Happy New Model Year!

Happy new year!  With the year comes aspirations for the future and welcomed new beginnings.  There are enough other blog posts about personal relationships with the changing of the year, so this one is about the changing of the model year at the American Bantam Car Co.

Below are some photos which have long since been torn from their original binding.  Where they were originally, who knows.  The seller’s father worked for Bantam and appears to have taken home some fantastic prizes.  Take a look through the photos below before I attempt to blow your mind.

1940 Bantam Roadster Factory Photo

Click here to see the roadster factory photo.

1940 Bantam Panel Factory Photo

Click here to see the Panel factory photo.

1940 Bantam Station Wagon Factory Photo

Click here to see the Wagon factory photo.

 

1940 Bantam Convertible Coupe Factory Photo

Click here to see the Hollywood factory photo.

1940 Bantam Master Coupe Factory Photo

Click here to see the Master Coupe factory photo.

1940 Bantam Convertible Sedan Factory Photo

Click here to see the Riviera factory photo.

 

1940 Bantam Pickup Truck Factory Photo

Click here to see the pickup factory photo.

Okay, so now that you’ve had a chance to look at the photos, don’t they seem a bit familiar?  For the carry over body styles, these are the photos that were used as 1938 and 1939 press photos and brochure images.  If my computer wasn’t glitchy, I would be showing you a side by side comparison of the earlier images and these.  If you look closely, you’ll see that each car has had the silver bomber drawn onto an existing photo.  The roadster photo had two women edited out of it, fender trim added, 38 bumper guards retained, hood trim deleted, part of its shadow removed, and it is now a right hand drive vehicle.  The exact same people are sitting in the Master Coupe posed in the exact same manner as they were in 1938. What other similarities can you find?

The Genuine Parts Company (NAPA) Bantam Fleet and more!

Genuine Parts Company, NAPA, once had a fleet of American Austins and Bantams.  If you turn to the back of your American Austin Bantam Club Authenticity Manual, there is a black and white photo of a Bantam based open delivery car.  If you ever wondered how extensive their fleet was, take a look at this photo:

Genuine Parts Napa Bantam fleet.jpg

A careful look will expose 1 Panel truck, 2 Pickup trucks (square back style), 6 modified open Austins, and 2 modified open Bantams.  The first open Bantam has 11 written on the cowl, so this may be the entire fleet.

To head over to ebay to see the full sized photo, click here.

The May Theater American Austin Advertising car:

While I greatly like this photo and would love to see more details of this car, the stamp on the rear of the photo is what really captivates me.  Someone, likely the owner, appears to have sent this photo to the American Austin Car Co. and it was received in April of 1931.  Perhaps they hoped to see it in an Austin advertisement, or perhaps they were just proud owners.  Either way, this is an undeniably cool car.  Too many people think you need to have an Austin or Bantam Pickup or Panel truck if you want to advertise your business.  However there are so many Austin coupes that were utilized that the honest truth is that any Austin or Bantam will get the attention you’re looking for!

To check out this photo on eBay, click here.

American Austin Motometer

For those of you with an Austin who happen to be curious how hot your Thermosyphon engine is running, this nifty Motometer may be just the thing you’re looking for.

Interestingly, the font on the logo appears to vary from most Austin literature, the grille badges, and the tire covers.

To view the Motometer, click here.

Friday the Thirteenth, Bantam Edition

Just when you think you’ve seen every possible iteration that Bantam may have produced, more beautiful photos emerge in crisp black and white.  This morning serves as a reminder that you never know what sort of things the factory was considering before rolling out the production 63 Series cars with the headlamps nestled deeper within the fender.  The photos posted on eBay are professional photos which are clearly staged and seem to be far more than just a styling exercise and are something I would venture to guess may have been originally destined for marketing materials.  However, I’ve never seen these photos published, have you?

The Speedster:

1939 Bantam Speedster Photo

Let’s see how many differences we can find from standardized Series 63 cars:

1) larger stainless trim on the hood taking up far more real estate than what was actually used

2) Series 60 style bumper guards were mounted fore and aft (Interestingly, our 1939 roadster project which is for sale had this same style of bumper guard mounted on it when found)

3) the stainless trim on the fender skirt is entirely different from the standard issue with the three horizontal strips eschewed in favor of one single piece underscoring the bottom border of the skirt

4) chrome rocker moldings!

5) That tonneau cover is pretty snazzy if you ask me!

Honorable mention:  That single pinstripe outlining the upper part of the cove is also identical to what our 1939 roadster project sports.

The Coupe:

1939 Bantam Coupe Photo

  1. There’s that wide trim again!
  2. How about those sporty black painted bumpers?  I believe the look of having everything painted black is called “murdered” these days.  Was Bantam the pioneer of this?
  3. Look at the sheen of the upholstery.  Was this seat covered in vinyl or leather?
  4. Is this car missing the Bantam badge on the upper portion of the grille?

