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Champ in every way; CLASSIC CARS with IAN JOHNSON This week: Austin Champ.

Byline: IAN JOHNSON

WHEN the Jeep came to the end of itsshelf-life in the British Army at the end of the Second World War, most people think the Land Rover stepped straight into the breach.

But there was another player which remains one of the most charismatic of all military vehicles.

The Austin Champ raced in as a state-of-the-art fast attack vehicle and it was a cracker.

In its role it was a bit like the American Hummer - but it looks a bit puny compared to this massive US action hero.

But in the days of Brylcreem, VBombers and National Service, the Champ was as good as it got.

Not exactly intended as a total replacement for the Jeep, it made its mark in the 1950s Army and did its job well. This was an all British machine and on paper it was a winner.

It featured a 24 volt electrical system, a Rolls-Royce designed engine and the ability to out-perform contemporaries.

The Champ could wade through water more than four feet deep and it had superb torsion bar suspension plus five forward and reverse gears, giving it a tremendous cross-country ability.

The Champ's production began in 1950 and it was wound up in 1955. Nearly 11,000 were manufactured and there are a number of survivors in private ownership and in museums.

The Champ was a real scrapper in its fast-attack role, being armed with a machine gun and rocket launcher.

It also served in roles including radio communications and ambulance work.

In fact the name Champ is something of a misnomer when applied to the military version of this design which was always known as the FV (Fighting Vehicle). The name Champ was applied to the Austin-powered civilian version, but the name stuck with all types as it suited the vehicle so well.

As a classic vehicle it is immensely popular. The Army was quick to sell them off and I remember seeing lots of them in the Exchange & Mart magazine in the mid 1960s. The last Champs left British military service in 1967.

I really wish I had bought one now because they were going for peanuts.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 28, 2007
Words:375
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