I went by Bert’s Two Guys and a Dog Garage to see if that Bedford Van was still there. It was gone, but in it’s place was something even more obscure.
What is that thing? And I do mean thing, it kind of resembles a VW Thing in profile. The wheels look Land Rover – esque but the body is all wrong, like some sort of mutated Jeep.
At the back I could see that it’s an Austin product, I had to go home and look it up but yes, it’s a Gipsy.
This was Austin’s entry in the post war 4 X 4 military/farm/go anywhere market.
The Austin Gipsy was produced from 1958 to 1968. The intent was for the Gipsy to compete with the Land Rover, a mission at which it failed miserably. The British Army never bought it in any quantity, and total production was around twenty thousand units. The Gipsy did find a niche role as a light fire engine, and several hundred were laid up by the British Home Office for use in the event of a national disaster. The anticipated disaster never happened, and the nearly pristine Gipsies were auctioned off in 1997.
Both long and short wheelbase vaiants were made, with two- and four-wheel drive being available. Some Gipsies wound up in the colonies, and who knows how many were built with left hand drive for Canada. Our climate and salty winter roads are very hard on British steel, and I’m amazed that this example has more or less survived for 50 years. I’ve never seen a Gipsy before. Ever.
Take a look at this, here’s a non-rusted example of the short wheelbase variant in the UK:
I’m sure you’ll find this much more fetching; it has the same stubby purposeful charm as a Land Rover, Jeep CJ, or Land Cruiser. In fact it’s such an improvement that it makes me wonder how much effort it would be to shorten this one. Could it be as easy as removing that obvious middle body extension and sectioning the frame by 21 inches?
Just to sidetrack a bit, one of the things I love about old British vehicles is the obvious pride that parts suppliers took in their product.
Can you imagine a modern parts supplier taking the time and expense to do this? Not when profit margins are measured in fractions of a penny. Say what you will about Lucas, Girling and Coventry Radiator & Pressworks Co. Ltd., at least they cared enough to put their name on the product. Unlike Austin, Coventry Presswork is still in business too – bloody brilliant!
While we’re talking about running gear, early Gipsies had a very interesting suspension design. Each wheel was suspended by a rubber sprung trailing arm, like a scaled-up light trailer. This is the front.
The intention was to give superior independent wheel travel, but like a lot of innovative British concepts the execution doesn’t seem to have quite panned out. Later Gipsies like our subject truck have a conventional leaf spring and solid axle suspension.
Scooby-Doo floor-mats are a nice touch, and go well with the plywood seats, and the holes in the floor. As you can see this poor guy is pretty rusty, you’d have to be a real Gipsy enthusiast to agree to the $2,495 asking price.
I was feeling pretty confident that I had a worldwide scoop on a Gipsy article here at CC, but there’s already one that Bryce did a few years ago.
The end of the Gipsy was also typically British. In 1968 Leyland Motors and British Motor Holdings merged into British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd (BLMC). This left the Gipsy being built by the same organization as the Land Rover; is it any wonder that it was quickly axed?
On another sad note, it looks like Bert’s is winding down operations. Bert is retiring, and I’ve heard that nobody is taking over.
There’s no customer cars on the lot today and the long term resident cars are all for sale. The building was originally built as a gas station in the 1940s. Too bad for our town, Bert has been fixing the stuff that I couldn’t for almost 20 years, and we’ve found him to be trustworthy and capable. Thanks Bert, and happy retirement!