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Junkyard Gem: Pair of Austin Champs

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During the 1950s and 1960s, US military surplus Willys MB and Ford GPW Jeeps were cheap and plentiful here, but what if you wanted your general-purpose quarter-ton military vehicle to have a Rolls-Royce engine, right-hand drive, and a lineage stretching all the way back to the American Bantam BRC 40? What then? It appears that someone in Colorado asked that question back in those days, and the answer was this matched twosome of Austin Champs, now residing in a self-service car graveyard in northeastern Colorado.

After the British Army had great combat success using American-made Jeeps during World War II, national pride dictated that an all-British equivalent be built for the postwar military. This process gave the world some of the greatest vehicle names ever created, including the Nuffield Gutty and Wolseley Mudlark.

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Eventually, the “Truck, 1/4-Ton, 4×4, CT, Austin Mk.1” emerged and began equipping the British Army starting in 1951. Though it was competent off-road, it proved very expensive to build and its complex powertrain was tough to maintain. By the middle 1950s, the cheaper and simpler Land Rover took over and the last of these machines left military service by 1968.

The Champ name was applied to the civilian version, and quickly became the title everybody applied to these vehicles. Few actual Champs were sold, though, so these are almost certainly former servants of Her Majesty (or maybe even His Majesty, who reigned until his death in early 1952).

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The Champ got a Rolls-Royce-designed straight-four petrol engine of 2.8 liters’ displacement, with ancestry reaching all the way back to the Rolls-Royce Twenty of 1922.

That Roller had a smooth-running straight-six suitable for the plutocracy, while the Champ’s engine was designed from the outset as a sturdy, no-luxury military unit from the B-Range family. Such vehicles as the Humber Pig and Alvis Stalwart moved about using B-Range power, so the Champ was in tough company. Regardless of whatever snobby comments you might have about your Silver Ghost, this is still a genuine Rolls-Royce engine and only the second one I’ve found in all my years of writing about junkyard inmates.

Strangely, this isn’t the first British military vehicle I’ve found in a U-Wrench-type yard. Back in 2014, I spotted a numbers-matching 1970 Alvis Combat Vehicle, Reconnaissance (Tracked) in a legendary Southern California yard. I’ve also found a fair number of discarded ex-military trucks from the American armed forced over the years.

It appears that these trucks were used only by the British and Australian militaries, so these two didn’t manage to arrive in the United States after serving in Canada. Someone paid to have them brought over. Eventually, they ended up being parked outdoors, at the mercy of the elements for decades, and now here they are.

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Rated for fording six-foot-deep rivers!

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