Weird Car Of The Day: 1938 American Bantam Roadster

Rarely in the annals of manufacturing history has there been a figure as steadfast in their belief in a product as Roy Evans. Despite the initial setback of the diminutive American Austin in 1934, Evans remained resolute. By 1937, he introduced a revamped and modernized rendition, christened the American Bantam, which commenced production in Butler, Pennsylvania.

Collaborating with the esteemed racing engineer Harry Miller, Evans elevated the car’s modest 50-cubic inch, four-cylinder engine. Furthermore, the Bantam’s aesthetics underwent a contemporary transformation under the skilled direction of Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, who received $300 for his contributions.

The Bantam, akin to its forerunner, the Austin, stood as a beacon of innovation for its time. Despite its petite size, remarkable fuel efficiency, and undeniable charm, these attributes failed to resonate with consumers in the late 1930s. Regrettably, production ceased in 1941 after yielding fewer than 7,000 units.

Ironically, it wasn’t until the era of rationing that the fuel-sipping compact cars found favor among the masses. In its twilight months, the company left an indelible mark by pioneering a small-scale military vehicle prototype, later adopted for mass production by Ford, famously known as the jeep.

Today, Bantams enjoy a devoted following among enthusiasts, bolstered by an active club scene. They consistently evoke the most joy per mile at any collector car gathering.

Photo Source: RM Sotheby’s