|HIGH TECH, 1947 STYLE|
The Gutty prototype has recently re-surfaced after eight years in storage. James Taylor went to have a close look to see just what made it tick
The whole story of how Britain wanted to build its own Jeep-type vehicle to reduce dependence on the US-made Willys and Ford models acquired during wartime is very well known. In practice, nothing of any great significance happened on the project until WW2 was over, and then it took forever to get past the design and prototype stages and into production with the vehicle we know as the Champ.
On the way, there were two groups of prototypes, and fortunately there are survivors from both. However, the only known example of the earlier group has been out of circulation for eight years. Once on display at the Museum of Army Transport in Beverley, the Nuffield Gutty went into storage when that museum closed in 2003. But now, it has fetched up with the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon and is again on display to show a fascinating stage of post-war British military vehicle development.
So what exactly is the Nuffield Gutty? Ultimately, it’s the result of a Ministry of Supply contract awarded to Morris Motors in late 1944, which in turn derived from an earlier design brief calling for a British-built vehicle that would perform all the functions of a Jeep – but better. That design brief included independent suspension, five seats, better stowage arrangements, a higher electrical output, radio frequency suppression and built-in waterproofing to allow the vehicle to wade without elaborate preparation.
In fact, Morris Motors shuffled the project sideways to its Nuffield Mechanizations subsidiary, which had been formed in 1937 to develop and produce tanks. The key members of the design team were Alec Issigonis – the talented design engineer behind the Morris Minor and the later Mini – and Charles (Rex) Sewell, who later led the team that produced the Champ. After a pair of mock-ups had been approved in December 1945, the team got on with constructing a small number of hand-built prototypes. These acquired the name of Gutty – although exactly where that came from is anybody’s guess.