Over the years, a handful of automotive lunatics have taken on the challenge of celebrating their company’s successes in the strangest – and best – way possible: by engineering track ready versions of their consumer vans.
Following their immense success with the GT40, Ford’s next logical step in 1971 was to combine their transit van – one of histories best selling and most versatile vans – with their Italian-crushing GT40 chassis and powerplant. The result of this madness was a hilariously fast promotional van to the tune of America’s most iconic race car.
The functionality of the van was completely lost – and replaced with a mid-mounted 400bhp V8 – making the beloved Supervan 1 an exemplification of American excess just like Cadillac’s 8.0L V8s of the 70’s.
Come 1984 and Ford is back at it again, this time with the Supervan 2. The Supervan 2 took a bit of a departure from the design of its production sibling, and was mated to a Ford group C chassis with a Cosworth engine – plus a totally functional 174mph top speed.
Finally, in the cocaine induced hangover that was the 1990’s, Ford unveiled their Supervan 3, allowing the world to sleep easy once again. Interestingly, the Supervan 3 was intended to promote the new generation of transit vans, rather than highlight the successes of the outgoing model. This time, Ford opted for a 700hp Cosworth HB, a narrow-angled V8 that could scream all the way to 13,000 RPM.
In 1995, just a year after Ford’s unveil of the Supervan 3, some crazy Frenchmen at Renault thought the world desperately needed the Renault Espace F1. These Frenchmen happened to be very correct.
The Renault Espace F1 somehow managed to be more absurd than any of the Ford Supervans that came before it. With its Williams-Renault F1 sourced, mid-mounted v10, the Espace F1 was capable of sub 3 second 0-60 times and a 194 mph top speed. It even had second row seating. Why Renault didn’t put this into production boggles my mind.
It’s Not Over.
Since 1995, though, the automotive world has seen a disappointingly slim number – zero, to my knoweldge – of press vehicles like these hypervans. That is, until Toyota’s SEMA unveil of their 2000 bhp Landcruiser. This left-field announcement comes with a 220 mph top speed and an overall understated design, at least by SEMA standards. Though the Land Crusier isn’t a van, it does share the same mentality of “let’s make a really big car go really fast because that would be cool”.
In all seriousness, though, this Land Cruiser does raise a point about the state of the automotive world today. The leaps that have been made in drivetrain and chassis technology over the past two decades have landed us in one of the most exciting eras of automobile history. It’s a time where a four cylinder can push out over 300 bhp in a consumer car (Focus RS), and a two and a half ton sedan can silently reach 60 before you can say pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis – that’s 2.5 seconds, for the record. But just like anything special, this era of the automobile won’t last forever. Enjoy it however you can, but preferably in the form a 2000 bhp Land Cruiser.