Bantam Military Jeeps: The First Army Jeep

The American Bantam company built the original vehicles that became the U.S. Army Jeep. The full story of the development of the original Army Jeep of World War II is on the linked page. Additional photos are found in the Military Jeeps section of the Military Vehicle Charts.

A Bantam BRC-60 being tested with tire chains in snow at Camp Globe, WI in early 1941
A Bantam BRC-60 (Bantam Reconnaissance Car-60) being tested with tire chains in snow at Camp Globe, WI in early 1941.

Today in WW II: 9 Dec 1940 British North African offensive begins against Italian forces in Somaliland, Egypt and Libya.  More 
9 Dec 1941 HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse sunk by Japanese air attacks of Malayan coast.
9 Dec 1942 Renewed attacks by Australian forces break through and take Gona Village, Papua New Guinea.
9 Dec 1945 Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. severely injured in a collision between his staff car and an Army truck, while on a hunting trip in the country outside Mannheim, Germany.
Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

Prototypes of the Bantam Army Jeep

Bantam Number One, outside the American Bantam factory in Butler, PA, 21 September 1940
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).

Find additional photos and hi-res versions of Bantam jeeps at the Olive-Drab Military Mashup.

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
Wheelbase 80 inches
Weight Pilot No. 1: 1,840 lbs, BRC-60 1,940 lbs

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