The arrival of the Texas barnfind Willys MB this week, and some postings I saw about Austin Champs, made me seek out photos of the fun barnfind I purchased years ago. It was a British military Austin Champ.
At the time I was working summers in a local bicycle shop. A friend of the owner knew I was into antique Jeeps as I often drove the Willys MB to work. He asked if I had ever heard of an Austin Champ. He said his 92 year old father had one in his workshop and wanted to sell it. (on a side note, his father was a neat fellow who worked on the Manhatten project in WW2).
I was intrigued and went home to research the vehicle. As the price was right for a penniless schoolteacher we made an arrangement and my poor put-upon rollback driver, Bob, joined me for the adventure.
The extrication was quite interesting. Brake drums were frozen and a whole pile of oddball items had to be removed to get the Champ out of its shed. The building it was in was a steel workshop built in front of another workshop. There were even tunnels going into the hillside and under the main house. (The main house was built out of salvage and painted in giant polka-dots!) I actually got lost at one point looking for a light switch.
The Austin Champs were made in the early 1950s and were eventually replaced with the more simple and lightweight Landrovers. After I worked on the Champ for a while I really felt like it was designed by a committee. Very heavy and over-engineered. After putting a good amount of work into it I finally sold it and put the time into restoring my father’s ’56 Porsche instead.
Champs are neat vehicles though, and I think less than 900 still exist. To find out more about them visit the Owners’ Club at: www.Austinchamp.com I wish I had possessed the time and money to restore the one I owned briefly. But I know it is happy in its new home.