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Humber FV1601 One Ton, CT, Cargo in Australia
Post War Britain saw some of the most interesting vehicles designed for the standardised range of unarmoured combat vehicles. While many where prototyped, only three went into full production: Austin Champ, Humber One Ton, and the Leyland Martian. Short production runs of the complicated designs needed to satisfy the wide ranging criteria led to massive cost overruns, with the roles eventually being filled by slightly modified, simpler and considerably cheaper civilian vehicles.
The Humber was designed as a combat ready, deep fording capability, off road truck with a One Ton payload.
Points of interest.
Production of 3700, 1952-1953
Power plant was the Rolls Royce B60, 4.2l, 6 cyl petrol.
5 peed and Rev G’box, 1st being ultra low for off road.
Single speed transfer case incorporated into the rear differential housing
Independent torsion bar suspension all four wheels
Wading Unprepared, 760mm
Wading Prepared, 1980mm
Rear mounted two ton winch with fairleads front and rear.
Strengthened roof for machine gun mounting over passenger roof hatch.
Many British Army Humbers went straight into storage, 1700 eventually being converted into the armoured Humber Pig.
Only export was for the Australian Army (I believe to be about one hundred vehicles) where they were plated as a Commer. (Both Humber and Commer where part of the Rootes Group, naming appears to be purely for marketing reasons).
There was no christening, while the Austin FV1800 CT ¼ ton unofficially took the name of the civilian version and became known as the Austin Champ, the Humber is just known as the Humber One Ton, although it is sometimes referred to as the “Big Champ”.
No civilian version was produced.
Aust.Army Puckapunyal circa 1956. Courtesy B. Wilson
After a childhood of building model kits and wishing desperately for a Ferret I considered myself a bit of an expert on Military vehicles, so I was stunned by seeing an unrecognizable army truck in a machinery yard while driving through Albury in about 1996. This was my first Humber sighting, and I was immediately attracted to its rugged good looks and all the hatches: two in the roof, one on each side (Spare Wheel, and Battery Carrier), as well as the bottom hinged Windscreens. The winch fascinated me as it seemed mounted low enough to drag in off road conditions, causing the vehicle to bog down, thus requiring the use of the winch……
Humber in all its glory, Rutherglen Show 2009
At this point I had just started my first restoration, a Chev Blitz (or CMP to the rest of the World), and had no money to spare towards another project, but decided that I really would like one. Had no idea that they were so hard to come by, they were not a success when sold off from the army due to being a complicated, heavy (four ton) truck with a considerable thirst, a small payload and having a major problem with rust issues, particularly due to the twin skin insulated cab. Over the next twelve years I missed out on a couple, eventually giving up on the Humber idea and buying an Austin Champ.
(Still amazes me that I ever went down the Champ path, but that is another story).
Very late one night in August 2008 a phonecall out of the blue from Bob in Adelaide put me on to a Humber that he knew of, and then followed a protracted negotiation, which included it being withdrawn from sale after a mutually acceptable price had been reached. However I eventually purchased the "Best Humber in Australia", complete with trailer, spare motor and some odds and ends.
Unfortunately none of the bigger carriers where interested in bringing the trailer or spares over, and the local chaps price went up everytime I spoke to him.
Bob thought he might be able to truck it over for me, but when he ran out of time I decided to fly over and drive it back (850 kms) even though the brakes where a bit "ordinary".
Bob picked me up at the airport and took me way up into the Adelaide Hills, along narrow, windy and steep roads. Spent 4 hours or so getting tail lights working on the trailer, checking fluids etc and finally headed off on my own late in the afternoon.
Hill 2 saw a boiling radiator at the top, brown goop streaming out of the radiator cap and covering the windscreen, running on 5 cylinders and coming down the other side I hit the brakes to find the pedal frozen. Panic setting in, kicked the pedal with both feet as hard as possible, all 4 wheels then locked. All brakes now totally seized on.
Removed a front wheel, couldn't take the hub off, so rang the previous owner, who had no idea either as he had never looked at the brakes.…
Humber is blessed with a Ferret type set up which see’s the wheel cylinder actually bolted to the outside rear of the backing plate, so once removed the wheel would turn freely. By now it was well and truly dark, cold, and with the odd bit of rain. As the truck had next to no fuel in it, a jerrycan run to the nearest servo was made, and with all the wheel cylinders hanging free we set off in low gear back to the shed .
