Black Dial Gauges and Caring Too Much?

“I just repainted them cream and printed the art onto them” he said confidently as I cringed.  It was a frigid February day accentuated by the gloomy grayness of a mid-winter Binghamton, New York sky.  He was talking about a pair of black dial Bantam gauges as mist turned to slushy snow.

“Why did you do that?  You know how rare they are to find!” My frustration got the best of me.  I pulled off the road into a gas station.  Up to this point, I had only held one pair of black dialed gauges in my hands and had seen photos of only one speedometer and one triple gauge.  “Did you at least take photos of them like we talked about?”

“I forgot, I mean, they aren’t worth anything without the cream faces.  I’ll get some decent money for them redone,” he boasted.  “And I never really cared for the little cars anyway, so taking photos didn’t really matter to me.”

I was aghast.  Why was my young mind enraged?  That was simple, black dial Bantam gauges are few and far between.  I held one set in my hands in 2013, I have seen a photo of a triple gauge in a 1940 Riviera, I have seen a photo of a speedometer in a 1940 coupe, and I had heard of these gauges.  That makes a total of six gauges in nearly six years.  The set I held in my hand was in my first year of joining the Bantam hobby, so I couldn’t appreciate their significance and my memory of them had faded.  The photo I found illustrated black dialed gauges with white gauges inset into them.  Could that be right?

Painting over black gauges to recreate something more abundant for financial gain and irreverence for the Bantam hobby just seemed wrong.  Worse things have happened in this world, but this small annoyance was easily avoidable.

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Note that the font on this gauge is of a heavier style than cream and silver faced gauges.  Also note the boxed in nature of the scale on the oil pressure gauge versus the other two gauges.  The font on the oil pressure gauge is also different from the Amp gauge slightly, and there is an additional “MADE IN U.S.A.” in the center of the triple gauge.

black dial speedometer

The only previous photo I have seen of a black dialed speedometer.

If you look at the most recent printing of the AABC Authenticity Manual it states:

“Bantam used BLACK instrument faces on a few EARLY production vehicles. On the face is the Bantam logo as well as “Made In USA”. Needles are white. Speedometer needles has a ball on the short end and is flat on the indicator end.  So far these instruments have only been noted on commercial vehicles” (AABC Authenticity Manual, at 103 Section 646 (2nd Printing 2016)).

While not the most useful description, this does establish that black dialed gauges did exist.  However, whether they had black gauges insert into them, whether the art was the same, or what color the needles were all remain mysteries.  In the modern library being compiled here, I am working on ironing out all of the details specific to each part you may come across including gauges.  It is a time consuming effort, but has resulted in a number of parts being rescued which may have otherwise hit the trash.

Yesterday, on eBay, a closed car dashboard panel with black dial gauges appeared for sale with a price of $2,000.

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Note the different font used on the Fuel gauge from the fuel gauge in the gauge in the photo published higher in this post and the similar AMP gauge.

The photos aren’t the best as it’s a bit difficult to see behind the fogged crystals, but they tell an interesting story.  The speedometer is remarkably similar to one of the 1935-1936 Hupmobile gauges, with only the scale and colors being different.

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The triple panel utilized similar lettering, with again the scale of the oil pressure gauge being different along with the colors.

Here are some enlarged views of the gauges on eBay:

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The rear of the gauges do not betray any major changes that would account for the non-matching AMP gauge, however a closer inspection may.  The combination of the flat glass lenses and 15 lb oil pressure gauge lend credence to them being early 1938 gauges.  However not too much else is known about these.

Will I pay $2,000 for these just to be able to analyze and replicate the art?  No.  The asking price is far more than what Bantam gauges usually bring and is nearly the cost that some rebuilders charge for restorations.  However, the price is the prerogative of the seller and a potential buyer.

Would I have loved to have seen any photos of that lost set of black dialed gauges?  You bet!  They could have provided valuable insight into exactly what these gauges were supposed to look like.

Perhaps my frustration with the gentleman who painted over history is misplaced, but I do care for the little cars.  I care for their spry ride, their sporty and elegant looks, their history, and their owners.  I want to make sure that every restorer has the ability to refinish their car as perfectly as they wish.  Is this good business sense?  Probably not, but after all that isn’t what this is about.  This business is about keeping the cars on the road, putting smiles on our faces, and making sure that the Bantam hobby continues to grow into the twenty-first century.

To see the gauges click here: American Bantam Black Dial Gauges

It’s time to reclaim eBay!

It’s no secret, I like eBay.  I could go on about how I have enjoyed it for years.  However, if you go on any Automotive blog, forum, or facebook group, you likely see it disparaged in a number of different ways.  Despite other people’s complaints and its allegedly negative effects on car shows, I have loyally defended eBay.

A few months ago, I penned a letter to the CEO of eBay, half knowing it would never be read.  It was an actual letter, ink on fine paper swaddled in a self-adhesive envelope donning a single antique truck themed stamp.  While I expected no reply, I extended a few thoughts on the current state of eBay Motors as it has been abused by certain sellers.

If you are reading this, you likely appreciate Bantams and are well aware that the parts for these cars are very difficult to find on eBay.  Typing in “American Bantam” as your search query will result in thousands of hits.  You may see something like this:

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You read that right, 4,943 parts!  The deluge of matches may make you think you can buy every part for your car.  However, this is unfortunately not the case.  Most of these items include a plethora of things including seat belt retainers that go between a bucket seat and a console, bilge pumps, cigarette lighter phone chargers, and OBD II scanners.  Each of these items alleges that it fits American Bantam cars.  This is the result of the eBay listing system allowing a seller to indicate the part fits every make, model, and year.  The result is confounding, actual Bantam parts are buried among this unrelated merchandise.

I have suggested a means where users can easily report unrelated items or the installation of eBay moderators who can make sure people are not abusing the interchange option provided by the website.  Today, I found something so you can also tell eBay that you are fed up with unrelated merchandise hiding the parts you need.

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In the circled area of the screenshot above, you can tell eBay what you think.  If you are unhappy with the way in which sellers of buffing pads are abusing the system, let eBay know.  If you are unhappy that the bilge pump will not properly fit your Bantam, let eBay know.

Once you click on the link above, it will take you to this screen:

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Let’s work together to make eBay a better marketplace for classic car enthusiasts.  In the mean time, check back here frequently and I will share the items I find with you.  I may not catch them all, but I will try.  Enjoy your Sunday!

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.

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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:

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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

 

 

Find of the Day: American Austin Radiator Shell Badge

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American Bantam Emblem on Ebay

There have been a few of these emblems up for sale lately, but this is one of the nicest.  Not only does it appear to have its original clossonie, it has much of the original retainer intact.  If you’d like to check this one out on ebay click here: American Austin Radiator Badge

Right now at under $30, this is a bargain.  If I hadn’t recently picked one up for my roadster, I might have had to jump in on the bidding for this piece.  If a reader here gets this, I’d love to post an after photo of it adorning your car.

american austin roadster project part emblem 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935

The elusive retainer clip that holds these emblems onto the radiator surround.

Sold for:107.50