In September of 1940, the American Bantam Car Company stepped into history books by starting the whole “Jeep thing.” Of course no one knew it at the time, and many people have since forgotten, but Bantam built and delivered the first jeep to the military.
Starting in mid-July of 1940, the U.S. Army solicited bids for a standardized 1/4-ton 4x4 vehicle. Only two companies responded: American Bantam of Butler, Pennsylvania, and Willys-Overland of Toledo, Ohio. But only Bantam was able to go from a blank sheet of paper to a running and driving vehicle in less than 49 days. In fact, the company was able to deliver its prototype for “testing” (read: getting the snot beat out of it) to Camp Holabird, Maryland, under the wire.
To celebrate that epic feat, the town of Butler, Pennsylvania, has taken to putting on the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival to celebrate not only that first Jeep, but all the ones that followed it. We attended the first event in 2011, as well as the second annual event, which occurred August 10-12, 2012. It is quickly becoming one of our favorite events in the eastern U.S., and here’s a look at what you missed for 2012. The next Heritage Festival is scheduled for June 13-16, 2013; check out bantamjeepfestival.com for more information if you are thinking of attending.