Prototypes of the Bantam Army Jeep
Bantam Number One, outside the American Bantam factory in Butler, PA, 21 September 1940. Karl Probst, far left with arm on tire; Harold Crist, driving; Francis Fenn, passenger seat. Others are Bantam engineering and manufacturing employees.
Karl Probst, an engineer working for American Bantam Car Company in Butler, PA, was the father of the jeep. Responding to a request for bids from the Army, he led the design and manufacture of the prototype jeep in just seven weeks and delivered to Camp Holabird, MD, on 23 September 1940. It was called the GPV (General Purpose Vehicle), the Pilot Model, the Mk I, or Number One (photo above).
Bantam Army Jeep Production
The Bantam GPV was by far the best design submitted to the Army for trials and the only one that arrived on time. Testing revealed weaknesses and Bantam was asked for a new model to overcome the problems. The modified Bantam GPV was called the Bantam BRC-60 (or MkII) where BRC means Bantam Reconnaissance Car. The fenders were squared off but the headlights remained on top and the front grill was still curved.
The Army contracted with Bantam for a total of seventy units, the pilot/prototype plus sixty-nine BRC-60s. By 17 December 1940 the sixty-nine additional Bantam BRC-60s had been delivered and sent to Army field units for evaluation.
Bantam continued to participate in the Army prototype development and testing with the Bantam BRC-40, the 1941 upgrade to the BRC-60 which had a squared off nose and other changes. Ultimately the mass production contracts went to Willys and Ford. Bantam was relegated to production of trailers for the jeeps it had pioneered.
Of the original seventy jeeps produced by Bantam under the original 1940 contract, only one has survived, Serial Number 7. It officially belongs to the Smithsonian Institution and was housed at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, VA for a time. As of 2007, this precious machine is returning home to Pittsburgh, PA where it will be a special exhibit at the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center, Pennsylvania's largest history museum, located about 40 miles from the Butler, PA Bantam factory where the jeep was built in 1940.
Bantam Army Jeep Pilot and BRC-60 Specifications
|Engine||Continental Motor Co. BY4112 4 cyl 112cid 45bhp @ 3,500 rpm|
|Torque||86 lbs-ft @ 1800 rpm|
|Transmission||3 speed synchromesh Warner Gear T84|
|Transfer case||Spicer Dana 18 two speed|
|Gear Shift||Floor mounted|
|Axles||Spicer Dana 4.88:1 23-2 rear, Dana 25 front|
|Weight||Pilot No. 1: 1,840 lbs, BRC-60 1,940 lbs|