The 1938-1941 American Bantam began as the American Austin, which was built in Butler, Pennsylvania, under Roy S. Evans. The Bantam was abandoned for Jeep production during World War II and was never revived.

This 1938 American Bantam 60 roadster was part of the 1938-1941 American Bantam line.
1938 American Bantam 60 roadster.
See more pictures of 1930s classic cars.

To create the American Bantam, Evans hired racing engineer Harry Miller to consult with his engineers and Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, who designed a new body with a smooth hood, rounded grille and curvy fenders. He charged Evans a mere $300, and the line was retooled for only $7,000.

The Bantam l-head engine had full-pressure lubrication; the cars had a new three-speed transmission and cam-and-lever steering. Engines boasted three main bearings after 1939, making the 1940-1941 models the best of Butler mechanically.

These last cars also had improved brakes, Monroe shocks, Goodyear "air-form" seat cushions (deluxe models), and headlamps mounted in the fenders.

Pluses of the 1938-1941 American Bantam:

  • Cute and attractive
  • Outstanding operating economy
  • A more developed version of the American Austin

Minuses of the 1938-1941 American Bantam:

  • Still underpowered
  • Parts problems
  • Engine durability questionable through 1939

Production of the 1938-1941 American Bantam*:

  • 1936: under 500
  • 1937: 3,500 (estimated)
  • 1938: 2,000 (estimated)
  • 1939: 1,229
  • 1940: 800
  • 1941: 138

*Recorded from industry sources. Factory produced no cars in 1935-1936; these may have been leftovers or assembled from parts. 1939-1941 figures are calendar year.

Specifications of the 1938-1941 American Bantam:
Wheelbase, inches: 75.0
Length, inches: 105.0
Weight, pounds: 1,130-1,434
Price, new: $399-565

Engines for the 1938-1941 American Bantam:

Type Size Horsepower Years
sv I-4 46 cid 20 1938-1939
sv I-4 50.1 cid 22 1940-1941

Want more information about classic cars? See: