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 prototype.
The Austin Seven Chummy was "The Motor for Millions".
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 Detroit, Michigan.

Austin Seven and its derivatives are welcome at American Austin Bantam Club events.
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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 Austin.
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 panels.

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 civilian ball-hitch.

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 ARMCO Steel.
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