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Humber GS Truck.    (Ver 1)

In early 2001 I was standing in the local Commonwealth Bank when a bloke I only vaguely know came in and stood in line behind me and we started chatting. He then asked as since I was interested in "old army vehicles", was I interested in a Humber Truck? He said it had belonged to his grandfather who had bought it off a sheep station years ago with the intention of doing it up and it had never happened.
His intention was to scrap it just to get it out of the way, but when he saw me he thought it was worth mentioning.

I got a description of it, but my heart fell when he said the engine was in the tray and that it had some damage to the front. I had no intent of taking on yet another restoration job - particularly a soft skin vehicle. Imagine my surprise when I got directions off him as to its location to discover that all this time it has been in the same relative position as my house, just in the lane way behind the next street paralleling ours!
You just never know what will turn up and where!

I went and had a look at it and quickly realised that it would be a major job to restore this vehicle, not so much due to rust etc, but more so as to its complexity. The brakes were obviously shot. The extensive padding inside the cab roof, particularly on the convoy hatches had deteriorated to the point where it was turning to goop and dripping onto what was left of the seats. The engine had been pulled down and then loosely reassembled and then covered with a plastic tarp which had rotted to just remnants which left the carburetor mouth open to the sky - so it went on.

My initial idea had been to pay the owner his asking price, scavenge all the bits common to Ferrets and then scrap the vehicle. But it would be a shame to see such a complete and structurally sound vehicle scrapped. So I contacted a dealer I know and he said he thought he could place the vehicle, so I negotiated a price with the owner and all parties were happy, the purchaser was going to use it as a parts vehicle.

The next challenge was to get it out of there and to a point where it could either be moved to a freight yard or where it could be loaded onto the freight company truck. So I did a bit of homework and was very surprised to learn that this thing weighed 4 tons unladen! The engine is the same as in my Ferret and although the Ferret is quite nippy for an AFV. The same power to weight ratio would be acceptable in a laden truck but to me would be unacceptable in an empty one. Perhaps this had something to do with why the engine was in bits - too small for the job?
I checked with my dealer friend and he said he has seen quite a few dead Humbers and the majority are that way because the engine has been pulled out. The Rolls Royce B 60 engine is VERY reliable so I doubt there is anything wrong there, I would say it is a case of either operator (civilian) ignorance or the wrong engine for the job.

Back to how to recover the vehicle - due to the awkward location, my dealer friend suggested a crane, which was going to be expensive as we would need a large truck also to transport the vehicle to the freight yard. It could not be towed due to the rotted tyres. Then he suggested a drop tray truck - good idea!

I located a tilt tray truck and its operator and organised a time. Measurements had indicate he had 2" to spare in the gateway to the yard so it was going to be a test of his skill due to the uneven terrain and approach angle.

Upon his arrival I immediately started to be educated in new words! After a bit of "backing and filling" the tilt tray truck was as far into the gateway as it was prudent to get without breaking off the yards' water meter. It was then I discovered that in order to do the job, the tilt tray actually moves backwards off the truck before it tilts and that the only set of controls are located UNDER the tray. This meant the operator had to work the tray AND winch from underneath with no view of what was happening because of the position of the truck in the gateway meant the controls lined up with the gate which was at the limit of its travel and not easily removed (at least not without an oxy set and a welder, neither of which did we have handy). It also meant that the tray was now in contact with the corner of the shed on the RHS, with all the noises you would expect as it moved both outwards and upwards.

With a lot of groans from the winch cable the Humber was slowly dragged onto the tray, with the problem that it would not go on square due to the unpredictability of the rotted tyres. So it gave us problems all the way up. I had taken shelter 1 1/2 cable lengths away. Especially after the operator recounted his experience of getting wrapped up by a broken winch cable a few years ago.

We then got the tray stowed back in its travel position and the Humber chained down and headed for the freight yard. The Humber would not roll off the truck even with the tray tilted at maximum angle. A very large front end loader soon solved that problem. Whilst all this was happening I heard a voice say "I should have known when I first saw it, that you would be involved" and it was a bloke I had gone through High School with who works as a mechanic at the freight yard.

That was the end of my involvement with this vehicle. The dealer tells me the new owner was very surprised at the condition of the vehicle (no rust) and has decided to restore it instead.

The Humber GS Truck
Is one of the family of vehicles introduced in the UK Army in the 1950's. There was a high degree of commonality of parts, especially with the engine which came in 4, 6 and 8 cylinder models. The vehicle appears to have been designed by the same committee that designed the camel as a replacement for the horse! It is a 4 x 4 with a lovely big winch under the tray at the rear with fairleads at both front and back of the vehicle. By all accounts this would have been essential as these vehicles have a reputation for getting themselves bogged which is equal to that of their relative the Austin Champ. There are remote greasing points on the chassis in the wheel arches so you don't have to crawl underneath. There are convoy hatches above both driver and passenger which are split rather than 1 piece and everything overhead is heavily padded. The engine cover is split left and right and hinges on a central spine.
But the whole thing is just too small, too underpowered and too heavy to be practical.
As a curiosity and a restoration project I can see merit, but not as a workhorse.

Pictures:
The first group of pictures is the "walk around" that was taken for my dealer friend so as he could market the vehicle.

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Note how solid and heavy is the construction of the vehicle.


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Hood bows and radiator and shroud in the back.


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Although the engine looks okay, it is actually empty inside and all the inards were inside one of the lockers in the tray. The engine has detail differences to that of the one in the Ferret, mainly to do with the generator and carburetor


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The 2nd set of pictures is what I took whilst we were recovering the vehicle.

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A picture can lie, at this point everything looks okay. You can just see the operator who is getting ready to extend the tilt tray.


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Instead of 2" clearance on each side of the tilt tray we ended up with 4" on the left and none on the right. Note that the operator is out of sight.


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Note the tilt tray hard against the shed.


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The clearance then got even worse due to the angle the Humber wanted to sit on the tilt tray (rotted tyres wanting to go their own direction).


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Success!

 

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