cars & values
Welcome to the world's first organization dedicated exclusively to the restoration and preservation of American Austin
and Bantam vehicles that were built in Butler, Pennsylvania. The club welcomes owners and fans of American Austin,
American Bantam, Bantam Reconnaissance Cars, as well as the English Austin Seven and its derivatives.
American Austin began with the Great Depression
The Austin Seven is the
ancestor of American Austin
and Bantam cars
The roots of all American Austin and
Bantam vehicles can be traced to a
single ancestor - the Austin Seven. Its
creator, Herbert Austin, was born in
Missenden, England, in 1866. By age
21, he had grown to become a
talented mechanical engineer. In
1887, he gained notoriety for
improving sheep-shearing machine
designs for Wolseley, an Australian
firm that went on to market its own line
of automobiles. Austin resigned from
Wolseley in 1904 and launched The
Austin Motor Company in England.
Herbert Austin & the 1922 Austin Seven
The Austin Seven Chummy was "The Motor
At first, Austin built large cars.
However, taxes that were levied
against motors based on horsepower
caused him to introduce the
7-horsepower Austin Seven in 1922.
The Austin Seven took Europe by
storm. Licensed versions were sold in
Germany as the Dixi, and in France
as the Rosengart.
Austin hoped for even greater
success in the United States. In 1929,
the American Austin Car Company
was incorporated in Delaware and a
development office was opened in
Austin Seven and its derivatives are
welcome at American Austin Bantam
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This 1932 American Austin is the only authentic Cabriolet known to
exist. The model featured a padded top and landau irons.
American Austin 1930-1935. The American Austin Car Company was established in 1929 to
build a licensed version of the English Austin Seven. The firm occupied the vacant Standard
Steel Car Company factory in Butler, Pennsylvania. Design proposals by Amos Northrup and
Count Alexis deSahknoffsky were considered. Austin contracted with the Hayes Body Works
to build deSahknoffsky's designs in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The bodies were shipped to
Butler for assembly onto completed chassis.
During the January 1930 New York Auto Show, American Austin held a private exhibition in a
nearby hotel lobby. Two hand-built prototypes were on display - a coupe and a "special
delivery" (business coupe). By August, the sales department reported advance orders of
184,000 vehicles. However, the crippling effect of the Great Depression caused 95% of those
orders to be cancelled.
American Austin production limped along disappointingly through 1934. Fewer than 20,000
cars and trucks hit the highway. Only a skeleton crew remained on staff into 1935.
In 1936, a new organization was formed to build an updated, more powerful version of the
American Bantam bodies were stylish and streamlined
BMW's Dixi was Germany's licensed version
of the Austin Seven.
The sporty Rosengart was France's version.
Mechanically, the 1932 Datson (later Datsun)
was inspired by the Austin Seven but was
not similar enough to require a license from
Austin. The body design - particularly the
shape from the cowl forward - was more
similar to the American Austin.
American Bantam 1938-1940. American Austin Car Company president Roy S. Evans
reorganized his firm in 1936 as the American Bantam Car Company. Mechanical
improvements meant his cars were no longer licensed versions of the original Austin Seven.
Initially, Thomas Hibbard redesigned the bodies and production was anticipated for 1936, but
a financial setback delayed production. Ultimately, Hibbard's designs were not used.
This delay allowed Evans to solicit new streamlined designs from Alexis deSahknoffsky.
American Austin body shell stampings were retained, but fenders, grilles, wheels, interiors and
other details were updated. New body styles were added.
Unfortunately, a significant market for economy cars would not develop in America for two more
decades. Only about 6,700 Bantams were built before civilian production ceased in June, 1940
to make way for military work.
This 1940 American Bantam roadster with its 3-main engine is among
the most desirable of all body styles.
Bantam's ingenuity resulted in the world's first 'jeep'
The U.S. Army tested the Bantam BRC pilot in rugged conditions.
Bantam Reconnaissance Cars - 1940-1941. A military version of the Austin Seven was
quite useful to the English army, so the United States tested an American Austin roadster
pickup in 1932. Later, military representatives tested American Bantam roadsters and
pickups, too. Unfortunately, the civilian vehicles were not built for cross-country abuse.
In 1940, the American Bantam Car Company and United States Army officials collaborated on
specifications for an ideal military "midget car". Soon after, the government invited 130
manufacturers to compete for rights to build it. Only two companies voiced serious interest -
Willys-Overland and American Bantam. Rights were awarded to Bantam, and a prototype was
due in just 49 days.
Bantam delivered its first BRC (Bantam Reconnaissance Car) to Camp Holabird, Maryland, on
September 23, 1940. Men from Willys and Ford, who were on hand to witness the torture tests,
rushed back home to develop similar prototypes. As Bantam completed its intial order of 69
round-nosed BRC-60s, Willys and Ford developed their prototypes, too. All three jeeps
displayed individual merits and all three companies received contracts. Bantam protested but
the deal was done.
Left: Bantam's 1941 BRC-60 had round noses and squared fenders. Right: The 1941
BRC-40, Bantam's production jeep, had a flat nose.
About 2,600 orders for revised flat-nosed Bantams, called BRC-40s, were placed before a
new standardization policy was enacted. Standardization meant that all future "jeeps" would be
Willys, and Ford would help build them. Bantam built jeep military trailers for the rest of the war.
Bantam tested the trailer
market in 1938.
Bantam's BT3 military jeep trailer had a
pintle hitch, rugged tires and no tailgate.
Trailers and other products.
1938-1948. Bantam tested the trailer
market in 1938 with utility and camper
trailers created from panel truck body
After losing the jeep contracts in
1941, American Bantam survived by
building BT3 one-quarter-ton military
cargo trailers on its assembly line.
Larger one-ton units were also built.
Bantam was officially out of the
motorized vehicle business.
After the war, production continued on
the BT3-C, a small civilian trailer that
featured a drop-down tailgate and a
Few people know that Bantam
manufactured Supercargo semi
trailers and a major customer was
Lustron homes. From 1948 to 1949,
the Butler plant manufactured
Newgren farm implements to pull
behind Willys jeeps.
With the exception of a government
contract for Army and Navy
snowplows in 1953, the plant was all
but idle. By 1956, Bantam was
dissolved and its property was sold to
(c) 2017. American Austin Bantam Club. No portion may be reproduced without permission.
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