Austin Champ

Austin Champ

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The Austin Champ was the civilian version of a British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 vehicle made by the Austin Motor Company
Austin Motor Company
The Austin Motor Company was a British manufacturer of automobiles. The company was founded in 1905 and merged in 1952 into the British Motor Corporation Ltd. The marque Austin was used until 1987...

. The army version was officially known as "Truck, 1/4 ton, CT, 4x4, cargo & FFW, Austin Mk.1" however the civilian name "Champ" was universally, if unofficially, applied to it.

History


A British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 specification for a light truck was issued in the late 1940s, inspired by the jeep
Jeep
Jeep is an automobile marque of Chrysler . The first Willys Jeeps were produced in 1941 with the first civilian models in 1945, making it the oldest off-road vehicle and sport utility vehicle brand. It inspired a number of other light utility vehicles, such as the Land Rover which is the second...

 but able to perform in all theatres of operation of the British Army. It was considered important that a British-made vehicle was produced in order to reduce the reliance on US vehicles and the foreign expenditure that entailed.

A project to design a "Car 4x4 5 cwt FV1800-Series" was launched in 1947, and the Nuffield Organisation
Nuffield Organisation
The Nuffield Organisation was a vehicle manufacturing company in the United Kingdom. Named after its founder, William Morris, 1st Viscount Nuffield, it was formed in 1938 as the merger of Nuffield's Morris Motor Company , another of Nuffield's companies the MG Car Company and Riley.Morris Motors...

 built three prototype designs known as the "Nuffield Gutty
Nuffield Gutty
The name Nuffield Gutty was used for three prototype vehicles built in 1947 in an attempt to meet a British War Department specification for a light field car to replace the American Jeep that was in service in large numbers following the war...

". Testing of these revealed serious shortcomings and the design was improved by a team at the government Fighting Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (FVRDE) under the leadership of Charles William "Rex" Sewell. The suspension system was designed by Alec Issigonis
Alec Issigonis
Sir Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis, CBE, FRS was a Greek-British designer of cars, now remembered chiefly for the groundbreaking and influential development of the Mini, launched by the British Motor Corporation in 1959.- Early life:Issigonis was born into the Greek community of Smyrna ...

, who went on to design the Morris Minor
Morris Minor
The Morris Minor was a British economy car that debuted at the Earls Court Motor Show, London, on 20 September 1948. Designed under the leadership of Alec Issigonis, more than 1.3 million were manufactured between 1948 and 1971...

 and the Mini
Mini
The Mini is a small car that was made by the British Motor Corporation and its successors from 1959 until 2000. The original is considered a British icon of the 1960s, and its space-saving front-wheel-drive layout influenced a generation of car-makers...

.

About 30 prototypes of the improved vehicle were built by the Wolseley Motor Company
Wolseley Motor Company
The Wolseley Motor Company was a British automobile manufacturer founded in 1901. After 1935 it was incorporated into larger companies but the Wolseley name remained as an upmarket marque until 1975.-History:...

 under the name "Wolseley Mudlark", and after further refinement the design was formalised as FV1801(a). The Austin Motor Company
Austin Motor Company
The Austin Motor Company was a British manufacturer of automobiles. The company was founded in 1905 and merged in 1952 into the British Motor Corporation Ltd. The marque Austin was used until 1987...

 was awarded the contract to produce 15,000 vehicles and a former aircraft factory at Cofton Hackett
Cofton Hackett
Cofton Hackett is a village and civil parish in the Bromsgrove District of north east Worcestershire, England. It is situated 10.3 miles south west of the city centre of Birmingham and 24 miles north east of Worcester...

, on the edge of Austin's Longbridge
Longbridge
Longbridge is an area of Birmingham, England. For local government purposes it is a ward within the district of Northfield.Since 1905, the area has been dominated by the Longbridge plant, which produced Austin, Nash Metropolitan, Morris, British Leyland, and most recently MG Rover cars...

 complex in Birmingham
Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

, was fitted out for the work. The first production vehicle was completed on 1 September 1951. The formal title: "Truck, 1/4 Ton, 4x4, CT, Austin Mk.1" was assigned (CT being a contraction of CombaT, both a designation of function and also the title of a planned family of vehicles designed by FVRDE). The Rolls-Royce
Rolls-Royce Limited
Rolls-Royce Limited was a renowned British car and, from 1914 on, aero-engine manufacturing company founded by Charles Stewart Rolls and Henry Royce on 15 March 1906 as the result of a partnership formed in 1904....

-designed B40 four-cylinder engine of 2838 cc was fitted, the smallest of the standardised B-Range engines. This military version was designated model WN1 by Austin. Approximately half of the contract were to be basic vehicles known as Cargo trucks and the remainder were to be fitted with high-output generators and additional batteries in order to power radio equipment. These were known as "Fitted For Wireless
Fitted For Wireless
Fitted For Wireless and Fitted For Radio were British Army designators for vehicles equipped to carry radio equipment. Although many of these vehicles would be dedicated 'radio vans' and would have the complex and expensive radio sets installed, the intention was also that general purpose...

