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

Monday morning parts finds

American Bantam Headlight Lenses (pair)

American Bantam Headlight Lenses.jpgClick here to see the American Bantam Headlight Lenses

American Bantam Austin Intake Manifold

Please note the repair to the mounting ear which will need to be cleaned up.

Click here to see the American Bantam Austin Intake Manifold

American Bantam Handle Assortment

Click here to see the American Bantam Handle Assortment

Reproduction Interior American Bantam Window Crank

Reproduction Bantam Window Crank.jpg

Click here to see the American Bantam Window Crank Reproduction

American Bantam Door Handle Reproduction

Reproduction Bantam Door Handle

Click here to see the American Bantam Door Handle Reproduction

American Bantam Generator Mount Bracket

This is a four hole generator mount which should work for late 1938 American Bantams through the end of production.

American Bantam Generator Mount Bracket

Click here to see the American Bantam Generator Mount Bracket

American Austin Bantam Steering Wheel

American Austin Bantam Steering Wheel.jpg

Click here to see the American Austin Bantam Steering Wheel

American Austin Timing Cover

This cover is the correct style for M series American Austin engines.

American Austin Timing Cover.jpg

Click here to see the American Austin Timing Cover

American Austin Generator Mount Distributor

Please note, each American Austin and Bantam engine utilized a distributor having a different advance curve.  While they may look similar and fit similarly, they will not necessarily run the same without modification.

American Austin Generator.jpg

Click here to see the American Austin Generator Mount Distributor

American Austin Steering Box

American Austin Steering Box.jpg

Click here to see the American Austin Steering Box

American Austin Hood Latches

American Austin used two different types of spring loaded hood latches.  However, I don’t have the information handy to explain if these are right for Austins, and if so for what years.  Please check your application.

American Austin Hood Latches

Click here to see the American Austin Hood Latches

American Austin Hood Latches

American Austin used two different types of spring loaded hood latches.  However, I don’t have the information handy to explain if these are right for Austins, and if so for what years.  Please check your application.

American Austin Hood Latches b 1

Click here to see the American Austin Hood Latches

 

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!

Case study in Bantam advertising

As you likely already know, here at EverythingBantam.com (TrustInRust.com) we offer multiple services for the Austin and Bantam enthusiast inside of us all.  Among these services are the advertisement of vehicles for sale in the Virtual Showroom and the curation of a bimonthly Lead Sheet.  The point of these services is to make sure that the people who are in search of a car have an avenue for making their dreams a reality.

Generally, I only include cars listed on eBay on the Lead Sheet and do not place them on the home page.  However, I am making a rare exception this morning as a case study in the efficacy of advertising a Bantam on eBay.

On March 28, 2018, the following car was listed on eBay in the category of Salvage Parts Cars:

Bantam Roadster For Sale NH 6

Click here to see the 1939 Bantam Roadster
Click here to see the third relisting: 1939 American Bantam Relist

The listing offers only a buy it now, and appears to either be of a 30 day duration or of the good until cancelled variety.  The seller is asking $12,000 for the car and has not offered a make offer option on it.  The entirety of the description reads:

“This car is made in America no rot four-cylinder engine 20 Horse power standard does 50 miles an hour good restoration project Motor transmission rear end 100% local pick up as is”

Here are the rest of the photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When publishing advertisements here, I work with the seller to describe their car in detail so the car is appropriately attractive to potential buyers, more easily found through search engine optimization, and so an interested party may be more confident in their potential purchase.  For buyers looking for help in finding a car, we also offer a locating service which helps them find what they are looking for and includes advice in appraising the vehicles being considered.

This roadster looks to be quite complete and in decent shape.  It appears that it has the some of the top bows, part of the original jack, a full set of trim rings, the proper seat, a correct tail light, correct headlights, and other important parts.  At $12,000, this car is a crap shoot, it could provide a great numbers matching car that is complete and in decent enough shape to make an easy restoration, or it is a crap shoot with a seized engine (or worse yet one with a broken crank), shoddy body work under its newer paint, and no papers.  As it is, we just don’t know what the true nature of this car is.