Honorable mention:  This car actually has a front license plate frame!  How many of us have been looking for one of these?

The Boulevard delivery:

Bantam Boulevard Delivery

It’s unclear if this photo was taken at the same time as the others, but it is an interesting vantage point of the boulevard delivery.  If so, it may illustrate that the delivery was more in keeping with the commercial cars than the passenger ones as it features the earlier style grille and hood.

The only thing that has caught my eye is that this photo clearly captures the special seat back utilized on these cars to allow for a driver to open the rear cargo hold as you can see in this photo of a restored delivery:

boulevard delivery seat back.jpg

Click here to see the mystery Bantam factory photos

Press Photo of a Belgium Bantam Sedan

A pair of press photos has appeared on eBay from the same seller who had listed the original BRC parts book, Eddie Rickenbacker photo, and possibly NOS emblem.  One photo is a press photo of a 1939-1940 round bed pickup truck that has been circulating on eBay for ages.   You may be familiar with it: American Bantam press photo Round Bed pickup

However, the second photo is more interesting.  It is a photo of a custom bodied Bantam flanked by nature and backed by a body of water.  It is picturesquely posed and strikingly European looking.  The roof line appears to have been extended slightly to potentially accommodate rear passengers in greater comfort and the side panels appear to have an interesting lack of reflectivity.  Here is the photo:

American Bantam press photo Sedan European

Someplace on the internet, there are a few photos of a similar car which attributed it to Belgium.  However I cannot find the link to share.  Yet, if you have a copy of the AABC Authenticity manual, a 3/4 shot of this car is featured on page 134.  The coachwork is apparently the work of Metropolitan Cammell-Weymann Motor Bodies, Ltd. of London and comprises canvas stretched over wood framing.  The ultimate destination of these custom bodies was Belgium and the Authenticity Manual goes into greater depth.

If you don’t have an Authenticity Manual, you should consider picking one up from the AABC club store.

If you’re interested in making this press photo part of your collection, click here to see the custom bodied Bantam..

Welcome Back / Black Friday

Hectic is a word that I find myself using more as I get older.  Work is hectic.  Life is hectic.  Yada yada.  Hectic isn’t bad, it just means that we have to keep our priorities in check.  My last post here was on July 16.  Since then, I’ve thought about posts, but just haven’t had the chance as so many other things were given priority over updating the blog.  In all honesty, there also haven’t been too many amazingly interesting items on eBay.  So, we haven’t missed out on too much.

Today, there are a few neat items which I’ll get to below.  However, I’ll get to a bit of housekeeping first.  Parts reproduction efforts are still going at full bore.  We completed a short production run of new brake cables which have mostly found homes at this point.  There will be a few surprise items coming out early next year.  The locating service has helped several eager Bantam enthusiasts find the cars of their dreams.  Most of our used parts have been sorted and are awaiting final inventorying in order to be readily available for you.  We have added a few new cars to the showroom.  We are also working on aggregating more information for our virtual library.

Just as rust never sleeps, neither do we!  So, with that, welcome back!

If you’re still reading, you may be interested in the following items:

Bantam BRC Parts Book:

The owner asserts that his father worked at the American Bantam Car Co. until 1941.  This is presumably an original book.

Click here to seethe Bantam BRC Parts Book

American Bantam Grille Badge:

Please note the badge does have some damage visible from the one photo of the face.  The chrome appears to be entirely worn off in the boxed area and scuffed where the lines are drawn.  The enameling appears to have some slight dimpling, but it is difficult to tell from these photos.

American Bantam Emblem damage

Click here to see the Bantam Emblem

American Bantam Eddie Rickenbacker Press Photo:

Click here to see the American Bantam Eddie Rickenbacker Press Photo

Many Happy Returns of the Day

After Roy S. Evans, there was Francis Fenn.  Each man sought, in their own way, to turn Bantam’s Butler factory into a productive and profitable machine.  You can read more about Mr. Fenn here and here.  A lot of the history I am familiar with describes Evans as the initial savior of the little car company that could.  However, there were several key people who were in charge of steering the company to eventual profitability during the war.

While all has been quiet on this page for a while, our shelves are being rebuilt and stocked, this morning something appeared which I needed to share.  So, please forgive my absence and enjoy this  simple but elegant book with F.H. Fenn scrawled on its cover:

FH Fenn's scrapbook 1

Apparently, in 1943, some of the American Bantam Car Co.’s workers put together a scrap book commemorating Mr. Fenn’s efforts with the company and their thankfulness for his time at the helm.

