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

Jeeps Long-Lost, Peculiar, Cross-Dressing Uncle- The Jeep Surrey/ Gala

In the long history of automobilia, you won’t find many forms of transportation that provoke a more masculine imagery than the legendary Willys-Jeep. I have seen piles and piles of historical photographic evidence of Jeeps being used as mounting platforms for machine guns, rocket launchers and even a few that have been equipped with flame throwers, an option that could undoubtedly be credited with the total elimination of any and all traces of road rage, as we know it. In fact, some of the tamest photos you will find are the ones that show Jeeps merely traversing rugged terrain or carting battle-worn soldiers to and fro. Just the fact that the Jeeps driver is almost completely exposed and unprotected to his surroundings, however threatening or hostile, lends to support the fact that the Jeep is a no-frills method of transport that truly raised the bar of macho-ism for future military Humvees, what with all their roofs, doors and trinkets. You would be very safe to say that if ‘The Duke’, John Wayne himself, were still alive today, he would certainly and proudly be most at home behind the wheel of an old Jeep, without a doubt… but then you see ‘IT’ basking in all of its pastel glory.

Photo Credit: CJ3Binfo.com

Photo Credit: CJ3Binfo.com

Photo Credit: CJ3Binfo.com

Photo Credit: CJ3Binfo.com

The Jeep Surrey/ Gala was introduced in 1959 and, possibly involuntarily, traded in its standard-issue 4-wheel drive and manly olive drab-dressing for an Easter egg palette of glossy acrylic paints, fringed dangling tassels and striped interiors that are reminiscent of gaudy 1950’s lawn furniture you might have found at a chic Hollywood country club. Such an exchange barely registers as appropriate for any Jeep that stood a chance of being seen in public. The fact that the Surrey was essentially neutered based on its complete lack of a transfer case and the inappropriate addition of a column-shifted transmission speaks to the intended purpose for which the Surrey was built- to serve as a resort car that could be economically driven by staff or rented out to guests at tropical island locales, a likely predecessor to today’s club cars and golf carts but with a blatantly flowery personality that seemed to defy its Willys / Jeep lineage.

The Jeep Surrey / Gala was essentially an exterior trim package for the two-wheel drive ‘59-‘64 DJ-3A Dispatcher which had already distinguished itself in the Jeep lineup as an invaluable light-duty workhorse, being used in a variety of capacities from postal and parcel delivery to serving as an all-purpose utility vehicle at airports and large manufacturing facilities. The DJ-3A was made available to consumers with multiple basic top variations to suit their projected function, with the hardtop and conventional canvas top being the most common. The addition of the Surrey Top, with its wide two-tone stripes and sassy fringed edge treatments, was the perfect complement to the distinct palette of paint hues offered on the Surrey- Tropical Rose, Cerulean Blue and Jade Tint Green which were all softened by a contrasting shade of white. Is it possible that these flamboyant colors were chosen to help discourage theft or, at a bare minimum, to keep the Surreys drivers from abusing their usage of the car. You can’t exactly sneak off the resort property in a car that looks like a go-go dancer without being noticed. Nonetheless, these purpose built cars were easily able to carry four passengers over a greater variety of roads and terrain, a real benefit over early golf carts that were limited to just two passengers and whose limited off-road ability was likely to leave resort guests stranded with little hope of recalling their vacation memories with fondness. The Surrey changed all that. With such flashy charisma, it wasn’t long before these two-wheel drive vibrantly colored dynamos were turning heads and making their mark. Resorts and parks were taking advantage of the Jeep Surrey on their properties worldwide and aggressively launched attractive advertising campaigns featuring the appeal of these odd little vehicles.

Photo Credit: CJ3Binfo.com

Photo Credit: CJ3Binfo.com

In their brief six year span of production, it’s estimated that 1,100 of the Surrey / Gala models were built which accounts for only about 13 percent of DJ-3A models total production between ’59 and ’64, making them very rare and desirable today to collectors and enthusiasts. The one & only King of Rock & Roll, Elvis Presley, even found the Surrey to be interesting enough that he added a ’60 model Surrey, in Tropical Rose to match his pink Cadillac, to his personal collection for use around his estate in the early sixties. Having achieved such a high level of celebrity, Elvis’ Surrey is still on display in the museum at Graceland to this day. The King had a lengthy and well-documented history with Jeeps, having driven them extensively during his stint in the U.S. Army as well as co-starring with them in several of his feature films. It was only natural that he would want one for his own. He wasn’t about to be scared off by the Surreys fancy fringes or bold floral colors. He subsequently seemed more than happy to appear in skin-tight pant suits and glamorous sequins. Afterall, he wasn’t exactly ‘The Duke’. OlllllllO

Photo Credit: Barret Jackson

Photo Credit: Barret Jackson

5

A Very Special Kind of Crazy

I was recently looking through the dockets from one of the larger collector car auctions (which shall remain unnamed) paying particular attention to the borderline bonkers amounts of money that is exchanged for restored vehicles these days. Granted, we are fairly far removed from those days, just over a decade ago, when an unassuming guy, known mostly by his telltale Ferrari ball cap, spent countless hundreds of thousands of dollars on car after beautiful car like they were neck ties. Turns out he was a curator for an automotive museum owned by a rather wealthy TV executive and not the average Joe that he appeared to be…a Joe that we imagined had apparently been printing off counterfeit hundred dollar bills for months and decided that a highly-televised car auction was the perfect place to try and pass them off. We all secretly wished we could be him-goofy Italian sports car hat, and all. Snatching up every dream car that came across the block with little regard for how many zeros were lined up after the first few numbers.

