It’s a Jeep thing, and if you do understand, then you can’t miss the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival in Butler, Pennsylvania. This one-of-a-kind event is growing in its third year and getting better each time. Now held at the Coopers Lake campground just west of Butler, the event allows camping and dogs and has onsite trail rides, mud bogs, rockcrawls, a show-and-shine, seminars, a history pavilion, and even a military encampment. They even had helicopter rides and a great selection of food.
It’s sort of a cross between the defunct Camp Jeep series held yearly around the nation and a Moab-like convention with many of the same people attending. However, instead of lifestyle events like fly fishing, Jeeps and 4x4 activities abound, even for the kids. For young and old Jeepers alike, from families to renegades, the festival have something for everyone. One of the vendors even had a certain used part we had been looking for, and we loved the historical presentations as well.
This year’s event boasted an attendance of 1,557 from 31 states and Canada. Over 400 volunteers along with the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau helped to make this event the grandest ever. If you plan on attending next year, check out www.bantamjeepfestival.com for more information, and hopefully we will see you there!
What’s a Bantam Jeep?
Back in 1940 when the Army wanted a 4x4 field car for the impending war, they sent out requests for bids to 135 companies, including Bantam, Willys, Ford, and GM. The American Bantam Car company in Butler, Pennsylvania, was the only one to respond and promise delivery of a prototype vehicle by the specified time. By winning the contract Bantam proceeded to actually design the vehicle from the government specifications, with its own design on how it would look.
The first vehicle was delivered to the Army for testing on Sept. 21, 1940. At the field trials, representatives from Willys and Ford watched the Bantam perform and decided to make their own try at the vehicle, which eventually became known as the jeep (yes, lowercase). Since the military had the rights to the design and specifications, they shared them with Willys and Ford, which is why all three prototypes look so similar.
In the end, Bantam was edged out of the bulk of jeep production and the contract went to Willys, with Ford coproducing the Willys design. Bantam eventually went bankrupt after the war and never made another jeep or car, but it is still credited for bringing the jeep to life and changing the ways of the world.