" (FFW) vehicles. Rolls-Royce Ltd built engines for the early production vehicles, but later ones were fitted with a virtually identical engine built under licence by Austin themselves.
In order to obtain some commercial benefit from the contract, Austin were given permission to use the design for a simplified civilian version to be sold as the Austin Champ. This version, designated model WN3, was mostly fitted with a modified Austin A90 Atlantic 4 cyl engine as a cheaper option than the more complex B40 but the vehicle attracted few customers and only about 500 were built, the great majority of these being exported.

In military service, the vehicles were given the official designation FV1801A and were generally referred to as Trucks, 1/4 ton, Austin. A few were fitted with additional equipment for use as field ambulances, telephone line-laying vehicles or equipped with armour and a .303in Vickers medium machine gun, but the majority served as cargo/personnel carriers or were fitted with radios. A version armed with a single, dashboard-mounted Browning .30 cal machine-gun was in limited use as late as 1967.

As the Champ entered service it became apparent that although it had an outstanding cross-country performance, it was too expensive (£1200 at 1951 prices), too complex and had limited use outside of the narrow field combat role for which it had been designed. Consequently the contract with Austin was amended and finally prematurely terminated some 4,000 vehicles short of the 15,000 originally contracted.

The Land Rover
Land Rover Series
The Land Rover Series I, II, and III are off-road vehicles produced by the British manufacturer Land Rover that were inspired by the US-built Willys Jeep...

, which had actually entered army service before the Champ (as early as 1949), was half the price, simpler to maintain and could do 80% of the tasks the Champ could do. Ultimately it replaced the Champ in all roles. The Champ served with the British Army in the UK, Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, Germany, Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

, Libya and the Suez Campaign, and early vehicles were sent for troop trials at the end of the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

.

The Champ cost far more than the Land Rover, and was never as popular with troops, probably because the Landrover with its enclosed cab offered better protection from the elements and greater flexibility in use. With the reduction in size of the post-war army, many Champs were consigned to bulk vehicle storage and those employed in the Regular Army had relatively short careers before being redeployed to the Territorial Army. In the mid-1960s a decision was taken to withdraw the type from service completely, with all military Champs being sold off by 1967 although there is a record of one being sold by government auction as late as 1973. These mass sales made them cheap to buy (£150 being typical in 1966) and with fuel at low 1960s prices, many were bought as "fun" vehicles and used with little regard to the routine maintenance that the complex design required. Consequently the Champ was regarded with contempt by the emerging military vehicle preservation fraternity and it took some 30 years for the type to earn historic value in their eyes.

The only other forces to use the Champ were the Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

 who had 30 and the Australian Army
Australian Army
The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. It is part of the Australian Defence Force along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. While the Chief of Defence commands the Australian Defence Force , the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army...

 who bought 400 new and about the same number of ex-British Army ones.

Design



The engine was a four-cylinder in-line petrol unit of 2838 cc capacity (3.5 inches (88.9 mm) pistons x 4.5 inches (114.3 mm) stroke) designed by Rolls Royce
Rolls-Royce Limited
Rolls-Royce Limited was a renowned British car and, from 1914 on, aero-engine manufacturing company founded by Charles Stewart Rolls and Henry Royce on 15 March 1906 as the result of a partnership formed in 1904....

 and was the smallest of the standardised B-Range military engines. These engines had their origin in a 1936 design produced at Derby, with the concept and dimensions first developed for the Rolls-Royce 20 HP of 1922, but with the demands of the war, development was not proceeded with until the late 1940s. The engine was designed with absolute reliability as a prime criterion with fuel economy a secondary consideration, and using British Standard Fine (BSF) thread standards. A feature of this engine was the use of a cast aluminium
Aluminium
Aluminium or aluminum is a silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements. It has the symbol Al, and its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances....

 cylinder head with screwed-in hardened steel valve seats.

With the adoption in 1949 of Unified thread standards, the engine was re-designed and simplified to ease manufacture; a cast iron cylinder head was used in this version which can be most easily identified by the letters "UNF" cast or pressed into the rocker cover.

Rolls-Royce produced engines at Crewe early in the contract but did not have the capacity for volume production at the rate required, therefore Austin was lent tooling and licensed to build a virtually identical engine, and Austin-made engines were fitted in the great majority of Champs built.

The gearbox had five ratios with synchromesh on all gears. A conventional Borg & Beck clutch was used and drive from the gearbox was by shaft to the rear differential which incorporated reverse gear, thereby allowing 5 reverse gears also, and then by a long shaft to the front differential which incorporated a simple dog clutch to enable four wheel drive when required. A conventional separate transfer case was not possible due to the cruciform layout of the vehicle chassis which placed the junction of the cruciform where the transfer box would reside on a conventional ladder type chassis. Bendix
Bendix
- People :* Bendix Hallenstein - New Zealand businessman* Henry Bendix - fictional character from Wildstorm comics* John E. Bendix - American Civil War and New York Guard general* Max Bendix - American composer, conductor, violinist* Reinhard Bendix - sociologist...

