Old Woodies for Enthusiasts of Wood-bodied Cars and Trucks

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American Bantam

1938 Station Wagon

American Bantam badge - courtesy William SpearRoy S. Evans was a man with a vision. He was from Miami, Florida and owned several car dealerships in Georgia and Florida. Mr. Evans thought it was time for America to have a small, gas miser automobile. So, when the British Austin Car Company hic-upped and decided to close their doors in America, it was Roy Evans who stepped up to the plate and purchased the company --- and it's formidable debts. This was not small potatoes as $75,000 in back taxes and interest was owed, plus a $150,000 property mortgage to Pullman Standard (railroad coach builders). Considered stratosphere debt in the 1930's, to everyone's surprise, the Federal bankruptcy court felt Evans could salvage the entire project and they cut a deal.

1938 American Bantam left frontIt must have taken a genius or the ultimate "car salesman" to talk them into selling him the entire package but, Evans accomplished this purchasing the lot for 1/2000th of the appraised value - he bought it for $5,000 cash! Evans then hired Indianapolis race car builder Henry Miller to redesign the motor improving performance by boosting horsepower with a new exhaust manifold. Evans also hired Count Alexis Sakhnoffsky to design a new front end/rear fenders and smoother grille design. Once again, all this for an astounding $350 (told you, Evans was a great salesman!).

1938 American Bantam engine bayThe new American Bantams were produced from Butler, Pennsylvania USA. The model line included a roadster, a coupe, a boulevard delivery van, panel truck, pickup, and this wood bodied station wagon. Only 30 woodie wagons were ever produced. Bantam production continued into 1941 but, not even the dynamic new body styling could convince the American buying public of the value. Despite the insane gas mileage the little 4-banger produced, American saw a better value in the Ford and Chevrolets.

1938 American Bantam left rearIn '1930 dollars', the Bantam priced at $399 for the coupe and $565 for the wagon were no match for the brute power, size and value of the Ford (at $592 and $916.) The poor little American Bantam became the brunt of topical jokes, and was relegated to the life of airport tow vehicles and even stunt cars in movies. In fact, many were owned by the likes of comics like Laurel and Hardy, Mae West and Slim Pickens.

Evans went on to conceive the U.S. Army jeep but, was short circuited by the inability to fill the production orders granted by the army. He and his "baby" car folded their neat little tent in 1941. They are considered the perfect recreation room display "toy" and the ultimate collectible. You can see our baby woody....The smallest (7' long) 'real wood-bodied' wagon ever made, at the Mount Dora Museum of Speed in central Florida, USA.

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Photos and story courtesy of
Classic Dream Cars
Mount Dora, Florida USA
Mount Dora Museum of Speed
206 N. Highland Street
Mount Dora, Florida USA

For further information on American Bantam, please take time to browse
William Spear's American Bantam web site, which provided the Bantam badge graphic used on the page.

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