A lot of you may have cringed previously when seeing my previous post, introducing the Sportsman: our shop project. Here is part 1. That reaction was mostly based upon the condition of the body which will form the basis of this project. While I can wax on about the work that needs to take place in order to get these bits of scrap rolling again, a bit of a story is necessary.
Without delving too deep into Bantam facts and lore, here is the most important part of Bantam history, maybe an exaggeration, besides that whole Jeep thing. Before the Bantam’s exit from civilian car production, Roy Evans, the president of the American Bantam Car company found himself in California. Driving a Bantam roadster around, he wished the car was a little more weatherproof. Seeking better side curtains, he asked around until he was recommended to the right man for the job. That man was Alex Tremulis.
Rather than trying to seal the roadster, Tremulis pitched the idea of an all-weather cabriolet. Evans took to the idea, promising Tremulis a small allotment of money and a standard Bantam donor coupe. Afraid of Evans changing his mind, Tremulis immediately cut the roof off of the coupe so there was no going back. Sure enough, the president tried to change his mind, to only find the car beyond the point of return. With that, Tremulis set to work on what would become the Hollywood, a great Bantam. The visionary designer knew he was designing something special on a shoe string budget.
After taking a little off the top, reshaping the doors, and recycling sections of a REO Royal into a bustle; the coupe was transformed into a Hollywood. Capable hands made short work of the project and the car was a fully functioning convertible. The front sheet metal was standard Bantam issue, but from the windshield back every panel was modified. In the end, it was part tasteful custom and part prototype.
With Evans satisfied with the way the car was turning out, Tremulis wound up with the prototype Hillmaster engine which was new for 1940. The engine boasted 3 main bearings and overall better performance, than its two main bearing predecessor. The engine built upon Harry Miller’s earlier improvements to the American Austin engine again squeezing out nearly 25 percent more power.
As part of the deal to design the car, Tremulis had to deliver the car from his shop in California to the Bantam factory in Butler, Pennsylvania where he had earned a position as the in house designer. Making it to Butler in record time, some changes were made to the little cabriolet’s design before putting it into production. While in Butler, Alex also turned his hand to designing the Bantam Riviera, a 4 place convertible sedan. In total, over 150 of the convertible coupes were built. Out of the passenger cars built for 1940, a large number of them were the redesigned Tremulis models.
You’ve seen some of my “surviving” bits of one of these Tremulis styled Bantams. The Sportsman project will draw upon Alex Tremulis’ concept, the lines of his elegant drawings and the spirit of the car he hand crafted. It will also take the model name of the Supercharged Cord 812 which some attribute to Tremulis. However, there will be some departures from the original Bantam Hollywood body along the way; including constructing and skinning the body in wood similar to the post-war Ford Sportsman.
More to come!