The Royal New South Wales Lancers

Austin Champ

The immaculately restored Austin Champ

A British Army specification for a light truck was issued in the late 1940s, inspired by the jeep but able to perform in all theatres of operation. 

The Austin Motor Company was awarded the contract to produce 15,000 vehicles and a former aircraft factory at Cofton Hackett, United Kingdom, was fitted out for the work. The first production vehicle was completed on 1 September 1951. A Rolls-Royce-designed four-cylinder engine of 2838cc was fitted, the smallest of the standardised B-Range engines. 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 fit radio equipment. These were known as "Fitted For Wireless" (FFW) vehicles. Rolls-Royce built engines for the early production vehicles but later ones were fitted with a virtually identical engine built under licence by Austin themselves.

In the mid 1950s the Australian Army who bought 400 new and about the same number of ex-British Army ones.


The engine was a four-cylinder petrol unit of 2838cc capacity designed by Rolls Royce. These engines had their origin in a 1936 design produced at Crewe 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 criteria with fuel economy a secondary consideration. Rolls Royce produced engines early in the contract but did not have the capacity for volume production at the rate required, therefore Austin was loaned 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 sychromesh on all gears. 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 "Tracta" type constant velocity joints were fitted at all wheel stations. The engine and all electrical items were waterproofed so the vehicle could wade to a depth of 2 metres with minimal preparation; A snorkel attached to the aircleaner and normally carried horizontally on the right mudguard could be raised during wading operations. Electrical equipment fitted on military Champs was standardised military pattern equipment used on many British post-war vehicles, supplied by Lucas, 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 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. Military items such as a shovel, pickaxe and a carrier for a standard 20 litre jerrycan were normally fitted (as in this exhibit).


Engine: Rolls Royce B40, either built by RR (4 digit engine numbers) or by Austin (5 digit engine numbers).
Load: 3 passengers and driver, or driver and a 250 kg load.  It can also tow a 250 kg trailer, and with reduced performance artillery pieces.
Kerb Weight: 1664 kg

This Exhibit

This exhibit served with the Australian Army.  It has been painstakingly restored by Museum volunteers to match the specifications and markings of vehicles that served with the Regiment in the 1950s and 1960s (except for those items required by law for heritage road registration).

Austin Champ front viewDriver's positionPassenger accomodationRear ViewUnder the bonnet
The Museum's immaculately restored Austin Champ

Sources Wikipaedia, and the Vehicle Manual

New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated ABN 94 630 140 881; Linden House, Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, PARRAMATTA, AUSTRALIA
Postal Address: PO Box 7287, PENRITH SOUTH NSW 2750, AUSTRALIA; Telephone: +61 (0)405 482 814 Email:
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