Hershey

Hershey Lodge
8 - 9 October 2015
Lot 180

1938 American Bantam Roadster

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$27,500 USD | Sold

United States | Hershey, Pennsylvania

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Chassis No.
6140638
  • An original American microcar!
  • Charming condition
  • The hit of any show
language

22 bhp, 50 cu. in. inline four-cylinder engine with single-barrel carburetor, three-speed manual transmission, solid front beam axle with transverse leaf-spring suspension, live rear axle with quarter-elliptical leaf-spring suspension, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 74.5 in.

Few manufacturers before or since have believed in their product as much as Roy Evans did. The creator of the American Austin refused to give up after the tiny little car failed in 1934, and by 1937, a revised and modernized version, the American Bantam, was rolling out of the factory in Butler, Pennsylvania. The car’s basic 50-cubic inch, four-cylinder engine was pepped up somewhat, with the able assistance of famed racing engineer Harry Miller, while Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky skillfully updated the Bantam line with an up-to-date, streamlined design, earning the princely sum of $300 for his services.

The Bantam, like the Austin before it, was a car ahead of its time. It was small, incredibly economical, and, for lack of a better word, adorable. Those qualities, which work so well for sales of today’s small cars, did not impress buyers of the late 1930s. Fewer than 7,000 were produced before production ended for good in 1941. Sadly, it was shortly before many Bantam buyers came to appreciate the fuel-sipping little runabouts in the days of rationing ahead. The company’s lasting influence was, in its final months, developing a small prototype military vehicle, with mass-production being handled by Ford. It would come to be known as the jeep.

Today, Bantams have developed quite a following among enthusiasts, as they are supported by an active club and always bring the most “smiles per mile” to any collector car event.

The roadster offered here has wonderful visual appeal created by its factory-inspired two-tone paint scheme, with red over white in a “sweep panel” pattern, and a handsome red interior with white-faced instrumentation. The cheerful appearance is set off by rear fender skirts over color-keyed wheels with chrome hubcaps and trim rings, wide whitewall tires, a tan removable top, dual mirrors, dual taillights, windshield “wind wings,” and a stylish radiator ornament.

An older cosmetic restoration that has begun to mellow, it has benefitted from recent fettling, including restoration of the fuel tank and gauge and restoration of the ignition system with the original points-type ignition system. Everyone loves a Bantam, and this is an especially loveable example.