A similar project 1939 Bantam Roadster (one of our own cars) has been listed on eBay in the same category as an experiment.  That car has been listed since early 2017 and after spending some time at the top of the “best match” search results, it quickly faded into an abyss of irrelevant parts ads.  Now, you won’t find that car unless you are specifically looking for it.  Any interest which that car received was in the beginning, appeared to primarily come from people interested in hot rodding it, and any offers were well below reasonable.  I am a huge fan of eBay, but I’ll still not convinced that it is a good place to sell a Bantam.

I see a lot of potential in this pink roadster (although it doesn’t have the curb appeal of the car I wrote about here).  I’m going to watch this car and report back occasionally to update you on its progress in the listing.  I hope the seller is successful and it finds the good home which it deserves.

Click here to see the 1939 Bantam Roadster

4/9/2018 Update:  This car has been relisted two times already.  I didn’t pay much attention to the first relisting, but the second relisting has placed the car for sale as a vehicle and the price has been lowered to $11,800.  Although an American Bantam, the car has been listed in the “Austin”.  It’ll be interesting to see if the seller has any better luck in the 7 day sale format.

You never know where a lead may take you.

At this point, my nationwide Craigslist safari is a morning ritual.  I get used to seeing a lot of the same ads, but on occasion wonderful treasures emerge.  In fact, the primary foundation for my Sportsman project came from Craigslist as did many of the parts for it.  Most of the time, the ad will present an older restoration of an American Austin in a fairly straight forward manner.  However, there is the odd occasion where something extra special will be hidden in plain sight.

This story begins at the end of September.  Just after returning from vacation, I was working to get back into my normal routine.  Slightly out of practice and unfamiliar with whatever listings may have popped up in the previous two weeks, I scoured the results a little harder.  An unlikely title caught my attention:  “Front Bumper for 1942 Bantam pickup truck”.

As you and I know, American Bantam didn’t build any pickups in 1942.  I figured this was likely a crane truck or something.  However, I clicked anyway and was faced with this:

American Bantam Barn Find

That’s not a Bantam front bumper; I guess it could have been added to a Bantam, but that isn’t something which would have been mounted at the factory onto the front of a truck.  Reading further it sounded like other bits may be available, the thought of other pieces being available got me thinking and I immediately texted the seller.  He only had a photo of the grille, but said he’d send it to me later in the day.  I waited with baited breath and eventually received this:

Bantam Grille

I immediately called the seller after he sent me a photo of a really nice 38 Bantam grille.  He began to explain that he was helping a friend sell these parts which belonged to the friend’s grandfather.  After some more prodding, I learned these parts were all sitting in a garage along with the remains of a pickup truck taken apart long ago.  Later that night, he sent a photo of the cowl tag which revealed that the truck was among the first 500 produced.  I asked what his friend wanted for the whole lot and was given a fairly high price; so I asked for more photos.  For his asking price, I needed to know what was really included.

“Not a problem,” he replied “I’ll have them for you tomorrow.”

Suddenly, silence.  The silence turned from days to weeks and I reached out to the seller a few times.  My curiosity got the best of me; what was for sale and what happened to the seller were questions I became very familiar with pondering the possible answers.  Out of the blue, I heard from the seller again and he reiterated the price.  I waited for photos again, but the same sort of thing happened.

Finally, one night several weeks later, I received a slew of text messages from the seller along with a single photo which supposedly showed the truck as it was before the seller began excavating the garage which was holding it hostage.

Here is the photo:

the truck

I spoke at length with the seller that night and it sounded like we were heading in the right direction.  Since it sounded like a lot of cleaning had taken place since the photo was taken, I asked for a couple photos or at least a better description of the bed and fenders which were supposedly in the bed.  Perhaps I asked for too much.

I haven’t given up all hope yet, but I am not too optimistic that I will ever hear back from the seller.  Yet, as you know, I am pretty persistent.   If there are any updates, I will fill you in.  If not, all I can say is good luck little truck, where ever you end up!

Black Friday Austin Bantam Sale?

If you are ready to give your credit cards a work out this week, here is a good place to start!

