Army Wheels in Detail - Humber F.W.D 4x4, by Andrew Partridge and Petr Brojo, subtitled 'Heavy Utility Car, Light Ambulance, 8cwt PU'
Booklet published by Capricorn in 2014, 44 pages. Square(ish) booklet - c.22cm by 24cm (N5841)
All text in English and Czech
From the introduction: In the late 1930s the British government finally recognised that it would not be able to avoid war with Germany and belatedly set about updating its defence capability which had become seriously depleted and outdated during the years of economic depression and disarmament. A number of projects were set in train to try to bring the equipment of the armed forces up to what was needed to match the'opposition.
In 1938 the Coventry based Rootes Group began development of the Humber Ironside (Light Reconnaisance Car (LRC) Mk I) based on the 4 x 2 chassis of Humber's Super Snipe. This was later superseded by the LRC Mk II which featured an enclosed roof and turret mounted Bren gun. When the threat of invasion was at its height a batch of ten of these LRCs was modified by Thrupp and Maberley with luxurious interiors to transport members of the royal family. Apart from these being claustrophobic, the royal family were aware of the need to maintain visibility and these luxury armoured cars soon fell out of use. In a war context, the off-road mobility of the rear-wheel drive was still far from adequate so, with the help of the US firm Willys-Overland who later used a similar front end design in the Jeep Rootes designed and produced an 8 cwt 4 x 4 chassis. However, it was not until 1941 that the 4-wheel drive vehicles entered production anmd became available for combat. This truly off-road capable chassis was initially developed for the the LRC Mk III/IliA "Ironsides". Although 4-wheel drive had become a common feature in the USA, this chassis was the first example of a British 4-wheel drive design: a transfer box fitted behind the 4-speed gearbox enabled the drive to be directed to all four road wheels or just to the rear pair. Four-wheel drive further lowered the ratio of road speed to engine speed and together with a high road clearance meant that first gear permitted it to climb hills as steep as 1 in 2 1/2 or minor obstacles. The purpose was to provide a degree of off-road capability but without the complexity or costs of a fully or half tracked chassis. On the back of this and using the same chassis a range of support vehicles which would be able function in an off road environment. These were the Heavy Utility staff car, Ambulance and Wireless pick-up. A revised chassis with the same engine, gearbox and running gear but a mid engine configuration followed which became the Mk II Scout Car of which some 4,300 were built.
The Heavy Utility body had an ash-frame covered by a steel skin, a construction typical of many British cars and lorries of the period. The 4-wheel drive vehicles were powered by the Super Snipe 4086cc side valve engine developed in 1939 and fitted to the top of the range Humber Pullman saloon cars which had found favour with members of the royal family in preference to Rolls Royces for informal occasions. A modified version of the Humber Pullman with large section "balloon" tyres was also used by the military, the mostfamous being an open top tourer dubbed "Old Faithful" which was used by General Montgomery and is now preserved at the Duxford branch of the Imperial War Museum. Monty liked to be seen by his troops and travelled either in this vehicle or in a Jeep wherever possible. He had to admit defeat during the Ardennes Campaign of December 1944 to January 1945 when weather conditions obliged him to use a Heavy Utility.
The Heavy Utility was a very British concept. The seating is a prime example of the English class system: first class plush seats for the officers, second class normal seats for the NCO driver and co driver and very basic tip-up dicky seats in the back for the officers' batmen (personal servants). Although there is no full heght division, there is a handrail and fold-down map table in the rear compartment which separates it from the driver. There are also blackout blinds which can be lowered between the two compartments and at each of the rear compartment windows. A handrail and a sunshine roof were provided to permit a senior officer to stand up and be driven round the parade ground to conduct reviews of the troops. The rear seats are all demountable and the rear compartment is 2m long with the seats down, which is sufficient for it to be used as sleeping accommodation. The Humber Box was a very solid and reliable vehicle which met some very practical demands. It was comfortable, warm and dry (unlike most military vehicles) and fairly easy to maintain. It had high fuel consumption but mileages tended to be low which was as well since its 18 gallon (80 litre) fuel tank gave it a range of just 150 miles. The map table and light enabled it to be used as an office, as did its spacious capacity. Many were fitted with radios but these required antennae which usually had to be erected beside the vehicle when stationary rather than used while mobile. It was also possible to attach canvas awnings to the sides and rear of the vehicle to greatly increase the shelter capacity when using the vehicle as a command post. The high ground clearance and all-wheel drive made it far more capable of handling difficult surface conditions and the copious air cleaner kept sand out of the carburettor in the desert. After building 6,500 examples, Rootes Group closed the production line in 1945 and arguably missed a trick by not producing a civilian version. It was left to Rover to produce the Land Rover after the war to fill this gap in the market...
The book is packed full with drawings, schematics, and colour and black and white photographs of Humber Vehicles, and all explanatory captions are in both English and Czech text
Condition of the booklet is generally excellent. The covers are clean and bright, the staple spine is intact and all pages are clean, intact, unblemished and tightly bound.