1938 American Bantam Roadster
Year of manufacture1938
Few manufacturers before or since have believed in their product as much as Roy Evans did. The creator of the American Austin refused to give up after the tiny little car failed in 1934, and by 1937, a revised and modernized version, the American Bantam, was rolling out of the factory in Butler, Pennsylvania. The car’s basic 50-cubic inch, four-cylinder engine was pepped up somewhat, with the able assistance of famed racing engineer Harry Miller, while Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky skillfully updated the Bantam line with an up-to-date, streamlined design, earning the princely sum of $300 for his services.
The Bantam, like the Austin before it, was a car ahead of its time. It was small, incredibly economical, and, for lack of a better word, adorable. Those qualities, which work so well for sales of today’s small cars, did not impress buyers of the late 1930s. Fewer than 7,000 were produced before production ended for good in 1941. Sadly, it was shortly before many Bantam buyers came to appreciate the fuel-sipping little runabouts in the days of rationing ahead. The company’s lasting influence was, in its final months, developing a small prototype military vehicle, with mass-production being handled by Ford. It would come to be known as the jeep.
Today, Bantams have developed quite a following among enthusiasts, as they are supported by an active club and always bring the most “smiles per mile” to any collector car event.
The roadster offered here is finished in a charming two-tone paint scheme with a handsome maroon interior with white-faced instrumentation. The cheerful appearance is set off by rear fender skirts over color-keyed wheels with chrome hubcaps and trim rings, wide whitewall tires, a tan removable top, dual wipers, dual taillights, windshield “wind wings,” and a stylish hood ornament.
The car’s dashboard prominently displays a numbered Fergus Motors of New York City tag, a well-known dealership where the car was presumably sold or serviced at some point many years ago. Most recently the car was owned and enjoyed by noted Los Angeles collector Don Appel.
Given the great popularity of microcars, this represents a wonderful chance to get behind the wheel of an all-American example.To view this car and others currently consigned to this auction, please visit the RM website at rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/mo20.