1

While I usually expect to see six digit prices on pristine Corvettes, Lambos or Cobras and an occasional million dollar sum for anything with a traceable racing heritage, I tend to pay more mind to the market values assessed to the decidedly more mundane cars, the ones that normal working folks may aspire to be able to purchase or, more remarkably, be able to restore with their own skillset and hands. While it does take a crazy amount of money to buy a vintage Ferrari 250, it takes a person of a clearly different sort of means to bring a car back from the brink of extinction and restore it to its full form and function. The amount of the expense involved with the restoration may vary greatly based on the subject. While a Jaguar D-type would mean the financial ruin of most anyone, the re-creation of the mechanics that comprise a 1950’s Willys Jeep could be accomplished by anyone on a lawn boy’s budget and apparently the potential return on investment appears to be equal in scale.

2

So what kind of enthusiast might consider undertaking the restoration of an early Jeep? Well, with the abundant availability of reproduction body tubs and sheet metal, you would not need to spend countless hours scouring scrap yards looking for pieces to complete your puzzle or even be forced to start with a rusty, rotten shell. From a mechanical aspect, the level of technology that is involved is, to say the least, pretty basic. The tolerances for the fit and finish of the final product are far from strict. Many of the original Willys Jeeps from the 1940’s were largely assembled in the field from components stacked inside a shipping crate and could be replicated by a do-it-yourselfer in a shop or garage with simple tools. You might find it much liking building a model car kit, without the smelly glue. The only unique skillsets that would be required would be a basic mechanical aptitude, large reserves of patience and persistence, and a reasonable attention to detail. You can find just about everything else you would need at http://www.omix-ada.com. Maybe you can be that special kind of crazy? OlllllllO

3
5

I’ll Spare You the Details

1One of the most unique and differentiating features of the Willys / Jeep vehicle has always been the presence of an externally-mounted spare tire. In the early WWII-era models, the spare was first mounted to the rear of the tub but was relocated later to the rear side panel as civilian models were introduced in the mid 40’s, making way for the new rear tailgates on the CJ2 and CJ3 models. While the external mounting of the spare was most likely done out of dire shortage of interior space, the fact that it still resides outside of the frame rails today, some 75 years later, is somewhat surprising. With all of the creature comforts and niceties that have found their way into the current Jeep platform, one would almost expect to see the unsightly spare tire hidden underneath the rear end or tucked away discretely inside the cargo area. That just isn’t the way Jeep has ever done it. Jeeps are about no-nonsense utility…if we have a humongous spare tire, we want it right where we can get to it! Otherwise, we would’ve equipped them with teeny, tiny donut-shaped space-saver spares that tucks underneath your passenger seat.

I have information from very reliable sources, from people that have actually experienced an off-road vehicle roll-over firsthand, and they all unanimously proclaim that, in the event of such an occurrence, you do NOT want anything on the inside of your passenger compartment larger or heavier than a small stuffed animal. Cellphones, toolboxes, tire irons, roofing hammers or, heaven forbid, a 30 ounce stainless steel thermal tumbler filled with scalding-hot coffee are all transformed into barrel-rolling projectiles of terrifying mass that will dent, beat and bludgeon anything and everything in their path. While I agree that the spare tire mounted on the outside is still going to wreak unbelievable havoc if you go belly-up, I am much more comfortable with it not using my lap as a starting point for its dismount. For that reason, storing the spare tire outside the Jeep seems to make a great deal of sense.

2

3Another dilemma that is not so easily solved is what do we do in the event that we have a damaged tire and need to use our spare? First of all, if your Jeep has even a small suspension lift and larger tires, you will find that your original equipment jack is of little OR no use to you, other than keeping the jack mounting brackets from rattling. You are going to need to utilize a hi-lift or farm jack and some level of ingenuity in your execution of its use in order to change your flat tire. You will also face a similar problem when it comes to decide where to stow your jack. I prefer a hood jack mount for two reasons: first, the fact that the jack is easily accessible regardless of your vehicles positioning. Secondly and more importantly, those unknowing passersby who seem to inevitably mistake it for some sort of machine gun mounting apparatus always yield some really humorous conversations at the fueling station. Many people opt for mounting the jack right next to the spare on the rear bumper or tailgate which has its own merits. Of course, you could mount the jack on the inside of your Jeep, too (see paragraph above).

