etc.