Sometimes you just want to have fun, right? Well, why not make a jeep? From a paper cut out , that is.

Bantam was the very first jeep.

 

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Bantam Reconnaissance Car

When it became obvious that the United States was eventually going to become involved in the war raging in Europe, the U.S. Army contacted 135 companies asking for working prototypes of a four-wheel-drive reconnaissance car. Only two companies responded to the request, The American Bantam Car Company and Willys-Overland. The Army had set what seemed like an impossible deadline of 49 days to supply a working prototype. Willys asked for more time but was refused. The bankrupt American Bantam Car Company had a small engineering staff left on the payroll and solicited Karl Probst, a talented freelance designer from Detroit to put the design down on paper. After turning down Bantam’s initial request, Probst responded to an Army request and commenced work, initially without salary, on July 17, 1940.

Bantam Pilot model being put through testing by the US Army.

Bantam Pilot model being put through testing by the US Army.

Probst laid out full plans for the Bantam prototype, known as the BRC or Bantam Reconnaissance Car, in just two days, working up a cost estimate the next. Bantam’s bid was submitted complete with blueprints on July 22.  While much of the vehicle could be assembled from off-the-shelf automotive parts, custom four-wheel drivetrain components were to be supplied by Spicer. The hand-built prototype was completed in Butler, Pennsylvania, and driven to Camp Holabird, Maryland, for Army testing September 21. The vehicle met all the Army’s criteria except its engine torque requirements.  Everyone that saw it loved it and saw the potential.

For those interested in finding out more about the Bantam, you should considering reading Project Management in History: The First Jeep (Project Management in History Series) (Volume 1) and Jeep – Its development and procurement under the Quartermaster Corps, 1940-1942.

Project Management in History: The First Jeep (Project Management in History Series) (Volume 1) is a great book that illuminates the role played by the first company to built the jeep. That company was the American Bantam Car Company.

Jeep – Its development and procurement under the Quartermaster Corps, 1940-1942 is a book written by a historian within the War Department while the war was ongoing. It does a good job in describing the roles played by the three companies that built the majority of the jeeps during WW2. Only two of those companies Ford and Willys would produced vast numbers of jeeps totaling over 600,000. The American Bantam Car Company would produce less than 3000.

Taking both books together is an excellent history of the early jeep.