Lot 101

Arizona 2024

1939 American Bantam Roadster


$49,280 USD | Sold

United States | Phoenix, Arizona



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  • A delightful American microcar with British roots
  • Irresistible styling by Alexis de Sakhnoffsky
  • Charming red and white over white color combination
  • Beloved by celebrities in-period and cherished by collectors today

An affordable, economical, and attractive automobile offered just as the Great Depression was taking hold: This was the idea behind American Austin, which began producing cars based on the successful, British-market Austin 7 in 1930. On paper, it made perfect sense, but the concept failed to find footing with the American public; by 1935, the Butler, Pennsylvania-based concern was defunct.

Undeterred, entrepreneur Roy Evans acquired American Austin’s assets, and American Bantam was born. Working with a limited budget, the new marque retained the Austin’s basic engineering and 75-inch wheelbase, but its small-displacement four-cylinder engine was pepped up somewhat with the able assistance of famed racing engineer Harry Miller. Meanwhile, Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky—praised for his work on far larger and costlier Auburns and Cords—skillfully updated the Bantam line with a streamlined design very much of the moment, earning the princely sum of $300 for his services.

Finished in two-tone red and white over a white interior with black carpeting, this nicely restored 1939 Roadster exemplifies the charm that makes American Bantams so beloved by collectors today. Although its early history is unknown, its dashboard bears a numbered Fergus Motors badge; this New York City-based dealership was a notable purveyor of British sports cars, and it also retailed American Bantam automobiles—an addition that made a certain sense, given the marque’s Anglo roots.

When new, American Bantam’s stylish offerings appealed to celebrities: Ernest Hemingway and Al Jolson were reported owners, and photographs show Buster Keaton posing with a Roadster much like the one offered here. As with the American Austin before it, however, they proved less resonant with the American public, and fewer than 7,000 American Bantams are understood to have been produced. The company may have ceased operation in 1940 had it not developed a pioneering four-wheel-drive military reconnaissance car—a creation that would come to be known as the Jeep!

Whether you are an acolyte of Alexis de Sakhnoffsky’s dramatic designs or simply desire an adorable, well-engineered microcar for sunny-day drives, this American Bantam Roadster would no doubt make for a welcome, and utterly charming, addition to a garage of any size.