Bantam Pilot

American Bantam Car Co. was the first to deliver what would become known as the “jeep”.

The president of the company that built the prototype and the very first vehicles that eventually would become known as the “jeep” predicted the wrong future. In an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Oct 23, 1944 found through the Google search tool.

Fenn stated that the jeep then in production by Willys Overland and Ford would not make a successful civilian vehicle after the war. The “purely military” characteristics would “hamper its postwar future as a civilian car.” Mr. Fenn stated that there were no plans for American Bantam Car Company to produces “jeeps” after the war.

Hindsight is most often 20-20 and Mr. Fenn was proved wrong. The Jeep as produced by Willys-Overland was a success. Versions of the Jeep (now owned by FCA US, LLC) have been in production since 1941. Not bad for a vehicle that would be “hampered” in usefulness to civilians after the war.

JillpicnicFor more about Bantam and the other early jeeps, check out this great book from WW2 – Jeep – Its development and procurement under the Quartermaster Corps, 1940-1942.  This book was written from the Quartermaster Corps’ perspective but draws on numerous resources and documentation to put together a pretty good picture of what happened. The other thing in its favor is that Rifkind’s work was written in 1943. But even by that time the jeep story was clouded over who did what and when. Rifkind covers Bantam’s involvement, Willys-Overland and Ford companies developments, the contracts and other details important to the student of the WW2 jeep! What makes it even more valuable is that Rifkind actually lists the sources he used. So if you can figure out the record system used by the government back then and determine where to find them, you will find a gold mine of information to research. This book includes a reproduction of the original manuscript created by Rifkind. You will even find some pen and ink changes.