Fun drive with 70-year-old vehicle

Champ Camp 2024 group photo. Picture: DONGYUN KWON

By Dongyun Kwon

Lovers of a military vehicle enjoyed driving in Yarra Valley.

Austin Champ is a 1/4 ton truck built from 1952 to 1955 and used by the British Army.

The owners of the car organised an annual event called Champ Camp in 1997 and, this year, they were based in Lilydale and drove around Yarra Valley from Saturday 16 to Thursday 21 March.

One of the participants, Malcolm Hayes said he has participated in Champ Camp since the very first one in 1997.

“Originally, a guy from England, who wrote a book about Austin Champ, was coming to Australia, so we thought we’d better organise something to get a few friends together with the vehicles,” he said.

“When he came here in 1997, we had so much fun and we just thought we’d keep doing it every year. It started off quite small but now it’s 20 or so vehicles most years.”

About 40 people with 17 Austin Champs attended Cham Camp 2024.

During the event, the participants drove around Yarra Valley’s attractions including The Coombes Cottage, Redwood Forest, Maroondah Dam, Healesville Sanctuary, Wirrawilla Rainforest Walk.

Mr Hayes said he likes the Austin Champ’s engine.

“They have a Rolls-Royce engine and were used by the British military,” he said.

“They’re very special machines, unusual and very advanced for their time in the 1950s.

“They can be completely submerged with a snorkel raised and drive through the sea.”