The American Austin Automobile Company was founded in 1929, in Butler Pennsylvania. As the name would imply, they built mildly “Americanized” versions of the British Austin Seven runabout. When the Great Depression hit, values for used cars plummeted and the market for new cheap cars such as the Seven dried up. Just a few short years later in 1934, the company filed for bankruptcy. The company was bought and reorganized by a successful Austin salesman named Roy Evans. The new company was renamed American Bantam and production resumed in 1937, now with a modified car that no longer had any official ties to Austin of England. The later cars were designed by Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, a designer who left his mark on Packards, Auburns and Cords of the period. While American Bantam may best be known for their pretty little art-deco mini cars, they are also the company responsible for the birth of the Jeep, as it was American Bantam’s prototype that was selected by the US Army for their new lightweight utility vehicle in 1941. Sadly, the company did not have the resources to produce the Jeep in the numbers the Army required so the project shifted to Willys and Ford. Bantam trickled to a close during the war, producing trailers for the Jeep, a far cry from the stylish and fun little runabouts that had come before.
This delightful and adorable 1938 American Bantam is a very rare Boulevard Delivery model. Only five are known to exist, and it is believed this is the first production, or perhaps a prototype model. Due to their rarity, clones have been built, but thanks to extensive research by the previous owner, (N. Mark Becker, current Co-Chair of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance) and comprehensive documentation, there is no doubt this is an authentic Boulevard Delivery. The history of this beautiful little machine includes full ownership history, title documents from the early 1940’s, and photos prior to its restoration that confirm its authenticity. A full description of the authentication process will also be included.
Truly rare and authentic, this Bantam is also one of the finest restored examples we have seen. Two tone maroon and black paint is exceptional, and it has been beautifully detailed with correct whitewall tires, beautiful chrome bumpers and hubcaps and charming carriage lights on the side of the body. The driver’s compartment is trimmed in complimentary maroon leatherette. As with all Boulevard Deliveries it has an open roof over the driver, though a black canvas soft-top provides a bit of temporary weather protection and the car also includes a full set of side curtains. The restoration is simply exquisite, and it has the awards to back it up. A plaque commemorates a Roy Evans Trophy win from the American Bantam Club, it is an AACA Grand National First Place winner, and an AACA Senior award recipient, and it won Best in Class at the 2009 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance against a select group of other Bantams. This tiny car wears an outstanding, ground up, nut-and-bolt restoration.
With rock solid documentation and a world class restoration, this American Bantam is a collector’s dream. The outstanding provenance only adds to its undeniable charm. From a stylistic perspective, it is a delightful expression of high-Art Deco design, born from the pen of a very well-known industrial designer. It combines all of the most desirable aspects of any full classic, in a tiny, charming and totally usable package.