A days work saw the front brakes operating to some degree. I think it could be said to be an interesting drive.....I think 30 or so kms of hills, boiling up, crawling down the steep ones to Bob's Shed. Fortunately traffic was light after 11.00pm. But with the boiling issues, a miss in the engine and the distance to be traveled I chickened out of the rest of the road trip, convincing Bob that a Humber and trailer would make lovely lawn ornaments until something ccould be arranged next year..... or the year after....or... (A public and heartfelt thankyou to Bob and Ada, especially as this was the first time I had actually met them. Sometimes words are not enough.)
Three part Snorkel kit fitted, Windscreen open.
Into the new year Bob found a window of opportunity, and the Humber finally arrived.
The brake system appeared to be operating on runny brown custard, so wheel cylinders and master cylinder where all overhauled, radiator and engine repeatedly flushed every month or so, worked out how to get oil into the hubs (again like the Ferret), got the old girl running on all cylinders, got the charging and lighting system working, and finally put it on the road.
Spare Tyre Hatch doubling as loading ramp
Thanks to E-Bay I was able to obtain the Snorkel part of the wading kit, further discussions with the vendor discovered that he unknowingly had the other two parts, and even better he dropped them off on the way past the following week. How lucky can you get!
I believe this is now the only Snorkel equipped Humber in captivity.
Pioneer Tool rack, Battery carrier acess hatch.
The second run I went on was to the Corowa Swim In, but only got 5 miles down the road before one of the 3 water jacket covers blew out. A few trips to a dam with the thermos and a slow return trip with the radiator cap off. The same thing had happened with the Champ, and they were on the list to do, at least it gave me the oppourtunity to get the last of the gunk out of the water jacket. I would recommend any new “B” Series owner to remove and inspect these plates early on in the relationship. Got there in the end though, where it was most gratifying to see the interest the Humber received . Talked myself hoarse by the end of the weekend, learned a few interesting things from a fellow owner from Brisbane (Thanks Phil).
For the record, I did not know that the funny pocket on the passenger door is for the machete, the water jerrycan fits under the passenger seat and the knob to wind back the speedo is behind it.
Seat in high mode, machete & jerrycan storage.
So what’s to like about owning a Humber?
Quite comfortable to ride in and you can hear the passenger without shouting.
Easy to get in and out of.
Its got windows and doors that you can lock.
Not one but two roof hatches, just to get that fresh air feeling.
The passenger seat has three vertical positions so you can sit with your head through the roof. (How cool is that!)
The entire tilt frame unbolts and is stored with the canvas on the front frame.
A place for everything, and everything in its place.
With less than ten of these now on the road, they are a rare beasty and it certainly gets the attention it deserves.
Seeing the efforts the designers went to on even the smallest details,for example the brake fluid resevouir is mounted above the drivers shoulder to keep it out of the water when wading, the front chassis mounted fairleads hinge up out of the way when not in use, and not such a small detail, the engine apperars to be offset four inches to allow for the front diff and drive.
On the other hand,,,,
Fuel,fuel fuel. Loves the stuff. Plan on about 8mpg.
Visibility out the passenger side is dreadful due to the spare tyre and hatch. On the road I drive with a passenger to give me the all clear as required.
Leaks more oil than a BP oil well. How a vehicle can be designed to be waterproof, but still pour out oil is a pretty neat trick.
Not only are all components heavy, there is no room to work on anything. You may as well own armour.
Slow, even with the over size 10:00 / 20 tyres cruising is between 35-40mph, and feels way slower.
Some of those little design flaws that make you scratch your head: the passenger side fuel tank has no gauge, if you run dry you have to stop, get out and switch over the fuel valve which is mounted on the driver side tank. Fuel pump has a priming lever, but only Inspector Gadget would be able to reach it. Rifle brackets are placed so as to rip the uninitiated’s shoulder apart, passenger side in particular.
The cast iron “Y” on the exhaust manifold generally crack in half and are now unobtainable.
Information on the Humbers in Aussy service is quite hard to come by, The Australian War Museum only lists four Humber photos, all of which appear to be British Army Austin K9’s.
Jobs for the future.
From the muffler back the exhaust is about half the diameter it should be, redoing this and a set of headers may help the performance/mileage.
Somewhere along the line two rims have been swapped with Blitz rims, have to put this right.
Keep driving it and get all those little bugs ironed out.
Find out what the right jack is, never seen a photo of one.
Would love to get a list of ARN’s sometime in the future, wich would help with the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: an in service photo.
Little Champ And Big Champ.
"In National Service" by Pat Ware. This excellent book covers all “B” Series powered vehicles.
"The Humber 1600 Series" by Jochen Vollert. These come up on E-Bay periodically.
Thank you for your interest, and a big thankyou to Doug for this excellent website.
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