American Austin Instruction Manual

American Austin Instruction Manual

Click here to see the American Austin Instruction Manual Sold for 30.00

1969 American Austin Bantam Club Annual Meet Bumper sticker

1969 American Austin Bantam Club Annual Meet Bumper sticker

Click here to see the 1969 American Austin Bantam Club Annual Meet Bumper sticker Sold for 15.00

American Austin Radiator Badge

American Austin Radiator Badge

Click here to see the American Austin Radiator Badge Sold for 58.00

American Austin Radiator Badge 2

American Austin Radiator Badge 2

Click here to see the American Austin Radiator Badge Sold for 129.99

America Austin Bantam Tow Truck & Tractor photos

austin tow truck and tractor 1

Click here to see the America Austin Bantam Tow Truck & Tractor photos Sold for 23.51

America Austin or Bantam Wrist Pins

Click here to see the America Austin or Bantam Wrist Pins

American Austin Key Fob/ trinket

American Austin Badge Fob 3

Click here to see the American Austin Badge Fob  Sold for 33.00

American Bantam Clutch Plate

American Bantam Clutch Plate

Click here to see the American Bantam Clutch Plate Sold for 19.99

If it seems too good to be true…

As a change of pace, I am telling you not to bid on something.  In fact, I’m writing this as a warning to prevent you from being scammed. A little bit ago, a seller on eBay listed an American Bantam Car Co. employee badge. Here is a photo of it:

American Bantam Car Co badge 1

It is listed for $19.57 and is a buy it now listing with free shipping.  This sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it?  Perhaps we should consider comparable listing to see how good of a deal it is.

An employee badge sold on October 7, 2017 for $427.22 after a very intense bidding war.
Click here to see the listing:  American Bantam Car Co. Employee Badge

That item was coming from Pittsburgh, PA and looked like this:

American Bantam Car Co badge 1

Wait a minute, that’s the same badge; not only the same badge, but the same photo of the same badge!  Either some benevolent soul in 阳泉市, China appears to have purchased this to give one of us other enthusiasts a chance at a real bargain or this listing was made by a malevolent individual to make an easy $20.

While I don’t know for certain, I know that I’ll be keeping my $19.57 in my pocket and will wait patiently for the next listing and suggest you should do the same.

For your reference, here is a photo of the bogus listing:

screenshot-48.png

It’s October, Are You Ready For Herhsey? Part II

I decided to break this post into a few segments to better sort the eBay offerings.  The previous post highlighted memorabilia, this one focuses on parts.  If parts and collectibles aren’t what you’re after, follow up for part three, the car corral.  That will be up a little later.

The same seller who has the employee badges also is offering a fairly well preserved American Austin badge which appears to have most of the retention clip in tact.

Click here to bid on the American Austin Grille Badge

Presumably from the same collection is a nice Bantam emblem.  It is hard to see if the enameling has any gouges or scratches from the photos, but it definitely seems to have some visible damage to the chrome.  However, most of the enameling on the back of the badge appears to have survived.  This one is already priced higher than the beautiful recreations by Bill Spear.

American Bantam Grille Badge 1

Click here to bid on the original American Bantam Grille Badge (I know I did :D)

However, if you want a badge which will not require restoration, you may want to consider one of these:

bantam-grille-badge-spear

Which can be purchased for $18 (while supplies last) at Wm. Spear Design.

Perhaps you need something of a more mechanical nature.  Then you may wish to consider these Bantam friction shock absorbers.  These are correct for all 1938-1939 Bantams and 1940 commercial Bantams.  You can differentiate the front set up from American Austin shock absorbers from the lack of the star washer on the front side.

American Bantam Shock Absorbers

Click here to bid on the American Bantam Shock Absorbers

Or, if you’re looking for something a little more rusty, a seller (actually me), has listed parts from a 1930 Austin which is being parted out.  Click on “other items” to see more.

American Austin Dash Board

Click here to bid on the American Austin Dash Board

Finally, if you are into toys, here is a very nice Austin hauler set up:

American Austin Car Hauler Toy

Click here to bid on the American Austin Car Hauler Toy

 

 

Sportsman 4: Checking the Frame for Straightness

The chassis has found its new home in the shop, comfortably placed on a dolly and jack stands.  It doesn’t look too bad on the painted concrete floor, but it certainly shows signs of its age.  The first step in this project will be disassembling the chassis to strip it down to its most essential components.  As it sits, this chassis could be something you found in a chicken coop in Washington State, buried in mud in a Louisiana barn, or even under an original pickup truck in New York.

