Celebrating the Bona Fide Grandfather of all Jeeps- The Bantam BRC 40

If you talk to any random gathering of Jeep enthusiasts, you won’t find many who can’t testify for the off-road icons military roots; the Jeep was born out of necessity when the need for a combat-capable personnel carrier became a clear calling to join the fight for freedom and defend our country. It’s no wonder that the Jeep has such a loyal following. It’s when you mention more unfamiliar subjects like the Ford GPW and Bantam BRC that things get a little blurry. What, exactly, is a Bantam BRC??

1

The American Bantam Car Company was originally founded in the very heart of small town America, Butler, Pennsylvania, in 1929 as the American Austin Car Company and was later reorganized in 1936 as part of a bankruptcy ordeal that was plaguing the small sports car manufacturer. Despite having a small-scale design and manufacturing facility, Bantam was able to create the original pattern on which all other Jeeps would be based. In fact, if it weren’t for their meager facilities and a financial portfolio that was still unstable from the ripples of the Great Depression, Bantam would likely be a household name to this day, in company with the likes of Ford Motor Company and Coca-Cola; but it was not to be for Bantam. Unable to fulfill the high production demands placed by the military, production based on the prototypes of the Willys-Overland MA and the Ford GPW were maximized while the Bantam BRC (Bantam Reconnaissance Car) that had managed to best incorporate the militaries requirements into its design, was relegated to the status of ‘non-standard’ after only 2605 total units were built. Despite having been one of only three companies to submit a prototype for military use and developing what was arguably the superior design, the Bantam company was reduced to manufacturing trailers for the military until it was overtaken by American Rolling Mills in the mid 50’s. Existing Bantams that were already built and in service were shipped off to our allies in Britain and Russia as part of the Lend-Lease Act to aid in the war efforts; with them, went a giant part of the heart of tiny Butler, PA.

2

To fully appreciate the Bantam BRC, it helps to identify the little things that make it different. Some of the Bantams most distinguishing features are its recessed headlights that are set down into the top of the front fenders and its ten rounded grille slats; traits that clearly separate it from its Ford & Willys counterparts. While the production version of the BRC did away with the rounded fenders of the original prototype in favor of a more squared off design; capable of serving as a make-shift seat for some lucky soldier. It also opted for a body tub that donned square corners at the rear which likely presented obstacles in terms of the ease of assembly.

On the interior, Bantam managed to use a seat structure that was drastically less crude than its associates utilized. With small side bolsters to support the back and modest overall proportions, a normal-sized man could find himself with a relative degree of stability while negotiating rough terrain in the BRC, unlike the ‘lawn chair on a tilt-a-whirl’ seat that the adorned the Willys MB. The BRC’s dash was decorated with stylish oval gauges that seemed almost elegant for the occasion. Also, a throttle that was hand-controlled with the pull of a knob on the dash and, for good measure, a button on the floorboard to engage the electric starter just to deter any enemy goons who might try and commandeer the vehicle. It is rumored that sixty-two of the BRC-40’s that were produced were outfitted with an innovative four-wheel steering system that gave the BRC unparalleled maneuverability and, when compounded by the vehicles short 79-inch wheelbase, was likely too much to handle at any speed over a crawl.

With such a storied past and rich history, it’s not surprising to find out that the folks of Butler, Pennsylvania are as enthusiastic about the mighty Bantam today as they have ever been…or maybe ‘enthusiastic’ is not a strong enough word. That is the driving force behind the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, a premier event that is held yearly to celebrate Butler, PA and its proud status as the birthplace of the first Jeep. In its seventh year of existence, this year’s event will be held June 9-11, 2017 and, as the event planners proudly proclaim “If you have a Jeep in your driveway, it needs to be here.” You can get all the details at their website at http://www.bantamjeepfestival.com/ and make plans now to be there. You will likely have the opportunity to see at least one bona fide part of our country’s history in all of its divine olive-drab glory. Makes the beach seem kinda boring… OlllllllO

75

Jeep in a crate $50! -The legend of Jeep Body Tubs

$50 Jeep in a crate

No one disputes the legendary origins of the Jeep. The versatile 4×4 helped change the tide of the war and won the affections of GI’s and civilians everywhere. By the time World War II ended more than 647,000 Willys MB’s and Ford GPW’s had been built… The Jeep accounted for over 15% of the total wartime military vehicle production.

