Building a Better Bantam: 1940 Badges

In this installment of Building a Better Bantam, I am giving an update on a project introduced this past December.  The project was a reproduction effort to recreate the hood side Bantam badges used on Series 65 and 66 cars.  The reasoning behind this effort was that these badges seemed to be generally unobtainable and originals, when found, were expensive and were even more costly to properly recondition.  Rather than just emulate the original, I wanted to go a few steps further and make them better than the originals while visually identical.  Why would I want to improve on the originals?  Take a look at this pair of photos:

After posting about reproducing 1940 Bantam hood side badges, there was a large outpouring of interest in the potential reproductions which has nearly accounted for the entire intended first run.  Interestingly, also after that post, rumors began to surface about there being a large cache of NOS badges someplace that were last seen at a meet decades ago.  Back then, they were under $10 each and came in their original paper wrappings.  While one of our endeavors in the past was temporarily thwarted by the existence of a large collection of similar NOS units in existence, this cache of emblems remained unaccounted for.

The month following the announcement here, an ad ran in one of the club magazines announcing that NOS emblems would be available from another supplier.  Alas, the collection emerged.  The ad indicated that they were available in creme, black, and red; some needing to be repainted.  Then, at the meet in Georgia, another collection of NOS badges appeared.  Both sellers were apparently asking around $45-50 per piece.

The debut of these parts appeared to obviate the need for my reproductions.  However, I was able to get some photos of one of these NOS badges which was still wrapped up in the original tissue paper from the factory.

1940 American Bantam Badge Reproduction NOS 1

Mummified for over a half century, I was very eager to see what was inside.  The anticipation was eating at me.  I couldn’t believe how many times the paper was wrapped around the badge.

1940 American Bantam Badge Reproduction NOS 2

The threads on the rear pins looked fantastic.  I was very eager to see what beauty was lurking inside the yellowed paper.  So, I unfurled the paper the final turn and the face of the badge emerged.

1940 American Bantam Badge Reproduction NOS 3

What happened?  The chrome was cloudy and appeared to have rust coming through the surface.  Surely it was some sort of protective coating.  So I polished and attempted to clean it.  1940 American Bantam Badge Reproduction NOS 4

After those efforts, this is what I was left with.  A decent coat of creme paint, an unbent stamping, but mediocre chrome.  Surely this is great for someone who doesn’t have any badges or someone who has one similar to the lead images in this post.  However, to make this worth of being on the type of car you’re restoring, you would need to strip it entirely, rechrome it, and apply a fresh coat of paint.  While doing that, you’d need to be very careful of its ancient fragile structure.  This motivated me to keep progress moving on my effort.  About a month ago, a box arrived with my samples.  They were all too thin and needed to be re-engineered.  They looked great, but they weren’t correct.

This morning, this box came:

American Bantam Badge Deliver

Eagerly, I dug in to see what this round of samples looked like.  1940 American Bantam Badge Reproduction

That’s pretty snazzy looking in my mind.  It’s not an original or NOS part, but I was impressed with the finished product which the factory sent me.  This could look great on the side of our Sportsman project or the shop Hollywood.  You may be asking, how will this compare to an original.

The coat of red is very close to the original Bantam shade.  From the front, they are identical.  At the reverse, you can see what really sets the new badges apart from the originals.  These emblems are cast from a zinc alloy, allowing them to be rugged.  You should be able to bend them when installing them or dent them if you accidentally drop them.  They won’t crush if something gets pressed against them.  They also wont cut into the surface of your freshly applied coat of paint.  These are, in my mind, part of building a better Bantam.

For comparison sake, here is the creme sample at the bottom and far left of a line up with the smashed original, an original in need of chrome, an NOS unit.  I have a few tests I am looking to conduct on the samples before the final order is placed and the final pricing is announced.  I will be testing another chrome process and the addition of threads to the studs.  However, I will say the pricing will be very competitive with used and NOS units.  To make matters better, besides being available in creme, black, and red, they will also be available in bare chrome so you can paint them to match your car (as the factory intended).

