August 2, 1937

Not to sound ignorant, but I thought I had a late American Austin engine in my roadster.  It began life as a fire pump, it has an M series number stamped in it.  The casting date is either later 1934 or early 1935.  It seemed to me that the engine may have even post dated car production.  According to the AABC Authenticity Manual, the model 1935 model year (series 475) was built in 1934.  1,003 cars were built in that series.  Beyond that, all car production likely stopped while the company regrouped.

Yesterday, for lack of something better to do, I opened up an eBay ad for an engine crankcase which has been listed for probably over a year at this point.  It was once part of a rolling chassis with drive line which had a number of 375 characteristics. I don’t need another Austin crankcase, so I don’t even know why my curiosity was sparked by this one.

1937 Austin Crankcase 1

Here is a zoomed in shot of the casting date:

1937 Austin Crankcase 4

That’s right, August 2, 1937.  Historically, American Austin / Bantam Car Co. was in an interesting position.  It had a failed stock offering the year before, it had Harry Miller on the books, and it was preparing to build the next iteration of small car.  Rumors persist that Harry Miller helped the American Bantam Car Co. develop a modified engine which would help the fledgling company eschew royalty payments to Austin of England. While my historical time line is not exact, these items were all moving toward a car which was very different mechanically.

According to the AABC Authenticity Manual, Austin engines were produced from 1930-1935 with Bantam engines being introduced in 1938.  Hempfling’s log indicates that the first Bantam car was built on December 28, 1938 and two years ago an odd frame emerged which was allegedly part of a 1937 Bantam prototype pickup.  **Edit 11/11/2018: I decided to look at two of my early 1938 blocks today.  Both 60 Series engines from early 38 coupes.  One had a casting date of mid-October 1937. The other engine, which was featured in the engine Autopsy post of a few years ago, featured no casting date.**

So what is this engine?  It has an “L” number stamped with a different font style than what appears on original L series engines and it appears to be stamped in a slightly different place.

It would seem odd that a cash strapped company would actually tool up to have new replacement blocks cast for a car which was eight model years old and had been out of production for three years.  The 1938 Bantam parts catalog lists an ACJF 1306 as an Austin Crankcase which was available for $30.00.

What is this engine?  Was Bantam originally planning to use its original Austin engines initially for its relaunched car line?  Was Bantam hoping to make some additional money by selling parts for obsolete cars?

Perhaps someone has or had a definitive answer and any thoughts would be appreciated.  To see the late 1937 American Austin crank case, click here: Late American Austin Crankcase.


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