by Jarek Skonieczny
American Bantam Car Company of Butler, Pennsylvania built the first prototype jeep for the U.S. Army in 1940, and eventually produced over 2500 of their MKI (BRC-60) and MKII (BRC-40) models before final production contracts were given to the larger Willys and Ford companies. Bantam went on to manufacture jeep trailers and other items for the duration of World War II. Here are a number of early (and a few more recent) toy jeeps that were apparently based on the Bantams.
MiniArt models released a high-quality 1/35 plastic kit of the Bantam BRC-40 in late 2008. It comes with five U.S. Army figures, although the BRC-40 was actually shipped mainly to other Allied forces, prior to U.S. entry into WWII. See more details below.
The first Bantam 1/4-ton 4-wheel-drive prototype, built mostly by hand, used some parts from existing vehicles. The most distinctive feature was the round fenders with the headlights mounted on top. For more information on the full-size version, see Bantam Pilot Prototype in the Pictorial History of the Universal Jeep.
Wellmade Doll and Toy Co. of New York manufactured this 7 1/2" composition toy during the early 40s. It depicts two soldiers wearing gas masks and WWI helmets, and the passenger is resting a rifle on the hood. It's clearly not an accurate model of any jeep, but may have been based on the Bantam prototype. The material used in manufacture of this toy was pressed paper mache´ -- this was done out of necessity as metal was in short supply during the war.
A tiny but more realistic model of the Bantam Prototype was manufactured by Vac-U-Cast in Colorado, USA. This 1/76 scale plastic kit was molded in plastic and requires assembly. Take a closer look at the assembly instructions and parts (120K JPEG).
The second Bantam (MKI) was very similar to the prototype, but the fender was more squared off, still supporting the headlamp. For more information on the full-size version, see Bantam BRC-60 in the Pictorial History of the Universal Jeep.
These two 4" long plastic Bantams are almost identical to each other. The green one was manufactured by Reliable in Toronto, Canada, and is most likely a copy of the Ideal model also seen in the photo. The box for the 1945 Ideal jeep depicts an MB. The Ideal model includes a spare tire and a star decal on the hood, but does not have rolling wheels. The Reliable, using metal axles, has free rolling wheels.
The Syroco Bantam pen holder was apparently given as a gift to the officers evaluating the early Jeep models, and is said to be part of a set which included a larger table centrepiece. This unique item is made of Syroco Wood, a resin product.
There is also a Vac-U-Cast Models kit for the MKI (35K JPEG). Like their model of the Bantam Pilot, it's a quality 1/76 scale kit with detailed assembly instructions (120K JPEG).
The flat grille and flat hood set the third and last Bantam (MKII) apart from the others. For more information on the full-size version, see Bantam BRC40 in the Pictorial History of the Universal Jeep.
Islyn Thomas, the former General Manger of Ideal Toy Co, formed a new company in 1944 bearing his name. Along with planes and dolls, the Bantam jeep was one of the first toys produced. These MP jeeps were a 1955-56 version of this early Bantam toy. The red 4 1/4" jeep with the soldiers wearing helmets, is pulling, ironically enough, an Ideal trailer. These jeeps were also manufactured under the ACME label, as the two companies shared financial backing.
This photo shows three very similar metal Bantam Jeeps. The largest of the bunch is a 1947 Metal Masters creation measuring 5 3/4". The 5" red jeep, made by Tootsietoys, appears almost identical to the larger Metal Masters one, except for numbers on the hood. The smaller 4" green jeep is also made by Tootsietoys and has the windshield folded down as well as a steering wheel which is part of the casting. All three have a star cast into the hood. Of note is the unusually high number of vertical slats in the little Tootsietoy's grille.
An unusually small (1-1/4") diecast Bantam from Japan. Actual manufacturer is unknown.
MiniArt models stepped up in 2008 to fill a gap in WWII modelling, with a high-quality 1/35 plastic kit of the Bantam BRC-40. It includes a previously released 5-man U.S. Army jeep crew (50K JPEG). This is maybe not particularly appropriate since the BRC-40 was mainly used early in the war by British and Soviet forces, and was likely seldom if ever deployed in combat by the U.S. Army. But at about $20 it's still a bargain, as most military modellers would be able to use the U.S. Army figures in another project.
MiniArt sells the same model as a "Soviet Command Car" without the Bantam name on the box, and with a 5-person Soviet crew that is more historically correct. See also the detailed engine and underside, and a rear view (100K JPEGs). Photos courtesy of Plastic-Models-Store.com.
A detailed review by Australian modeller Terry Ashley gives the MiniArt kit the thumbs up, although commenting on excessive plastic flash that has to be removed form some of the larger parts, and problems with some of the included decals.
An amphibious 1/4-ton trailer for the jeep, built starting in 1942 by Bantam and a number of other companies, is widely known as the Bantam trailer.
The Solido 1/43 MB and Trailer sets include a very good model of the Bantam trailer. The jeeps and trailers are available in at least 3 colours: red (as in this fire jeep set), olive drab, and tan.
Thanks to Jarek for collecting this info on an overlooked area of Jeep toy collecting. Thanks also to Pete Pearson and Steven Malikoff for contributing photos and information. Additional details are welcome. -- Derek Redmond
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