The seller has shared some of its magnificent photos which some of us may have never seen before.

Photos of factory workers and administrative officers abound.

Along with a pair of factory photos, with one photo illustrating civilian car crankcases and another showing the dutiful BRC/firetruck which still exists.

 

While the starting price is a hefty $500, the action kindly shares a few photos with us.  The entry price and lack of seller feedback may thwart some people from buying this, but it’s the sort of thing that deserves to be in a collection where it will be both preserved and shared with Bantam enthusiasts.

FH Fenn's scrapbook 93

 

Click here to see Mr. Fenn Scrapbook

The Austin Saleman’s Trophy

A cocky alloy rooster perched haughtily atop a cast aluminum base.  Polished to produce a glint in any potential customer’s eyes, it was clear that this rooster meant business.  Wouldn’t it mean business to have it perched atop your sporty roadster?  Wouldn’t it give other motorists the idea that your bantam car packed more than pint sized power?  You’d probably dole out the additional few dollars for the Custom Line Austin or if that was too much you may just buy the accessory cap.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a trophy per se back in the day, but this ash tray is marvelous.  Given that the base has a corresponding casting number to the Rooster, it is likely that these two pieces have been long time mates.  My best estimation is that this served as a promotional piece to help Austin dealers up sell potential buyers or served as some sort of reward for successful sales agencies.  Personally, my money is on the former.  So, it probably padded his wallet and was quite the piece to hang onto.

Many experts agree that these roosters were originally available in a pewter toned finish which was a product of not polishing the casting.  This is what an original NOS unit looks like:

Austin Rooster Mascot

Posted to the AABC Facebook group by Cathy Cunningham, the Rooster perched above an ash tray is quite a find.  As you’ll see below, this rooster (who has likely been exposed to decades of secondhand smoke) is a bit more polished and glamorous looking.

American Austin Rooster Ash Tray 1

Yet, both the NOS cap and the polished rooster share similar casting numbers and mounting means:

 

In a slightly zoomed out photo, you can see that the casting number on the ash tray base has a similar suffix as the rooster cap itself, indicating that the base was likely designed to compliment the cap around 1933 rather than being a more modern addition.

American Austin Rooster Ash Tray 92

The cap is AA-2840 while the base is 2840 (Thanks for catching this Drew)

 

The seller has rejected offers of over $500 and is waiting to see where the auction goes.  As of now the starting bid is $425 with a little over two days left until the hammer falls.

So, even if this wasn’t a salesman’s trophy, perhaps it will be the trophy of your collection.

Click here to see the American Austin Rooster Ash Tray

A Brief Interlude

It has been over a month since our last post.  Fret not, we are in the process of moving our inventory to a new warehouse.  In the next months, our items will be better inventoried and easier to access to meet your needs.  Thank you very much for checking in!

Back to the Drawing Board

Perhaps wrangled from some dingy long forgotten corner, a Pepsi drinker in Ohio has unearthed a wrinkled, soiled, and cigarette burned piece of paper 35 inches by 15 inches.  Imprisoned in a glass cell thinly trimmed in black molding is a yellow and black doodle of a somewhat familiar profile flanked by light pencil sketches of  a foreign face and rump of the same object.  The object is a landau iron embellished yellow coupe with black fenders.  It is a drawing by an artist of some skill and the seller is seeking several thousand dollars for it.  Here it is, as presented for sale for the first time:

American Austin Concept Drawing 1

The seller included a few close ups of the drawing to highlight the front and rear sketches as well as the damage.  Unfortunately, the best shot of the artist’s style is in the zoomed in photo of the damage to the sketch.

From the listing:  “HERE IS A NICE OLD ORIGINAL ARTWORK DRAWING OF A 1929 AMERICAN AUSTIN CABRIOLET STYLE CAR BODY BUILT BY HAYES BODY COMPANY OF DETROIT. ORIGINAL DRAWING ATTRIBUTED TO ALEXIS de SAKHNOFFSKY BUT NOT SIGNED OR MARKED AS IS THE CASE WITH A MAJORITY OF CONCEPT CAR DRAWINGS. I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS MODEL WAS EVER MADE, IT SHOWS A WHEEL BASE OF 85″ AND HEIGHT OF 61″, AMERICAN AUSTIN HAD WHEEL BASE OF 75″. THIS DRAWING IS POSSIBLY ONE OF THE FIRST MADE IN AMERICA BY SAKHNOFFSKY  SHOWING HIS LONG AND LOW APPROACH THAT HE ALSO DESIGNED FOR PACKARD, CORD, AUBURN, LaSALLE AND AMERICAN BANTAM.

PLEASE NOTE THERE ARE NO MARKINGS ON THIS DRAWING FOR AUSTIN, AMERICAN AUSTIN, HAYES BODY CORP. OR ALEXIS de SAKHNOFFSKY .