 "Tracta
Tracta
Tracta was a French car maker based in Asnières, Seine, that was active between 1926 and 1934 . They were pioneers of front wheel drive vehicles....

" type constant velocity joints were fitted at all wheel stations. All transmission assemblies were sealed against the ingress of water.

The suspension system was based on longditudinal torsion bars for primary springing and featured fully independent suspension at all four wheels using double wishbones. Each wheel station was also fitted with a rubber cone and cup system to buffer extreme upward suspension travel with energy control exercised by double-acting telescopic hydraulic dampers. This system gave an exceptional cross-country performance. Front and rear axles were constructed into a cradle sub-assembly, which could be rapidly exchanged in the field.

The engine and all electrical items were waterproofed so the vehicle could wade to a depth of 6 feet (2 m) with minimal preparation; A snorkel
Vehicle snorkel
A vehicle snorkel is the land-based equivalent of the submarine snorkel which allowed submarines to use diesel engines while submerged. Snorkels, when used by vehicles with air-breathing internal combustion engines, allow limited deep fording capability for river crossing or amphibious landing...

 attached to the air cleaner and normally carried horizontally on the right wing (US = fender) could be raised during wading operations.

Electrical equipment fitted on military Champs was a 24 volt system in accordance with agreements reached in 1948 with the US and Canadian armies and comprised standardised military pattern equipment used on many British post-war vehicles, supplied by Lucas
Lucas
Lucas is the Latin form of the Greek name Loukas , and it's a common name in many modern languages.Lucas may refer to several things.-Real:*Lucas Barrios, Paraguayan footballer currently playing for Borussia Dortmund...

, CAV, Delco-Remy and Simms.

The body was a utilitarian open four-seater tub of welded pressed steel panels and similar in style to the war-time Jeep
Jeep
Jeep is an automobile marque of Chrysler . The first Willys Jeeps were produced in 1941 with the first civilian models in 1945, making it the oldest off-road vehicle and sport utility vehicle brand. It inspired a number of other light utility vehicles, such as the Land Rover which is the second...

 layout although unlike the Jeep, the Champ body is designed to carry part of the vehicle stresses and chassis flexing. The inner windscreen opened forwards for ventilation or the whole frame and glass assembly could be folded down onto the bonnet (hood). Military items such as a shovel, pickaxe and a carrier for a standard 20 litre jerrycan
Jerrycan
A jerrycan is a robust fuel container originally made from pressed steel. It was designed in Germany in the 1930s for military use to hold 20 litres of fuel. The development of the Jerrycan was a huge improvement on earlier designs, which required tools and funnels to use.-Uses:Today similar...

 (for the carriage of water not fuel) were normally fitted. A 20 gallon (91 litre) fuel tank was fitted at the rear of the vehicle giving an operational range of approximately 300 miles.

Various bolt-on kits were produced to convert basic vehicles for specialist roles, for example telephone line laying, field ambulance with two stretchers, and an appliqué armour kit. Strangely, the armour components were listed in the Austin civilian parts catalogue but not in the army one. Some prototypes with a Land Rover style rear body with tailgate rear access were constructed in an attempt to improve the versatility of the basic design but were not put into production.

Champs made for the civilian market (model WN3) could be specified with the Rolls Royce engine or, as was much more usual, a modified version of Austin's 2660 cc A90 engine. Military body fittings such as rifle clips were omitted and the windscreen was a fixed assembly. Commercial 12 Volt electrical components by Lucas were provided.

Around 500 of the civilian version are thought to have been made, including a left-hand drive version. They were priced at £750 in November 1952 and at £1000 in Nov 54. Many went to Australia where some can still be found. Two are known to have survived in the UK. Some of the design features of the Champ were carried over to the Austin Gipsy
Austin Gipsy
The Austin Gipsy was Austin's attempt at an off-road capable vehicle to compete with Rover's Land Rover.-History:Austin picked the name with an "I" spelling rather than gypsy....

 of which some 21,000 were made from 1958 to 1967.

A Champ is featured throughout the video for the song 'Reward' by English post-punk/neo-psychedelic band The Teardrop Explodes
The Teardrop Explodes
The Teardrop Explodes were an English post-punk/neo-psychedelic band formed in Liverpool in 1978. Best known for their Top Ten UK single "Reward" the group originated as a key band in the emerging Liverpool post-punk scene of the late 1970s, the group also launched the career of group frontman...

. The song reached no. 6 in the UK single charts in January, 1981.

Specifications

  • Engine:
    • FV1801 (Military): Rolls Royce B40, either built by RR (4 digit engine numbers) or by Austin (5 digit engine numbers)
    • Champ (civilian): Austin A90 engine or the B40

External links