See also Part 1: Toledo, Ohio and Part 3: Camp Holabird.
We had enjoyed our stay in Toledo, and Sunday afternoon of Father's Day weekend 2000 we headed east along the turnpike to Pennsylvania. We were still following the route taken sixty years ago by Karl Probst, who had headed for the American Bantam factory, after his stop in Toledo to pick up drivetrain components from the Spicer company. He was going to help Bantam build the first prototype 1/4-ton 4-wheel-drive Light Reconnaisance Car for the U.S. Army. -- Derek Redmond
Probst and a handful of other employees at American Bantam put together the Bantam Pilot prototype in just seven weeks. There is a historical plaque in Butler commemorating the feat. We were told that the brick building in the background with the smokestack, on Bantam Avenue, is where the Jeeps were built. Probst and Harold Crist, who later was a designer of the M422 Mighty Mite, drove the prototype to Maryland and delivered it on time to the Army. We didn't have time to follow that trail on this trip.
Monday morning the Butler County Historical Society opened their Heritage Center museum for us, where this restored Bantam BRC40, SN 1728, is on display (see also a photo of the jeep's interior, 40K JPEG). It was one of about 2600 jeeps built by Bantam in 1941, the only large production order the company received from the Army. American Bantam produced other military equipment including jeep trailers for the rest of the war, and the company closed its doors in 1956.
The museum (on New Castle Road, just off Main Street) also has lots of old photos -- see the Bantam assembly line (40K JPEG) and a BRC40 fording a stream (60K JPEG). There's also a restored Bantam civilian trailer on display (40K JPEG).
Another restored vehicle is the Bantam 1939 "Hollywood" convertible (40K JPEG) customized in California for Bantam president Roy S. Evans. Designer Alex Tremulis apparently drove the car from California back to Butler at speeds sometimes over 75 mph, and averaged 42.5 miles per gallon. Maybe that's a trail we'll follow next year...
All that was left for this trip was a beautiful but long drive back up through Pennsylvania and New York, across the river to Canada, and home by midnight. -- Derek Redmond
Continue to On the Trail of Jeep History, Part 3: Camp Holabird, where Todd Paisley completes the trail.
See also more Universal Jeep History on CJ3B.info.
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