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American Bantam

Remarkable cars picture encyclopedia - American Bantam Cars

1939 American Bantam Roadster - AACA Museum
1939 American Bantam Roadster - AACA Museum

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Engine: 4-cylinder, 20-hp, 3 main bearings, Babitt roller mains, pressurized lubrication, Henry Miller manifold
Transmission: 3-speed
Wheelbase: 75"
Top Speed: 75 mph
Fuel Economy: 60 mpg
Price: $439 - $465

American Bantam History

After introducing a successful car in England, Sir Herbert Austin came to the U.S. in 1929, locking for a licensed manufacturer to produce the car in America. Austin chose a site in Butler, Pennsylvania to manufacturer the American Austin. The American Austin was made from 1930-34, but its small size and light weight was not popular with Americans. Despite its low cost and economy of operation, the car did not survive the depression.

In 1935, Roy Evans, a dynamic former top salesman for Austin, decided to buy out and revive the little car. Evans, after some legal maneuvering, was awarded the bankrupt company for a mere $5,000. Then, armed with a $20 million loan from the Reconstruction Finance Corp., Evans reopened the factory in 1937, under the name of American Bantam Car Company. The little car underwent some changes to its mechanical systems and received a radical facelift. Among those offering technical assistance for the changes were famed racing engineer Harry Miller and Alex Tremulis, stylist for the Tucker. Despite the modifications and its being the only economy car in America at the time, the Bantam did not survive past the 1941 model year. American Bantam was the last of the pre-war auto manufacturers in Pennsylvania.

American Bantam built a prototype for what wltimately became the Army Jeep and win a court case against Willys-Overland, which later won production contracts, over inventor rights. Bantam produced some Jeeps during World War II, as well as mall trailers for the Jeeps and other vehicles until 1956, when the plant closed and the building was sold to Armco Steel Company.

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