BODY STYLE AND SIZE  ATTRIBUTES THIS TO THOSE COMPANIES AND PERSONS.

FRAME SIZE IS 36″ X 15″ , DRAWING IS AGAINST FRONT GLASS, WE HAVE NOT ATTEMPTED TO REMOVE FROM FRAME, DRAWING HAS WRINKLES AND CIGARETTE BURNS AND STAINS, DRAWING SHOWS HAND COLORED SIDE VIEW AND PENCIL FRONT AND REAR VIEW WITH SOME DIMENSIONS AND FIGURE OF BOWTIE MAN STANDING NEXT TO CAR.”

Regarding authenticity, I have some doubts.  While I can appreciate art but I am by no means an expert.  I cannot tell you if this is actually the work of the Count, but to my lay eyes it appears to be drawn in a different style.  Here are a few authentic examples of his drawing style for comparison:

Bonhams Sakhnoffsky original design

This example sold at Bonhams for around $1,500

Original sketch on antiques roadshow.png

These sketches were featured on Antiques Roadshow.

The next thing to consider is the “cabriolet style” Austin which was eventually built looked like this:

American Austin Cabriolet Factory Photo

There is a vague resemblance, but mostly in the fact that there is a landau bar.  However, the car above is a smaller car with a 75″ wheelbase and no trunk.

Now, think about another Austin Seven derivative.  Think of one having an 85 inch wheel base built around the same time.  The car I’m thinking of is the Rosengart.  Here is a photo of a 1928 model:

1928 Rosengart

Notice the similarities between this and the drawing?  Click on this photo to see the Wiki page for Rosengart cars.

A lot of the design elements are present in the Rosengart, especially in the proportions as provided in the sketch.  While the actual Rosengart is missing some of the smooth elegance of the sketch, I would not entirely count it out as the recipient of the design work laid out in black and yellow.

While my rambling are not conclusive one way or another, I wanted to share my thoughts with you to spur on your own.  In the end, the sketch is way over my budget for such extravagances, maybe yours as well.  Either way, we should be thankful that the owner shared it with us.

To see the ebay listing, click here Austin or Rosengart Sketch

Prairie Homes, Falling Water, and Cherokee Red

Frank Lloyd Wright, the ubiquitous American has had a deluge of words dedicated to his life, his work, and his unique vision for American life.  More than a half century after his death, he is still a source of conversation, study, and interest.  While I can revel at the magnificence of the Darwin Martin home, I am more interested in FLW’s preference for American Bantams.

If you are a member of the AABC, Cathy Cunningham authored an article delving deeply into Wright’s large fleet of tiny cars. (“The Wright Bantams for the Job”, The American Austin Bantam Club News, Vol. 37, No. 6, November – December 1999, pgs 6-9).  Cathy’s article points to a number of then extant accounts of FLW’s fellows who were part of the traveling caravan of Bantams.  Since the publishing of her article, another book has been written purely about Frank Lloyd Wright’s automotive choices.

There is a member of the clubs who has a Station Wagon which is purported to have been the FLW station wagon.  The only problem is that the previous owner merely relied on an oral history of the car and did not have the paperwork to support its provenance.  Although the American Bantam Car Co. had some great records of cars which were built, no records appear to have survived indicating who originally purchased a vehicle.  It seems that a lot of that information was kept in the hands of the specific dealers and would have only made it to the factory if the original warranty information made its way back to Butler.

In Cathy’s article, there is a photo at the bottom of one page showing the fleet in a 1938 Bantam salesman’s showbook.  Here is the photo:

Frank Lloyd Wright Bantams cropped

As I don’t have a copy of this showbook, I do not know the information that was originally attached to this photo.  However, by accident I stumbled upon the original publication of this photo:

Frank Lloyd Wright Bantams

The original fleet was sold by Madison-Bantam Sales at 531 State St, in Madison, Wisconsin.  (Please be careful when you try to look at this address on Google Street View.  I appear to have interrupted some sort of meditation class).

531 state st

Oops, this would be the class.

In any event, the clipping above is from the November 20, 1938 Wisconsin State Journal as you can see below:

November 1938.png

This would tend to show that Frank Lloyd Wright’s Station Wagon needed to be built and delivered in Madison prior to November 20, 1938.  As such, the latest possible Wagon which could have been his would be 62922.  So, it would seem that around 60 Wagons could have possibly been Wright’s.  Maybe it would be a good time to take a look under the hood of your car and see if it’s yours.

For more reading on FLW’s cars, you may be interested in this book:

The Car Is Architecture

Click here to view The Car Is Architecture – A Visual History of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 85 Cars