Mini-motoring American Bantam

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Bantam
The Bantam sedan put American design on a tiny wheelbase

American Bantam is most-famous for inventing the Jeep.  That’s right, Bantam was the first to present a prototype of the iconic four-wheeler to the military brass as WWII got under way. 

But for various reasons, including Bantam’s small production capacity, the contract to produce them went to Ford and Willys, which is now remembered as the progenitor of the rugged all-purpose vehicle now known generally as the Willys Jeep.  Bantam did get a piece of the military action, though, producing trailers to go behind the Jeeps.

Bantam
The car’s length is less than 9 feet

But before that, American Bantam built tiny cars, first in association with Austin of England, and then striking out on its own in 1935 with a lineup of oddly unique mini cars that reflected U.S. styling trends, but on a dwarf scale.

The Pick of the Day is a 1940 American Bantam two-door sedan, one of only about 800 cars produced by the company that model year.  The cars had been improved quite a bit by then, but teeny cars were not what U.S. motorists wanted, and 1941 was the last year of Bantam car production.

Bantam
The engine looks as small as the battery that starts it

The sedan might look like a toy, but it has accumulated more than 97,000 miles during its 78 years, according to the Redlands, California, dealer advertising the car on ClassicCars.com.  That seems like bunch for a tippy-looking sedan that’s just 105 inches long, with a wheelbase of 75 inches, powered by a 45.6-cubic-inch (750cc) engine producing a roaring 26 horsepower, and with a top speed of 50 mph.  

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How tiny is it?   Let’s just say that circus clown-car duty would not be out of the question.

Yet there are many collectors out there who love itty-bitty cars, and this one would look totally cool in any collection.  Plus, it wouldn’t take up much garage space.

Bantam
The snug interior is beyond simple

The Bantam looks quite clean, and the seller says the engine has been rebuilt, the ignition system upgraded and the interior kept in “excellent condition.”

As well as being tiny in proportion, the asking price is also quite small at $9,995.  Where else could you get such an interesting conversation piece for under $10 grand?

And take note that in January 2017, a well-restored Bantam two-door sedan like this one sold at Barrett-Jackson for $37,400, including auction fee.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

4 COMMENTS

  1. My folks had a 40 Bantam panel truck as our only car for eight years and it served us very well. If I had the money for this one it would be my dream come true and treasured for the rest of my days. It would be driven and enjoyed as it was so much back when I was a kid 70+ years ago.
    This is my ultimate dream car.

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