1968 Austin Gipsy
The British Transportation Museum stumbled upon a vehicle that is different from the usual British fare and rare in the USA. An Austin Gypsy, being sold as a 1966 and eventually identified as being a 1968, was available at a bargain price only a few hours away in Indianapolis. These are a smaller scale Land Rover. Only 21,000 Gipsys were made in their 10 year run from 1958 to 1968. The Gipsy, Austin Champ, and Land Rover were all in competition for military contracts. Land Rover was the big winner with some Champs also seeing service. The Gipsys were mostly found in civilian use but some were used by the Home Defense Forces.
This one is the 111’ long wheelbase and RHD with four wheel drive. An inspection visit with Tim Bosse’s assistance found that it could be coaxed into running from an external gas can. It had the usual lovely “patina” we would expect from the $3000 asking price. Although the brakes were out, the clutch worked and the hi/lo four wheel drive could be engaged.
Without too much trouble, we negotiated a purchase at $2000. I think the fact that it was going to a museum helped seal the deal. The Gipsy had bounced around between owners with the two previous owners never registering it. It had a better chance of coming back to life in our hands. This one had the open pick-up truck style of bodywork. The Gipsys are a slightly smaller version of the Land Rover but heavier due to the use of steel versus the aluminum on the Land Rover.
Loading the Gipsy was scheduled to coincide with the Professional Race Industry (PRI) Show in Indy. This show is gearhead heaven! It leaves you on overload. Much more hardcore than the SEMA Shows and a good place to get answers on technology. We only allowed 4 hours at the show which could easily consume 2 days if we had the time. Scott Huey and Lynn Scowden helped with the Gipsy rescue which drove onto the trailer without much drama.
Back at BTM, Scott degreased the engine in the parking lot before driving it up the ramp and inside. It still had no brakes but had enough bulk that it wanted to stop on its own if you let off the gas. A more thorough inspection revealed a frame and drivetrain without any serious issues. Ours is sprung with semi-elliptic leaf springs at all four corners giving independent suspension. Earlier models had a Flexitor rubber trailing arm suspension that was interesting but didn’t handle very well. The body had numerous assorted rust problems. Most body panels are flat and should be easy to fabricate. Dropping the gas tank for a clean-out showed several rust thru holes on the bottom with the other 5 sides looking good. The plan is to cut out the bottom and weld in a new piece.
This Gipsy originally came with a diesel engine but a Gipsy gas engine of 2199 cc similar to the Healey 100-4 was now in it. The air cleaner was missing but surprisingly one was available on Ebay. At some point the metal windshield frame had been replaced with fiberglass and never drilled for the windshield wiper motors. It was also not aligned correctly with the roof and the doors do not close properly. One of the windshield glass pieces was out because the rubber gasket had rotted. The rubber for the side windows and door frames is also needing replacement. These might be available in Australia. Some TLC needed here.
There are pictures of ours on the internet with a wrecker type of crane in the bed. It had been removed at some point in its history. The Gipsy Registry shows JEY 255F as an Ex Breakdown Truck. On the doors is the signage for the “Dinas Garage”. Dinas is a village in Wales near the western coast. You can get on google street view and roam around eventually finding a modern looking Esso station that might be our Gipsy’s original home. We’ve gotten a comment on Facebook from someone who remembers seeing it in Dinas when he was there. Isn’t technology great! It’s last UK MOT was in Oct. 2004 and we have a USA registration from May 2006 most likely from when it was first imported.
The Gipsy has generated a bit of excitement from the BTM crew. It is definitely different and has a bunch of character. Our hope is to have her out for some car shows this summer. Maybe join a Land Rover mud run somewhere.
Are there any other Austin Gipsys or Champs in the mid-west? Want to get together at the British Transportation Museum and share stories? Any Land Rovers want to show us what off-roading is all about? Please contact us at BTMPres@gmail.com.
The British Transportation Museum will be hosting one of the events at this summer’s Mini Meet East in Dayton, Ohio July 2 thru July 4. Mark your calendars and join in the fun. Check out our Gipsy and the entire eclectic collection of 59 British vehicles on display.