If you’re interested in pre-ordering any badges to make sure you can have your order fulfilled in the first run, please use the contact form here:

Building a Better Bantam: Lynn James’ Rooster Mascot

If you’ve been involved with American Austins and Bantams long enough, the name Lynn James should at least sound familiar.  There are many great qualities that you probably associate with his name and his work.  He is a man who has an eye for detail and one who pays careful attention to it in his craftsmanship.  Over the years he has reproduced numerous impossible to find parts for Austins and Bantams including gaskets, jacks, intake manifolds, steering wheels, fender skirt trim, and many others.  His latest endeavor was introduced publicly in 2014 on the Austin Bantam Society Facebook group.

One member of the group posted a link to an eBay auction for an older reproduction rooster cap.  In reply, Lynn posted a very interesting series of photos, starting with this one:  American Austin Rooster Radiator Cap Original

This satin finished rooster cap was an NOS unit which Lynn was lucky enough to come across.  If you look carefully, you can see the original casting flash on the parting line of the piece and the fantastic detail of an original.  As earlier reproductions lack the fantastic detail of the originals and suffer from small discrepancies, Lynn sought to overcome these issues to deliver the finest rooster cap in over 80 years.

American Austin Rooster Radiator Cap Mold

Putting his mold making skills to the test, he began the process of creating a three piece mold to capture the entire piece, including the manufacturer identification information on the bottom.  This mold was used to create a wax copy of the rooster for the purposes of casting the caps in the future.

American Austin Rooster Radiator Cap Wax Mold

The red wax copy was enough to impress most of us on the group and keep us waiting for superb reproductions to be available.

This week, Lynn unveiled this “polished brass” piece which is the magnificent culmination of his efforts:

While this unit was not made from the mold or wax casting shown above, Lynn guided the foundry in their crafting of this modern reproduction.  In his listing, he has said the cap is ready for you to take to the plater of your choice to have finished.  He has modestly said that they are not perfect, but you should check out the photos above and his listing to judge for yourself.

Click here to see Lynn’s magnificent American Austin Reproduction Rooster Cap

The Great Bantam Fuel Pump Mystery

It looks like a pile of junk! Broken bits, corrosion, missing essentials, and wrongly described on ebay; this is an easy engine to look past if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. This isn’t a 1934-1935 Austin engine, it’s actually a 1940 American Bantam three main bearing engine; the famous Hillmaster. However, it is a Hillmaster that had a very hard life.

While it appears that nearly every component modified or compromised in some way, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it is a three main bearing engine of which approximately only 1000 were made. If enough people are interested, I can post some comments on the condition of the lot itself so you can have a better idea of what you’re bidding on. However, that isn’t the reason I’m posting this engine. I’m posting it primarily for two reasons.

Firstly, the number 65589 does not appear in the production log. Every other number from 65580-65590 are listed, but this number appears to be entirely absent. Perhaps it was a replacement engine, an industrial engine, mismarked on the log, or even for an export car. There are numerous possibilities.

The second reason this engine is interesting is not only because it has the fuel pump mount opened up, drilled, and tapped but because there is a fuel pump included in the lot. As you probably know, Bantams used a gravity fed fuel system which obviated the need for a fuel pump. However, beginning in 1938 all Bantam crank cases had a provision which was designed to allow a fuel pump to be run and all cam shafts supposedly have a lobe to actuate the pump arm. There have been mentions of fuel pumps in club news letters but never which part was actually used. In recent years, there has been little to no discussion on this matter so the knowledge as to what pump could have been installed has essentially vanished.

Does this information really matter? Probably not. However, if you’re like me and have a couple of engines sitting with gaping holes where fuel pumps can be mounted, you may be interested. If you are building a car which is day one authentic, this probably isn’t too helpful but should still be pretty interesting.

I have a hunch as to what the fuel pump may be and will update you if the hunch is correct.

Click here to see the American Bantam 3 main bearing engine

The Tail End

In 1940, Bantam was nearing the end of its run, but the factory kept improving the cars until the very end.  You would think the factory would have just cranked out cars with whatever parts they had left, but no; that wasn’t the Bantam way.  There is a list of improvements throughout the cars which range from the braking system to the clutch lining mounting.  Some of the 1940 drawings, at least the early ones still exist, but many of the later ones appear to have vanished.  Many of these improved components are hidden safely from the environment by aluminum or steel casings, but some were exposed to heat, salt, water, and inexperienced mechanics; so some can be verified by observing original components while other original bits have been entirely lost.

