What if you wanted a general-purpose quarter-ton military vehicle with a Rolls-Royce engine and right-hand drive that also had a lineage stretching back to the American Bantam BRC 40? You could have found that during the 1950s and 1960s, when US military surplus Willys MB and Ford GPW Jeeps were cheap and plentiful.
It seems that someone in Colorado asked that question 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 saw great 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 Wolse.
The “Truck, 1/4-Ton, 4×4, CT, Austin Mk.1” was eventually developed and started being used by the British Army in 1951. It had good off-road capabilities but was expensive to produce and its powertrain was complicated to fix. In the middle 1950s, the less costly and more straightforward Land Rover took over.
The civilian version of the Champ was quickly dubbed the “champ” by everyone who laid eyes on it. Few Champs were actually sold, so it’s likely that any you come across were once owned by royalty.
The Champ was equipped with a Rolls-Royce-designed straight-four petrol engine of 2.8 liters’ displacement, with ancestry tracing back to the Rolls-Royce Twenty of 1922.
The Roller had a sleek, powerful engine that was fit for the wealthy, while the Champ’s engine was designed to be a sturdy, no-frills military unit. Vehicles like the Humber Pig and Alvis Stalwart used B-Range engines, so the Champ was in tough competition.
No matter what kind of elitist things you might say about your Silver Ghost, it’s still a genuine Rolls-Royce engine and only the second one I’ve found in my years of writing about junkyard finds.
It’s strange that this isn’t the first British military vehicle I’ve found in a U-Wrench-type yard. I spotted a numbers-matching 1970 Alvis Combat Vehicle, Reconnaissance (Tracked) in a legendary Southern California yard back in 2014. I’ve also found a fair number of discarded ex-military trucks from the same era.
These trucks appear to have been 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.