Before first GI’s were shipped home Willys began looking for way to capitalize on the popularity of the Jeep. They began by offering the first CJ (Civilian Jeep) in 1946 as the CJ2A. The 1/4 Ton 4×4 was designed as the go anywhere & do anything vehicle: It was a tractor, it was a truck, it was a power plant, it was a wagon… Soon others look to capitalize of the phenomenon. Ads began popping up in magazines like Popular Science and Boy’s Life advertising Jeep’s in a Crate for as little as $50.

Like most surplus ads run today scammers sought to take advantage of consumers by promising them great deals like $50 Jeeps in exchange for $20 and a self addressed stamped envelop. The advertiser’s of course were selling free public information concerning government auctions. The truth is even though thousands of MB’s and parts were auctioned off the vast majority were scrapped following the war.

WWII Jeep salvage year

So, what happened to the Jeep in a crate? Were there ever Jeeps in a crate? Certainly not for $50. The US military received their assembled Jeeps from Ford and Bantam for nearly $750. Ford shipped the GPW from their Richmond , California assembly plant partially “knocked down” so they could fit more Jeeps on a ship, and fill military orders quicker.

The good news is if you are looking for a Jeep in a crate today Omix-ADA has the solution for you. Omix is the official licensed supplier of Jeep bodies and sheetmetal from 1941 to present:

Omix body panels are more than just parts; they are built with a legacy and heritage in mind. No other supplier can match Omix’s passion and dedication to quality. This is why we have been authorized to use the “MOPAR Authentic Restoration” and “MOPAR Official Licensed Product” logos for the more than 30 licensed body tubs and panels we produce. We take pride in being one of the few manufacturers strong enough to stand behind the legendary Jeep® name.

Our Body Tub is a completely assembled body shell from the firewall to the tail light panel. Fitted, welded and assembled together with the cowl panel, rear wheel housings, dash panel, and glove box already in place. Or you can upgrade to a Body Tub Kit. It features the same great body tub, (2) front fenders, windshield frame, hood and tailgate. It is the ultimate restoration accessory, primed and shipped to your door.

No more grinding, welding, or cutting out rusty panels, just to struggle as you fight to line up the new part. All the hard work is done for you. Primed and nearly ready for paint. The hardest part will be picking out the new paint color. How quickly can you say Olive Drab?

Of course the body tubs are not completely finished, there will still be some fitting and working to make everything line up. Just the same; as if you were working with a 50 year old body tub. –But our tubs are as close as you can get today to a body off the original Toledo assembly line. Why else would MOPAR authorize us to use the “Willys” and “Jeep” scripts on the officially licensed bodies and panels we produce?

Jeep Body Licensed Reproduction

• Replace Steel Body Tubs and Body Kits from 1941 – 1986

• Replacement Body Panels from 1941 – 2010

• Jeep®/Willy’s Licensed Body Tubs, Kits & Panels Available!

• Body Tubs are completely assembled, and primed. Ready to be shipped to your door.

• 16 gauge steel used on body tubs for all side and tail panels. In most cases it is thicker than original!

• 18 Gauge steel used on body tubs in the front and rear flooring, all mounting brackets, top cowl assembly, and wheel housings.

• Manufactured using a seven-step metal preparation process, including:

o A 5 bath dip to totally eliminate rust, dirt and grease.

o A phosphate and acid rinse step to ensure corrosion resistance and proper adhesion of the primer.

o New primer formula and application method that is designed for a smooth and even finish.

• Includes all major factory mounting locations, including channels for body mounting.

• Dashes and shifter tunnels left blank in some applications with varied OE locations.