Behind the scenes: Designing the latest MS-RT Transit Custom

We talk to one of the designers Neil Williams about the inspiration behind the new model MS-RT Transit Custom and the process behind the design.

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About the designer

Neil has worked in motorsport and the automotive industry for over 14 yrs in both design and engineering roles. He's styled sports car bodies and special editions for luxury brands, developed motorsport branding and imagery and have worked in hands on engineering roles in F1 and clubman level racing.

What makes designing for MS-RT stand out?

Designing for MS-RT means you have years of motorsport heritage and modern day success to build on. Their passion for motorsport and their craft has to project through any MS-RT product.

What was your main influence when designing the new model?

Well you’ve got to start with the MS-RT RS Fiesta WRC car. The modern era of WRC is incredible. In fact I love seeing them before the liveries go on and see all the aero detail. They’re extreme to say the least and great for the fans.

What did you aim to achieve with the new design?

We had to grab that WRC drama, but also a design that builds on the already great proportions of the base van. We had to appeal to fans of motorsport, but look to the future which includes attracting new customers, who more and more use commercial vehicles in their lifestyle. To achieve that there needed to be cohesion with the new direction Ford has taken, make sure it still can function as well as any van should, but ultimately we needed presence, a great stance and for people to know that this is an MS-RT product. It’s a tall list!


As this is a commercial vehicle, how did you design the inside to fit the customer’s needs?

For me the inside of an MS-RT is a hidden gem. It’s just as much part of the brand as the body styling. The exterior design draws you in and when you pop open a door you immediately start to sense the complete package that is an MS-RT vehicle. The hope is that the customer needs to have one just as much as it fulfils their needs! I’m far more rooted in exterior design, but the design of the new one builds on the already excellent interiors of the current range.

What was the most difficult aspect of designing something fresh that maintained the custom look?

We have a great start point with the Transit Custom, the base is a great looking van and so styling onwards is made easier. As this is a facelift we knew we’d hit that recognisable MS-RT silhouette, but there were some challenges.

Firstly we only had a handful of press release images of the new facelift base van to work from, and these were only available mid last year. So to design, CAD, tool and meet a spring production target was really tight.

Then I think the difficulty comes finding the balance between being too aggressive and something integrated that might be considered too soft, but we had to work with and not against Fords new design direction.

We want people to know that an MS-RT product is much more that a body kit and is backed up by all the under-the-hood, interior and chassis development.

What was your favourite part of designing the new custom?

Probably the fact that we get to do it! Getting to put a rally and motorsport design influence in to a van is the stuff you generally only get to dream up!

As the transit custom is recognised worldwide – how did this affect your design of the interior and exterior?

That’s a really good point and reinforces how the new MS-RT design had to build upon and not against Fords new styling lead, but also remembering that MS-RT and WRC is global too and has a massive fan base!

How has MS-RT influenced your design as a whole?

A rally car is an overload of excitement for a car lover and motorsport fan. The riot of noises, aero features and wide stance that houses all the chassis development underneath are just the start. Then there’s the spectacle of watching one being driven!

I’ve been a rally fan for years, and spectate whenever I can, and they used to hold a service area for the Rally of Great Britain at the football ground carpark in Hereford where I’m from. Once a year I’d see WRC cars rolling through my home town! I thought that was amazing and I loved equally the rally team support vehicles that followed them. That’s the picture I have with the MS-RT Transit Custom. The perfect rally support vehicle that in turn can make an exciting choice for someone needing a stand out commercial vehicle. The fact that this modern era of WRC allows such extreme wings, diffusers and width really allows this Custom to follow suit.

How did you keep the MS-RT customer in mind when designing the new custom?

An MS-RT customer wants to set themselves out from the pack and wants to share in the motorsport heritage and pedigree of MS-RT. I see customers using these as a marketing point of interest in their own companies. They really stand out and there are some great company liveries out there that work so well with the extra presence these vans give. The new van has to appeal on many levels.