Van Diemen was founded in 1973 by Ross Ambrose and Ralph Firman Sr., whose sons Marcos Ambrose, Ralph Firman Jr. and Natasha Firman have enjoyed some success in motor racing. The name of the company derives from the Australian island of Tasmania, which was formerly known as the Land of Van Diemen and where Ambrose was born and lived, before moving to the UK and cofounding the company.
The company had a reputation for high-volume production of cars, the best known of which is its Formula Ford chassis series, which have excelled in that automotive category for over 20 years and led it to become the largest manufacturer of bespoke racing cars in the world. Van Diemen also built cars for Formula Ford 2000, Sports 2000 and Star Mazda. The company’s manufacturing plant was located close to the Snetterton circuit, allowing the teams to test cars right next to the factory.
In the 1990s Van Diemen began to dominate the Formula Ford market. Over the course of the decade, the manufacturer won the British Formula Ford championship five times and the Festival seven times. Jason Plato won the first Formula Renault Eurocup driving the Duckhams Van Diemen factory team. Bobby Verdon-Roe won British Formula Renault in 1991 with a customer named Van Diemen. The 1991 season marked the debut of the Formula Vauxhall Junior special racing series. Due to Van Diemens’ success in Formula Ford, the brand was commissioned to build all Formula Vauxhall Junior cars for the 1991 season.