Once you have a hi-lift jack mounted in a convenient location on your Jeep, yet another dilemma rears its ugly head. Gravity was happy to assist you when you removed the spare tire but now it’s time to remount the flat tire on your carrier and you have seriously underestimated the weight of a wheel and tire combination, even when it’s flat. Hopefully, you have someone riding with you that can assist with the task of lifting the tire. Even a 35” diameter tire can be cumbersome to lift, if not impossible for some, especially when physical exhaustion and uneven terrain become factors. If you have a 37” tire or larger, I might suggest digging a shallow grave to bury it in or hide it under an immense pile of brush temporarily and return later with a friend/accomplice to retrieve it. However inconvenient this may seem at the time, it pales in comparison to the deflation of being found days later, after an extensive search, with only your arms and legs protruding from under the giant spare tire.     

45

Jeep Celebrates its Heritage With Willys Edition Wrangler

2014-jeep-wrangler-willys-wheeler

The Jeep was originally built for military use and gained a reputation on the battlefields of World War II. After the war was over the civilian CJ was made available to the public. So to pay tribute to the old time beauty Jeep has created a limited 2014 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition that will debut at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show.

The 2014 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition is inspired by early Willys CJ (Civilian Jeep) models with exclusive styling and upgraded off-road goodies. Starting with a Wrangler Sport, these upgrades include a Dana 44 rear axle with limited-slip differential and 3.73 gears, along with meaty BF Goodrich KM Mud Terrain tires mounted to the Willys Wheeler’s black 17-inch wheels. For more of a classic Jeep look, this model adds a gloss black grille, “Willys” hood stickers and rock rails to protect the side sills. Jeep is also tossing in a D-ring, tow strap and gloves that are all kept in a special carrying bag.

When it goes on sale early next year, the two-door Willys Wheeler Edition will start at $26,790 and the Unlimited four-door models at $30,590. That pricing reflects a premium of $3400 for either version, but there is quite a bit that comes with the package.

1943 Willys MB Celebrates its 70th Birthday

70thbirthday

After being sent to support the US Army in Sicily in 1943 the MB was finally returned home to Toledo, Ohio, its origninal production site.

Nearly seven decades in Italy, current owner Vittorio Argento, an Italian radio jornalist and history enthusiast, brought the Willys MB back for its 70th birthday.

Watch the video below.

Rick Pewe Cross Country GPW Update

It’s been a while since our last update on Rick Péwé and his venture across America in his 1943 GPW, so we’ll just pick back up where we left off! Our last post left off with Rick en route to Butler, PA to the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, he arrived just in time and we were there to greet him on his arrival and caught up on some of his travel stories.

After leaving Butler, Rick headed north to Nova Scotia, Canada. Rick stopped by Broken Road 4WD in New Hampshire for a hefty overhaul of Omix-ADA parts to make sure the GPW could continue the trip. Rick got a new front spring, adjusted his valves, changes the oil pan, and much more. Andy from Broken Road decided to join Rick on a leg of his trip, it’s always good to have a co-pilot.

Rick’s trip hasn’t been exactly smooth sailing, but being the resourceful and knowledgeable guy that he is, and with the parts and services provided by us and shops along the way, he has been able to continue his travels successfully. Make sure to like the Rugged Ridge facebook page for more updates!

Here’s some more photos from his trip.

Across America in a jeep GPW

Rick Péwé, Editor-In-Chief at Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road, has embarked on a journey across America in his 1943 Ford GPW. He started on the west coast, and is driving all the way to the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival in Butler, PA. Rick is a member of the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame and has been a Jeeper since the first flat fender GPW he purchased when he was 15 years old (which he still owns).

Rick’s first stop along the way was the 60th Annual Jeepers Jamboree at the Rubicon Springs Trail. Rick participated in the trail rides in his GPW, and despite a couple of small issues here and there, this trusty old jeep lasted the entire event. To support Rick on his cross-country journey, we sent him tons of OMIX hard parts and replacement parts to keep the GPW going.

After the Jeepers Jamboree event, Rick hit the road toward Butler, PA to attend the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival. He’s taking US highway 50 most of the time, and has been updating periodically with some great photos and stories. We will also be out at the festival, so if you’re there swing by to say hello, check out our new products, and see this GPW for yourself! For more photos and updates from Rick’s adventure, make sure to like Peterson’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road Magazine’s Facebook page!

Photos courtesy of Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road Magazine.

Across America in a jeep GPW

Rick Péwé, Editor-In-Chief at Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road, has embarked on a journey across America in his 1943 Ford GPW. He started on the west coast, and is driving all the way to the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival in Butler, PA. Rick is a member of the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame and has been a Jeeper since the first flat fender GPW he purchased when he was 15 years old (which he still owns).

Rick’s first stop along the way was the 60th Annual Jeepers Jamboree at the Rubicon Springs Trail. Rick participated in the trail rides in his GPW, and despite a couple of small issues here and there, this trusty old jeep lasted the entire event. To support Rick on his cross-country journey, we sent him tons of OMIX hard parts and replacement parts to keep the GPW going.

After the Jeepers Jamboree event, Rick hit the road toward Butler, PA to attend the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival. He’s taking US highway 50 most of the time, and has been updating periodically with some great photos and stories. We will also be out at the festival, so if you’re there swing by to say hello, check out our new products, and see this GPW for yourself! For more photos and updates from Rick’s adventure, make sure to like Peterson’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road Magazine’s Facebook page!