Monday, May 27, 2024

Champ Camp for Maldon

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You may have seen a bunch of military-style vehicles tooling around Maldon on the weekend. The cars in question are Austin Champs, a British army jeep-like vehicle that was manufactured in the 1950s.

The Champ owners are an informal group of enthusiasts who every year for the past 26 years have organised a Champ Camp.

They come from far and wide – this year, a couple of Champs were brought over from Tasmania to take part in the camp. The group stayed at the Eaglehawk Motel.

According to Champ owner Malcolm Hayes, the Champ is a classy vehicle. “They were built to a contract, not to a price,” he said. “They have four-cylinder Rolls Royce engines and are fully submersible to six feet deep.”

Adelaide resident Frank Graham agrees with Malcolm that the Champ is a great vehicle. “They’re very comfortable,” he said, “with independent four-wheel suspension that makes them as comfortable as a Range Rover.”

Malcolm took the Times for a spin in his 1952 Champ, which he has owned for 46 years and driven to Uluru and across the Simpson Desert in his younger and more foolhardy days.

He pointed out various interesting aspects of his Champ: such as the machine gun mounting on the bonnet, the original dashboard and the fact that Champs have five reverse as well as five forward gears.

With the wind rushing past and the lack of seatbelts (this is a 1952 car, remember), it was an exhilarating ride! But surprisingly comfortable.

The Times spoke to Megs, who drove her Dad’s Champ through a dam, just to see if it lived up to its submersible credentials.

“I had to keep my neck craned above the steering wheel to keep my head out of the water,” she said, “and the Champ didn’t miss a beat.

It came out on the other side.” Megs swears she found a tiny fish in her belly button after that escapade!

According to Malcolm, there were 13,800 Champs produced and 400 were bought by the Australian Army.

These days there are 680 driveable Champs worldwide, with 180 of those in Australia.

There were only 700 civilian model Champs built, with a mere 43 of these still in existence – one of which the Times spotted at the camp.

Malcolm works with fellow Champ fan Russell Altmann out of the Champ Shed in Stawell; they restore old Champs and, according to Malcolm, have the largest warehouse of spares in the world. “The British Champ mob often buy spares from us, so we’re ahead of them,” he said.

Tarrangower Times 7 October 2022

This article appeared in the Tarrangower Times, 7 October 2022.


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