The champ

Everybody knows that the Willys Jeep was the template for tough and adaptable light transport vehicles during WW2. By the end of the war, Europe was teeming with thousands of the things, and they were quickly adopted by anyone who could lay their hands on them. Naturally, though, various countries decided that they needed to make their own light utility military vehicles, and the UK was no exception. Of course, bureaucracy being what it is, it couldn't have a catchy name. In 1947, it was called 'Project Car 4x4 5 cwt FV1800-Series'. This wasn't clear enough, so another bureaucrat decided to change it to 'Car Light 5 cwt 4x4 Open for Various Roles'. Very catchy. By the time a production version was ready in 1952, it was called 'Truck 1/4 Ton 4x4 CT [Combat]'. It must have been a massive relief when the final name "Austin Champ" was selected for the civilian version.

That sure looks like Car Light 5 cwt 4x4 Open for Various Roles

Even though it was an Austin product, they didn't originate the design themselves. It was designed by British Government engineers according to a military specification, and then put out to tender to commercial manufacturers. Austin were selected to make the Champ, although one of their subsidiaries had been involved from the start of the development.

Accessories!

The downside of Government contracts and an ambitious specification was clear in the price. The 'Truck 1/4 Ton 4x4 CT' was twice the price of the simpler and easier to service Land Rover, and the occupants were not as well protected from the elements. The initial contract for Austin to build 15,000 vehicles was amended repeatedly, and eventually just over 11,000 vehicles were built for the British Army. They were in service until the mid 1960's, but phased out in favour of the Land Rover. In addition, the Royal Marines pulled out their dusty cheque-books and ordered 30, while the Australian Army went all out and bought 400.

It's a little complicated...

Once de-mobbed, many were purchased as fun vehicles for peanuts (£150), but their complexity did not suit home repair, and many were abandoned or scrapped. A few remain today, and there is an Austin Champ club for besotted enthusiasts. I don't know if the gents in the top photo were club members, or former military men re-living their past...

Join in

Comments (1)
  • A friend of mine owned one for a while - the engine was smooth as you like. IIRC it was a Rolls Royce unit and sooooo fancy, like you wouldn't believe.

    1 year ago

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