Transit Van Ambulances (1980-1987)


In 1980 St. John Ambulance purchased modified Ford Transits as ambulances. The Transit was equipped with a 4.1 litre cross flow six cylinder engine and a three speed automatic transmission. With a roof mounted high capacity air-conditioner and a side door in the patient compartment the Transit was good vehicle to work out the back of.  With a lack of power steering (a thirty-three point turn in a tight space) and limited power in the hills, it wasn’t a great one to drive, but it was OK in retrospect.  The original vehicles were modified in Victoria but proved inadequate, as the electrical cabling in the patient compartment was poorly executed and prone to overheating.  Later vehicles were modified more successfully by Les Brazier’s Javelin Auto Body Works at Elizabeth.




Fleet 20, one of the original Transits with the larger of the roof mounted air-conditioners.  This picture is from the 1982 Emergency Care and Transport Manual.


Most of the Transits had been retired by 1987.



One of Kevin’s photos of Fleet 7 (registration number UFE-258), taken around 1984, with the side door visible.  A sliding step appeared when the door was opened.  This photo was taken at West Torrens St.John Centre  Higher Res Images



Glen sparks says about this photo, “The transit being loaded shows Paul Whittenbury (foot end) & Glen Sparks (Me!!) and the picture formed part of the front page layout for the Adelaide Metro phone book. It was taken at Adelaide Airport (secretly) -about where the terminal is located now- because the blue uniforms were not released until a few months after. The patient is Rick Todd - one of our pilots way back when we had our own air ambulances” (picture courtesy of Glen Sparks).




Another of Kevin’s photos of Fleet 7, these were the longer wheel-base Transits with three side windows to the patient compartment. This photo was also taken at West Torrens.  Higher Res Images



Fleet 8 with reflective tape showing.  This vehicle has narrow white sidewalls and all of the Ford Transits has Sunraysia style wheels (Kevin).

Higher Res Images




The driver’s compartment of Fleet 8 again with the floor mounted AWA radio.  It had six channel selection buttons.  Two buttons could be pushed in together to allow the monitoring of two channels (Kevin).  Higher Res Images




A Ford Transit with additional air-conditioner outlets mounted on the dash.  The hand for the T-bar auto is just visible above the lip of the passenger seat (St.John Museum photo copied by Kevin).




Another of view of a Mark I Ford Transit, possibly another view of Fleet 8 from the right hand side.  The Siren control unit, possibly a Heathkit, is visible below the dash to the right of the steering columns.  The wood-grain dashboard trim was a nice British touch (Kevin).  Higher Res Images




The patient compartment of Fleet 8.  The attendant’s chair could be swivelled around to the front.  A clean and relatively uncluttered work area.  The Ferno-Washington stretcher was used on the F-100 Twin-Life ambulances too.  The stretcher lock was before they were strengthened to retain the stretcher in the event of a roll-over (Kevin).  Higher Res Images




The patient compartment of another transit, fleet number unknown.  The older style air-conditioner is side mounted, and blows across the cabin.  The compartment behind the Ferno-Washington stretcher is storage for the Jordan lifting frame (Kevin).  Higher Res Images



The left side patient compartment of the same unknown transit.  The older style air-conditioner is clearly visible and is the Ferno-Washington 107C chair stretcher that the attendant would sit on to tend to the patient. The side mounted D sized oxygen cylinder was designed to be removed by the driver along with the resuscitation kit when backing up the attendant who had already exited the vehicle.  The locker to the rear of the side door was the main bandage and dressing storage area for use in the vehicle when attending to patients.  The lockers behind the chair stretcher were used to store linen (Kevin).  Higher Res Images



The patient compartment of a later type Ford Transit, (registration number SPL-131) fleet number unknown, but possibly Fleet 38 below.  The new style air-conditioning unit is mounted centrally in the roof and uses direction able vents; also the locker under the chair-stretcher is a lot neater finish.  At this stage St.John Ambulance had still not adopted the SJQ number plates (Kevin).  Higher Res Images



Another of Kevin’s photos, this time Fleet 38 taken at dusk.  This is a later style transit configuration to the others as it is fitted with a noticeably smaller air-conditioner on the roof, clearly it is not as high nor does it protrude at the front and is without the white cross moulding at the front of the air-conditioner’s grille (Kevin).  Higher Res Images



A lovely shot of Fleet 59 (Registration SPD-838) take in the driveway of what appears to be Unley St.John Centre (photo supplied by Steven Schuler).



Another fine shot of Fleet 59, clearly visible is the attendant side door with the sliding side-step, white narrow wall tyres and roof-mounted rear spot-lamps, again at Unley St.John Centre (photo supplied by Steven Schuler).




Fleet 89 at the Hindmarsh Ambulance Depot after an unfortunate crash.  The photos demonstrate the structural integrity of the factory-manufactured configuration of the Ford Transit Van (photo courtesy of Lyndon A).  Higher Res Images



This crashed Transit (registration SPF-5888) was from Nangwarry and it sustained damage by sliding into a tree. The driver sustained some injuries but nothing too major (picture courtesy of Glen Sparks).



Another photo of the crashed Transit from Nangwarry, the vehicle has the smaller style roof mounted air-conditioner and roo-bar denoting a country vehicle  (picture courtesy of Glen Sparks).



Another view of fleet 89 at Hindmarsh Depot as above.  This particular vehicle flipped after being hit by a car and slid for some distance hence the distortion of the driver’s side of the van (photo courtesy of Lyndon A).  Higher Res Images



A detailed view of a Ford Transit from an image on a first day cover. A St.John Career staff officer wearing the then current blue uniform is posed next to the vehicle (Registration UAC-169)




The first day cover for the Centenary of St.John with the Ford Transit featured



Another view of Fleet 89 at the Hindmarsh Ambulance Depot after an unfortunate crash (photo courtesy of Lyndon A).



And yet another view of Fleet 89 at the Hindmarsh Ambulance Depot after an unfortunate crash (photo courtesy of Lyndon A).


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