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

The Shop Project: Sportsman I

Perhaps I’ve introduced this project before, but I can’t find the post.  So, in the case I’m repeating myself, I’m going to try to spice this story up for you and present it from a new direction.

This story begins in 2013, when I had tried, to no avail, to buy several different Bantam Hollywoods and Convertible Coupes.  At that point, this website didn’t exist and a person interested in a Bantam was not faced with the paradox of choice you have today.  What did exist was the ability to pursue leads in a scattershot approach with the hopes that something great would turn up exactly when you were looking.

One night, using my scattershot approach, I found a craigslist ad in Tehachapi which piqued my interest.  Now, if you didn’t already know, Tehachapi is in California; a place I have never been.  For us on the east coast, California is known as a haven where all of the antique cars are rust free.

The ad described a hoard of fantastic proportions, at least with relation to the market of the time.  There were a few photos of the whole collection and just one illustrating the gem of the collection, remnants of a 1940 Bantam.  The car had been picked clean over the years and had undoubtedly given life to many other Bantams.  Yet, there was something about it that made me think it needed to make the journey to New York.  Thoughts of turning it into the car of my dreams ran through my head, without knowing exactly what those dreams were.  Seeing the body, I knew it could be a blank slate of sorts.  One where I could exercise some creativity without destroying something likely to be restored.  I could try to break the mold a bit with this one.

By the time the plans for the body began to materialize in my mind, the lot was spoken for, but thankfully the buyer and I were able to get in touch with each other.

Here is a photo from the ad:

thumbnail_2013-10-27 11.13.40

Here is the body emptied out:

Remants of a 1940 Bantam

An original California car.


Here is a front view:

front view

Front view of the 1940 Bantam

As you can see, it is a bit rough and you may thinking it is more of the stuff of nightmares than dreams.  However, this body isn’t all that bad for what I am planning.  Stick around for more updates and learn about its trip across the country to its new home.

As a disclaimer, my mechanical, sheet metal, and woodworking skills are fairly weak.  This will be a learning experience and will hopefully give others the courage to adopt a project in need of a lot of love.

American Bantams at Barrett Jackson

Last night five little cars put on quite a show, four American Bantams and one American Austin.  These five, nicely restored, Bantam sized classics crossed the Barrett Jackson auction block at around 8PM EST.  It’s not every day you see a Bantam on television, in fact, then again it’s not every day that you see a Bantam at all.


1939 American Bantam Utility Wagon Crossing the Auction Block

For some more information on the company that built these incredible cars and invented the Jeep, click here.  If seeing these cars piqued your interest in America’s First solid effort at mass producing a microcar, you may wish to consider joining the Austin Bantam Society or American Austin Bantam Club where you will find yourself among the company of some truly great people.  If you’d like to check out these cars in person, the AABC will be hosting its annual meet in Reading, PA this July and the ABS will be holding one in the early fall.

If you’re looking for a fun little car to take on a jaunt to dinner or something sure to steal the show wherever you go, the Bantam is for you.  If you’re looking for a small classic car which you can work on or store in limited space, the Bantam is for you.  If a car which was designed by numerous world class designers interests you, consider a Bantam.  If you’re considering a great car to introduce your family to the classic car hobby, which are fairly simply built out of very few parts, the Bantam is your car.  Perhaps you even heard Craig Jackson mention that, at 10, an American Bantam Roadster was his first restoration.

As I’m sure you can tell, I’m a fan of these cars and the great people who collect them.  If you’re looking for a car or project, there are bunch of them on this site which are currently available.  If you already have a car but need some parts or guidance, drop a line.  If there is something in particular which you are looking for, please go to the contact us tab and let us know.

We’re glad you stopped by and hope you consider a Bantam in your future!

Attention viewers! Do you have any spare parts you’d like to sell?

