My father's car: The Austin 'Champ'

ER Classics Desktop 2022

The Austin 'Champ'

The Champ was actually not called that and there was none. But within the family it was simply called "the Jeep." My father had saved up for it, because as a late adolescent he had experienced liberation. But because he was not actually a car man, brand expert or technician, he caught on when he saw a lot of 'Jeeps' on the way near Barendrecht. They weren't war Willys Jeeps, but Austins. The American Jeeps were the forefathers of a new breed. So my father's jeep dream came true sometime in the second half of the 500s. He bought an Austin "Truck" as the thing was called internally. That 'Champ' was a name that was used during the development phase - and later for the approximately XNUMX civilian copies.

So a kind of Jeep

In the post-war years there were a lot of manufacturers who thought that they could further develop the Jeep concept in order to get their share of the brilliant concept. One was Austin, British, in those years still a very large manufacturer of trucks and passenger cars. The British had graciously tolerated the marginal hand and tension services of the Americans and the Russians while they were defeating The Evil Empire. But when that had happened, it was found in the main island of the United Kingdom, almost bankrupt after the war, that something better should come than the American Jeeps.

But not from America

The government requested some quotes and Austin responded to a specification from the British Army for a more advanced home-made design for a kind of Jeep +. Austin built three prototypes - the Nuffield Gutties - which certainly did not convince in tests. The 2.0 version was greatly improved. Among other things by a chassis designed by Alex Issigonis, the man who had previously designed the Minor (and would create the Mini a few years later). The improved British 'Jeep' was built in a limited series of 30 pieces by Wolseley. They became the 'Wolseley Mudlarks'. After extensive testing, Austin was commissioned to build 15.000 units for these new open cars, which were internally named Champ. But formally Austin was called 'Truck'.

With a Rolls-Royce block

That vehicle received an 2,8 liter large Rolls-Royce B 40 four-cylinder that just delivered to 80pk. Those engines came initially from the Rolls-Royce factories. The bulk of those engine blocks came later for cost reasons as license building from the Austin plant itself. Even later versions received the engine from the Austin Atlantic. The production went well, but the soldiers who had to ride the Champs were not exactly enthusiastic.

Not very comfortable such a Champ

The open cars really drove like trucks and offered little comfort. Soon the army preferred the simply better and more comfortable (!) Land Rovers. They also cost the army half the price of a Champ, and that was a major argument in the years of budgets reversed after the outbreak of peace and rebuilding.

A memory of a Champ

In the meantime, the family jeep was sold on the Utrecht car market like a century ago. My father died a long time ago. But before his death, he had made a tribute to his old Champ ... And that is now here in my office. In real life, such an 4.000 was made (from the contract for 15.000 st).



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  1. I had a sailing boat in the 60s. That had to be far away from the fairway in the winter storage. My father had a car without a tow bar, so a jeep was borrowed. That was an Austin, with an RR engine. That went fine of course, but it was a shame that I had to pay for the fuel. That Austin drove about 1 liter on 2 km.

  2. I think everyone above the 55 did recognize themselves in Peter's remark.
    Afterwards I also had to take a VW Beetle 1962, DKW 12 convertible, Opel Commodore B 25 Belina and a Ford Corsair to the scrapyard. Followed by a CX 25TDR in total loss condition, but my Series 1 - 86 ”-1956 I still cherish my Jaguar XJ8 exclusive 2004 every day. We have a nice hobby, but with the necessary melancholy.

  3. I read the story about the Austin Champ with interest. It is written that a Landrover would be more comfortable. As far as I know, a Champ had independent suspension and coil springs and it was known that you could drive on unpaved roads relatively quickly, comparing the comfort with that of a Range Rover. If I am wrong I would like to hear from you.

    • Hello Gerard, I was too young to notice. Later experiences in Land Rovers taught me that comfort is only an objective thing :-) But old reports in our archive showed that 'people did not like the comfort.

    • Oh well, with us an A ascona voyager ended up on the demolition because the water pump broke (and didn't stop of course) and an NSU 1000 C for 25 guilder went to the cross etc.

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