American Bantam Frame

Once the frame is stripped bare, you can begin to imagine all of the forms it may someday take on.  Will it the backbone of a stock restoration?  Will it hold together a special?  Perhaps it will be pushed to the limits keeping together a pepped up custom?  So long as it is still straight and strong, its possibilities are nearly unlimited.

Properly supporting American Bantam Frame

Whatever your dreams and plans may be, you need to make sure that you are not only starting with the correct foundation but, more importantly, a true one.  Bantam chassis consist of a forged front crossmember, two hat channel steel side rails, a central steel K member, and a rear crossmember of one of various configurations.  Like a model T, these frames were built to flex a bit.  They have little in common with the chassis of standard cars built during the same period.  These chassis are meant to have a bit of a spring to them which you can really sense if you put a foot on each frame rail near the center and put all of your weight on them.  It will undoubtedly bow in the center.  While this motion is normal, you should make sure that your rails are not buckled, twisted, or otherwise out of line.  You should also make sure that your frame doesn’t show any signs of rot or heavy pitting.  If the frame is damaged, you may want to consider finding another.  Frames are fairly plentiful and as this is the basis of the whole project, you are better off starting out with the best.

There are no published specifications indicating what a “straight” bantam frame should exhibit. The first endeavor was to mount the frame on four corners with the two at either end being level and the positions symmetrical from left to right.  Using some strong and straight wood provided for a flat mounting area so I wouldn’t have to worry about my frame slipping off of the jack stand grips to skew my measurements.

Remember, lifting this frame is not a hard feat, it’s probably 75 lbs at best.  However, be careful when lifting and shifting it.  You may need to adjust it a few times as you shim the jack stands or wood to level them out.  Once they are level, you can start inspecting and measuring your chassis.

Amazingly, three of the four mounting points were positioned well for leveling the frame. The front drivers side stand required a shim for which a small piece of junk mail filled the part quite well. Once I determined the wood itself was level, I placed the frame on it at similar points on each side. The frame made perfect contact at each point and the levels appeared to indicate relative trueness of the frame. I’m sure there are better ways to do this which would allow for more accurate results, but this seems to work.

Once it appeared there there was no twisting of the frame, I decided to see if the frame was pinched at all. Seeing the slight bends on the rear cross-member let me to believe there may be some issues in this regard. After realizing how hard it would be to do this with a standard tape measure and only one set of hands, I devised a better system.

First, I marked the frame with respect to fixed features found on each side using a heavy duty crayon. I marked off two measuring points on each side on the rear of the frame and one set of marks on the front. I then stretched out each of two very cheap harbor freight measuring tapes to hold them down to the frame using equally cheep harbor freight welding magnets. The magnets managed to hold the tape taut, but did pull a little bit when I exerted too much effort on the tape.

Both of the diagonally strung tapes measured up at the same distance which really began quieting my fears that this frame may be bent. Finally, I took my very precise Lowes ruler and suspended it across the frame where the tapes intersected. Sure enough, they intersected at the center of the span at that portion of the frame.

Not pictured was my determination that the frame was straight along its span.  Using a straight edge, I checked both hat channel side rails.  Both rails were flush with the straight edge until the point where the chassis sweeps upward.  Combining the straight edge test with the flush alignment of the chassis to the level wood helped me establish that the frame was in decent shape.

I’m sure I may have done better with factory measurements for the frame and a fancy frame jig, but I am very satisfied with the results. For all intents and purposes, this frame is straight.  After all of this, I am ready to begin transforming this bare chassis into the Bantam Sportsman project.

For this project you may need:

Tape measure

Two Thin Tape Measures, at least 10′ long

Click here to see the auction for the Tape Measure

Jack Stands

Four Jack Stands – these will come in handy for the entire project

Click here to see the auction for the Jack Stands

level straight edge

A straight edge / bubble level – Probably a good thing to always have for other projects.

Click here to see the auction for the Straight Edge / Level