Bantam Jeep Prototype, 1940

Bantam Jeep Prototype, 1940

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In 1940, the American Bantam Car Company of Butler, Pennsylvania constructed 62 quarter-ton, four-wheel-drive trucks. This is one of the prototypes of the famous army vehicle known as the Jeep. During World War II, when the army was looking for a vehicle to replace the motorcycle as a mechanized form of transportation, it came up with the Jeep. Willys-Overland Motors, the Ford Motor Company, and the Bantam firm produced jeeps in large numbers. According to one newspaper account, about 660,000 were made. Jeeps were incredibly important to the war effort and became for many a symbol of American ingenuity. The museum's Bantam, bearing serial number 1007, was number 7 of the 62. It was delivered to the Army on November 29, 1940, and transferred to the museum in 1944.
Currently on loan
Object Name
Automobile, 1/4 Ton, 1940
truck, Bantam
Other Terms
Automobile, 1/4 Ton, 1940; Road; Automobile
date made
American Bantam Car Company
place made
United States: Pennsylvania
overall: 128 in x 63 in x 59 in; 325.12 cm x 160.02 cm x 149.86 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
United States War Department
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
America on the Move
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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I have only seen one Bantam BRC. It was in the US Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia. I do not know which model number it was. I knew that Bantam was the selected builder of the three, but because of the capacity of their factory and the price difference, the main contract was given to Willys Overland with the sub-contract to Ford. Does anyone know what engine was used in the 3000+ Bantams Jeeps built?
According to most sources, Bantam used a Continental 112 cubic inch 4 cylinder engine.
I was living in California and happened to go to the Harrahs antique car museum in 1971-72 and saw a bantam jeep and found out it was made in butler pa and I was born in Butler pa and had lived in pa all my life. I never knew there was a car plant there at all.
Same, born in Butler raised in Pittsburgh and never knew until this weekend when we visited Hienz History Center!
The car plant later after ww2 turned into just making trailers then later just closed up. There was also a rail car manufacturer in butler Pullman standard.
Bantam developed the Jeep in partnership with the US Army. Several design and production generations were created. In total Bantam produced about 3600 Jeeps. Bantam secured third party production with Checker Cab Manufacturing in Kalamazoo, Michigan, but that was not enough to convince the US Army that Bantam could fulfill the order
I've done a little reading about Bantam's development of the Jeep. What I've read is that the contract for the Jeep developed by Bantam was given to Ford and Willys. Bantam was judged not large enough to build jeeps in the quantity needed. Bantam was given the contract for Jeep trailers as a consolation prize. If this is generally correct, I'm surprised Bantam wasn't entitled to royalties for every jeep built by Ford and Willys. I have never heard that Bantam was involved in building Jeeps in large numbers.
You are correct and I believe they should have as well. Is so they might have still been around today
Yours is a similar story I heard from my aunt. My Grandfather helped solve the clutch steering problems on the original prototype built in Butler. They won the bid, but the plant was too small - Bantam went bankrupt. I have a copy of the photo with all the gentlemen involved in the prototype standing around the JEEP. One of the gentleman pulled my grandfather into the photo and said without him there would be no JEEP.
This is amazing information about the Jeep, that I never knew! I've been a Jeep enthusiast my whole life. I just purchased a 2020 Gladiator and was looking for military-style decals, and came across this fact. I live in Tunkhannock, PA, and was surprised to find that PA was the birthplace of the Jeep! THANKS!!!

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