Besides linking you to the most current eBay auctions, is about much more.  The concept embodied by this website is a lot broader than I can let on at this point, as developing it one stage at a time is the only way to do it properly.  Revealing the complete plans would leave you wondering why I am so slow at getting this thing together.  So, besides providing you with a frequent blog of items for sale and a listing of vehicles for sale, I am now listing parts both for sale and wanted.

Please take a few moments to check out the new used parts for sale sections and the NOS / reproduction parts for sale sections.  The purpose of these pages is to make your restoration just a little bit easier.  Remember, eBay auctions only last several days and craigslist ads have mysterious lifespans that no one fully understands, however a listing here runs until sold.  The idea behind this system is to keep leads alive as long as possible, this way parts and cars don’t slip back into the woodwork to be forgotten about until the next time an owner is motivated to put the effort into selling.  I want people who are looking for parts to be able to get exactly what they need so their project isn’t put on hold at the whim of some rare piece.  I want you to have options available, so not only are you getting a part you need, but the best one for you.

Right now, there are only a few listings; but browse a bit and show your support.  If you have anything you’re looking for, contact me to place an ad.  If you have somethings you wouldn’t mind selling to clear some space in your garage, there is plenty of room here.  If you manufacture reproduction parts or perform some essential service for our hobby, your listing is wanted.

Working together, we can create something amazing; and I would love for you to be part of it.



And We’re Back! More parts are on eBay with a new seller on the market.

The last few weeks have been something for Austin and Bantam enthusiasts.  There has been at least one useful part on every day, and not just useless bulbs that spammers list as appropriate for every car built.  Unfortunately, while caught in the midst of this windfall of parts, both my computer and myself were in less that prime shape.  I would like to apologize for missing some of the great items listed last week, but I don’t see a similar slip up happening in the near future.  We have a few sellers with great items, so I will break it down by seller:

Today I am posting the listings of joegingerichjr.  More to follow.

Bantam hubcap 1:

bantam hubcap 1

Click here to check out: Bantam Hubcap 1    Sold for: 33.25

Bantam Hubcap 2:

Bantam Hubcap 2

Click here to check out: Bantam Hubcap 2  Sold for: 68.25

Bantam (American Austin) Starter:

Bantam (American Austin) Starter

Click here to check out: Bantam (American Austin) Starter   Sold for: 88.88

American Austin Headlight Buckets:

American Austin Headlight Buckets

Note, one of these headlights has the lower retaining ring screw hole off center which would likely make its original application a late 33-34 American Austin without a headlight bar.  Thank you for the tip Drew!

Click here to check out: American Austin Headlight Buckets    Sold for: 280.00

American Austin Parabeam Headlamp Lenses

American Austin Parabeam Headlamp Lenses

Click here to check out: American Austin Parabeam Headlamp Lenses  177.50

See you tomorrow!


The New Arrival

If you haven’t had the chance to comb through the website lately, there has been a new Roadster project added.  I had hinted to its arrival last week, but it is finally up and listed.  If you’re looking for a great start of a project, and a 1938 Bantam Roadster, this may be perfect for you.  There are a lot of cars that have been treated to some restoration efforts out there, but it is fairly infrequent that a project comes up for sale.  If you’re the type of person who likes to take on a project from the very beginning, this is a rare opportunity.

P1040783 (2)

The New 1938 Bantam Roadster Project On the Market

When a window shuts, a door opens. A Bantam Roadster project is on its way.

The 1939 Bantam project in Missouri has sold to a new owner, someplace much warmer than where I am right now.  In fact, that Bantam is looking forward to having its restoration completed and then some miles put on those new tires.

1939 Bantam Roadster

1939 Bantam Roadster

If you were interested in a Bantam Roadster project, do not despair.  In the next few days, a 1938 Bantam Roadster will be listed here; ready for your imagination and hands.  Although it is a slightly heavier project than the one in MO, it is a 1938 with the 15 slat grille and the innie style headlights.  Just like all Bantams, it will be a car worthy of your time.

Here is a sneak peek at what is coming soon:


1938 Bantam Roadster Coming Soon