Austin Champ WN1 & WN3

Army Version WN1

On Test Through The Water Tank

Rolls Royce B40 engine

The Austin Motor Company were awarded a military contract to supply vehicles (Austin Champ) to the Army, which involved the manufacture of a design identified as FV1801 which was the vehicle developed at Chobham to a MOD design. The contract included the manufacture of the engine at Cofton Hacket Works (Shadow Factory) to a Rolls Royce design identified as B40, one of a family of engines designated B40, B60 & B80. The manufacture of this engine, of which about 15,000 were produced, involved the installation of a new manufacturing plant at Cofton Hacket. This was the first significant investment since Austin took over the whole site around 1951 from the Admiralty, although the shadow factory built aircraft it came under the umbrella of the Admiralty and not the Air Ministry.

Type WN1 was the military version which was power by the Rolls-Royce B40 engine which was waterproofed and electrically screened. It was fitted with a snorkel above the offside wing for wading up to 6ft. Fitting of pioneer tool brackets for the shovel and pickaxe, folding windscreen with associated resting blocks, wing mirrors and large rear light boxes. The British Army took 11,731 Champs, some way short of the original contract for 15,000, they were all painted in deep bronze green. The Australian Army were also supplied with 400 vehicles.

A very simple system of production assemble was used for the Champ which took place in East Works. Bodies which were of mono construction but had a separate chassis bolted together to make a single unit. These units were produced by Fisher and Ludlow Castle Bromwich Birmingham an independent body building company that was used by Austin - BMC on several occasions and in September 1953 it became part of the BMC empire. You will note in the above picture that the front and rear axles are assembled on a moveable trolley. The trolley is then moved over to were the body is ready to be lowered. At this stage the body is then bolted to front and rear axle sub-assembles. Now that the body and axles are one unit, it was possible to build up stocks if there was a problem on the final line.

The trolley is then moved to line up with tracks in the floor, and farther down on to the Cake Stand. The high level of a production line was called The Cake Stand. This was where the engine - gearbox could now be fitted, and underneath prop-shafts along with brake pipes, exhaust systems etc could be connected. When the wheels and tyres had been fitted, the trolley would have been lowered and the Champ would then be resting on its own wheels, and the trolley returned to start the process all over again.

With the Champ now on its own wheels and in contact with a moving track, various operations were carried out. The first would be to tightening up the road wheels. The end of the line is in sight as the Champs now move down to ground level, notice one has already got its Army registration number, this number referred directly to the chassis number. This should not be confused with the markings given for Regiments and other destinations. An interesting point is that the number 26BE05 means that it was the 2605th off the line, in fact the one behind 2606 still exists as a scrap/spares donor vehicle in Western Australia and entered service on the 23rd of March 1953.

The End of the Line

Rolls Royce Engine Version (Heritage Gaydon)

Basic Layout - (Not a Comfortable Steering Position)

WN3 Civilian Version

The civilian vehicles WN3 were supplied with the Austin A90 engine (another use for the surplus Austin Atlantic stock), although a few are reported to have had the Rolls-Royce engine, perhaps they had a few left over so decided to use them up. It had standard 12-volt electric's with no electrical suppression or special waterproofing equipment. The gearbox was the same, which gave five forward and reverse speeds, with synchromesh engagement. Through a transfer box you could select two or four-wheel drive. Independent suspension was by torsion bars on all wheels.

A detachable PVC coated leather cloth hood was supplied, and with the addition of side-screens which were available at extra cost, you had all weather protection. By folding down the rear seats it could be turned into a pickup with a capacity of a quarter of a ton.

Austin A90 Engine

Underneath view showing the two full-length torsion bars.

A Utility Version

Austin Champ in Royal Navy livery

Date when launched 1952 For the Military Version WN1
------------------------July 1953 for the civilian version WN3
Discontinued in May 1956

Total produced 12,991 all versions

Rolls-Royce B40 Engine
2838 cc RAC Rating 19.6hp
75 bhp at 3,750 rpm Max torque 125lbs/ft at 2,000 rpm
Compression Ratio 6.4 : 1

Engine Austin Engine Version
2,660 cc 75 bhp at 3,750 rpm Max torque 135lbs/ft at 2,000 rpm

Main measurements
Length 12ft 0.5ins Width 5ft 1.5ins Height 5ft 11ins
Wheelbase 7ft 0ins Track front & rear 4ft 0ins

Price ex Works WN3 version without rear seats and side screens 1956 Jan £950.00 No Tax

It was also available to full military specification with the Austin engine for use as a personnel carrier. The military specification includes complete waterproofing, suppressing of the engine, hinged windscreen and two 12-volt batteries.

Thanks to Andrew Wardle for help on this article

Mike Buckley Austin Champ 67BE99 (SSY210) Croydon UK

Austin Champ in North France 2007