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1941 Bantam Jeep BRC-40 - Handmade

Posted in Features on June 2, 2014 Comment (0)
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The Bantam BRC-40 -- it’s the vehicle that made Jeep possible. Many of us will never get to see one in person, and if we do, it’ll probably be behind glass or rope at some museum. But we found one that we actually got to check out, crawl around, and even ride in.

It’s funny seeing one of these after spending so much time with “regular” flatties, because the BRC-40, while a precursor to the MB and GPW, is much, much different. It’s not so much that the family resemblance isn’t there, it’s just that a lot of the little things that come together to make an MB aren’t there. It’s kind of cool to check out all the little things that are different -- things like the headlights sunk into the fenders, the copper dash plaques, the rounder outside sheetmetal (except the corners), and boxier inside metal. There are only two gauges in the dash, they are both oval and the remote-mounted oil filter actually tucks in under the cowl.

When we found out that a retired metal worker by the name of Art Goodrich built this Jeep, we spoke with him to learn more. It turned out that when Art says he was a metal worker, he means that he learned the old ways of forming metal with hand tools, working with English wheels, and even spinning. He told us all about how he built, rebuilt, or repaired most of the sheetmetal on this Jeep. Take a good look when you go through the pictures, and you’ll see it looks like it just rolled out of the Bantam factory with great attention to detail. Even the underbody wood-backed body stiffeners have new wood in them again, and Art most likely hand-bent every one of the metal channels that cover them.

The Jeep is from Massachusetts, and we found it in Pennsylvania, so it is pretty impressive that this 70-year-old Jeep has any chassis, much less the original chassis underneath it. The Northeast is not kind to metal -- there is a reason people call it the Rust Belt. Unlike the C-channel chassis we are familiar with, the Bantam chassis is more of an inverted U-shape with a plate to close off the bottom -- more like the pole for a stop sign, really. Art cleaned the rust from it, repaired whatever needed it, and slathered it in Gillespie Coatings OD paint.

Stock-spec shocks attach to factory shackles and springs. The springs and shackles were cleaned and painted with the same paint. Notice how the shackles aren’t the “C” style that were on so many other military flatties.

The engine is a Continental BY4112 134ci L-head four-cylinder that was rated to put out 45hp and 86 ft-lbs. Art told us all he had to do to the engine was bolt on the head, but we still think he might have been pulling our leg. Remember your grandfather telling you about having to crank an engine by hand? How about your great grandfather? Well, the Bantam still had the provision for it even though it had electric start. You can see a tab hanging down under the front bumper that the crank handle goes through to get to the crankshaft pulley.

PhotosView Slideshow

The engine still gets fuel and air through a Stromberg carburetor and is cooled with a unique radiator. You know how your radiator has fins? Yeah, this one has a honeycomb shape instead. Power goes from the Continental engine through a T-84 three-speed transmission and Spicer 18 T-case and on to Spicer 40 front and rear axles with 4.88 gears. NDT tires on one-piece wheels put the power to the ground. The differential covers are actually cast covers with “Use Hypoid Oil Only” lettering right on them. Not only that, but the front pumpkin has “Front Axle” cast right into it as well. While we are talking about the front axle, notice that the steering linkage goes from the box to an arm under the driver-side knuckle and then across, as opposed to the over-the-axle bellcrank setup. Note how both pumpkins are on the driver side of the Jeep.

Body and Interior
Art tells us that he had to make the firewall, floor, inner fenders, and cowl, but some of the other stuff he was able to repair rather than fabricate. All the steel used was 0.035-inch-thick stuff. All that OD paint also came from Gillespie coatings and, yes, Art shot it himself. The Bantam-specific lights needed fixing, and the bumpers were hand-built to original specs.

PhotosView Slideshow

The grille guard is actually a rescued Bantam piece, and note also how much more glass is in the windshield of the BRC. Instead of the top edge of the tub being stamped squarish, the Bantam uses a rounded-off edge. You can see it starts at the windshield and wraps all the way around the top edge of the tub, which also had to be rebuilt. And, speaking of round and square things, the rear corners of the tub are square, not round like the standardized jeeps.

Inside the seats were restored, and Beachwood Canvas provided period-correct canvas for both the seats and top. In the rear seat photo you can see the engine crank under the seat and that the top is stenciled “American Bantam Car Company.” The gauges still have the Bantam stamp on them and were completely restored. There are only two gauges -- that’s because the one on the left replaces the four gauges that surround the speedometer in other flatties. The identification plates are stamped out of copper rather than brass or aluminum.

Good, Bad, and What It’s For
It’s a prestandardized jeep, so it’s all good. Seriously though, after really getting into one of these, we can see the reasons why the military went with the Willys version for the war -- that is, in addition to the fact that Bantam was not able to produce enough units quickly enough. Art did a great job bringing this BRC-40 back to life, as you might expect from someone who formed metal with hand tools his whole career.

Why I Wrote This Feature
The BRC-40 is a cool part of Jeep’s history, and I thought that more of our readers would like to see more photos other than just a front three-quarters shot. There are actually a lot of changes between this ’41 model and the ’42 model that we are all more familiar with, and I wanted to share some of them with you.
-- Pete Trasborg

1941 BRC-40
Engine: 134ci Continental
Transmission: T-84
Transfer Case: Spicer 18
Suspension: Leaf spring (front); leaf spring (rear)
Axles: Spicer 40 (front); Spicer 40 (rear)
Wheels: Bantam steel
Tires: Non-directional tread
Built For: Something to do every day for a year for 8 hours a day


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