A 1940 American Bantam “woody” cart sits on the turntable at Yuma’s orphanage for three months. The Bantam is on loan from John Tuthill of Golden, but resides permanently at the Forney Museum of Transportation in Denver.
The Bantam was a product of the American Austin Car Co., founded in 1929 in Butler, Pennsylvania. American Austin was an American automobile manufacturing company producing cars under license from the Austin Motor Co. in the United Kingdom. The goal was to assemble and sell a version of the Austin 7 and call it American Austin. Unfortunately, the business succumbed to the Great Depression and the company filed for bankruptcy in 1934.
American car tycoon Roy Evans bought the defunct company in 1935 and hired designer Alexis de Sakhnofsky to update the car. The formal connection with Austin UK was severed, although some semblance of a relationship remained. Production resumed in 1937 and continued until early 1941 after 6,700 American Bantams had been built, in a variety of body types.
Station wagon frames with front sheet metal were shipped by truck from the western Pennsylvania plant to Mifflinburg Body Works in east-central Pennsylvania, where the wood bodies complemented the cars. Only 318 Bantam wagons were built and about 14, in various conditions, are known to still exist.
Bantam built their own 4-cylinder engines with cast iron head and block and aluminum crankcase. In 1940 the engines were nearly 50 cubic inches and produced a tire burning 23 horsepower. Bantam used a Warner transmission designed for the smaller Studebaker. The wagon has a 75-inch wheelbase and four-wheel mechanical cable brakes. The gas tank is in the hood and just empties into the carburetor. The price of the new wagon was $575.
The Bantam wagon on display was purchased new in 1940 from Hadsall Motors on East Colfax Avenue in Denver by neighbors of the current owner. It was sold in the 1950s and found by John Tuthill in the early 1960s. No options were offered for the wagon and all were fitted with blackwall tyres. The color was called “Golden Beige Metallic” but was actually a medium brown metallic. The restoration (the only one of the few remaining wagons considered correct “factory door”) was completed in 1992.
The 1940 Woody American Bantam will be displayed on The Orphanage’s turntable until mid-August. The orphanage is in downtown Yuma at 300 South Main Street. For more information about the Bantam cart, please contact Richard Birnie at (970) 630-3360, or visit the orphanage’s website at orphanageyuma.com.