For over a year, I have been trying to pursue the final improvement to the Bantam exhaust system exclusive to late 65 series cars, a tail pipe that exited out of the side of the car ahead the rear rear wheel. (See AABC Authenticity Manual, at section 249 (2nd Ed.)).  While this may sound exotic and make you think of mid-sixties Corvettes, this setup was not executed nearly as suggestively.   While the Authenticity Manual describes the pipe, it has been very difficult finding out the exact shape of the pipe as well as the exhaust hanger.  Below is a photo from the internet of a nicely done 1940 Riviera showing off its new looking side exit exhaust.

1940 Riviera side exit exhaust

This is a sharp car isn’t it? The person who restored this car should be very proud!

There is a company in Michigan, Waldron’s Exhaust, which sells a stainless steel American Bantam (and presumptively Austin) exhaust system.  However, their setup features slightly larger tubing than the original and only exits at the rear of the car.  This is fantastic news for a majority of Bantam owners, but what about those of us working on the latest and greatest Bantams?

Well, late last week, this crate of wonders came in:

20180611_161803.jpgWhile not quite the lost ark from Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Arc, this large crate was chock full of parts from a late 1940 Bantam Deluxe Coupe.  I had a decent idea of some of the other parts which were supposed to be inside, but after ferociously unpacking it I came across this pleasant surprise:

20180612_130046

This website still directs to TrustInRust.com.

It looks like a rusted piece of junk but it is an original side exit tailpipe and hanger from a 53,000 mile original 1940 Bantam coupe which was parked in the 50’s.  Perhaps information on this unit is out there, but I wasn’t able to find it.  So far as I know, this is one of a very few original tail pipes left.

So what does this mean?  Does it mean we will suddenly start reproducing these bits?  Not necessarily.  There are quite a few other reproduction efforts ahead of this one, however it will be cataloged and preserved to ensure that other enthusiasts have access to the information necessary to pursue economy car perfection.  If you are restoring a 1940 Bantam and need information regarding this unit, feel free to contact us to see how we can help.  This is another way in which we hope to help you build a better Bantam.

I bet you’re wondering what else was in that crate…

Building a Better Bantam Foreword

It has been a bit too long since I have actually done anything substantive on the Shop Project, the Sportsman.  However, the same does not hold true for this website as a whole and the services offered here.  As you know, this website was originally built to make sure that good leads of cars for sale would not die at their expiration.  In nearly four years, this simple site has grown into so much more than that.  With small strides, we are moving into numerous service which you can learn more about by perusing the tabs above.  However, this post is dedicated to building a better Bantam.

What does this Better Bantam phrase mean? Why does the title have foreword in it?  Those are good questions and I’m glad you asked.  I’ll start with the easy one first.  The Foreword is an indication that I am planning to post many more entries under this category.  If you enjoy them and see some utility here, feel free to let me know by following or even emailing me; this way I’ll be a bit more compelled to keep them going.

As to the meaning of the phrase, these posts will be dedicated to not only our efforts but those of other enthusiasts who are seeking to keep the torch burning for American Austins and Bantams.  Unlike the Shop Project posts which work through a specific car at a time, one step at a time, these entries will be not be so strict in their content and order.  Some entries will show you how new parts are being created that overcome the deficiencies of the originals and are intended to outshine their original counterparts in every way.  Other posts will demonstrate simple improvements that may make these 1,200 lb wonders more enjoyable to drive.  A better Bantam is more endurable, more roadworthy, more fun, and easier to repair.  These posts will be introduce you to parts reproduction efforts, technical tips, and improvements for these cars overall; hopefully including photos, videos, and attention capturing content.

The point of these entries will be to chronicle this flourishing hobby and to give you a glimpse into its unique nature.  Seeing how owners and enthusiasts around the world are contributing to the longevity of these cars may be both eye opening and inspirational.  I’ll give a few posts a go, but I welcome your input and contributions.

bantam-avatar wm

Have a great evening!