Bantam Reconnaissance Car Video-The Original Jeep

by Wes Kibble on May 6, 2010

As you may be aware, the Bantam Reconnaissance Car is the original Jeep based vehicle. On July 11, 1940 the USA Army was fully involved in World War 2. They sent out a tender that was to be received by July 22, only 11 days later! Manufacturers were given 49 days to submit their first prototype and 75 days for completion of 70 test vehicles. The Army’s Ordnance Technical Committee specifications were equally demanding: the vehicle would be four-wheel drive, have a crew of three on a wheelbase of no more than 75 (later 80) inches and tracks no more than 47 inches, feature a fold-down windshield, 660 lb payload and be powered by an engine capable of 85 ft·lbf (115 N·m) of torque. The most daunting demand, however, was an empty weight of no more than 1300 lb (590 kg).

Only three companies entered: American Bantam Car Company, Ford Motor Company and Willys-Overland Motors. Though Willys-Overland was the low bidder, Bantam received the bid, being the only company committing to deliver a pilot model in 49 days and production examples in 75. Under the leadership of designer Karl Probst, Bantam built their first prototype, dubbed the “Blitz Buggy” (see above photo), and delivered it to the Army vehicle test center at Camp Holabird, Maryland on September 23, 1940. This presented Army officials with the first of what would eventually evolve into the World War II US Army Jeeps: the Willys MB and Ford GPW.

bantam, jeep

Since Bantam did not have the production capacity or fiscal stability to deliver on the scale needed by the War Department, the other two bidders, Ford and Willys, were encouraged to complete their own pilot models for testing. The contract for the new reconnaissance car was to be determined by trials. As testing of the Bantam prototype took place from September 27 to October 16, Ford and Willys technical representatives present at Holabird were given ample opportunity to study the vehicle’s performance. Moreover, in order to expedite production, the War Department forwarded the Bantam blueprints to Ford and Willys, claiming the government owned the design. Bantam did not dispute this move due to its precarious financial situation. By November 1940 Ford and Willys each submitted prototypes to compete with the Bantam in the Army’s trials. The pilot models, the Willys Quad and the Ford Pygmy, turned out very similar to each other and were joined in testing by Bantam’s entry, now evolved into a Mark II called the BRC 60. By then the US and its armed forces were already under such pressure that all three cars were declared acceptable and orders for 1500 units per company were given for field testing. At this time it was acknowledged the original weight limit (which Bantam had ignored) was unrealistic, and it was raised to 2160 lb (980 kg). Via Early CJ-5.com
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