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Old 09-20-2012, 07:31 PM   #21
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Default Re: Pre-War Inhibitions

Shit! Sorry, I just caught the two separate dates. I need to move to a town where the Fire Dept. supplies the beer!
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Old 09-21-2012, 07:47 AM   #22
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Default Re: Pre-War Inhibitions

Hibbard? Thomas Hibbard?!?!? As in Hibbard and Darrin Coachworks that designed and built many of Howard 'Dutch' Darrin's best early work?

This project sounds like the kind of thing that a wealthy patron of Zakira's in Cincinnati should pick up...I can only imagine a build thread led by our mutual friend Joshua Shaw detailing its creation...Hmmm,
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Old 09-22-2012, 10:33 AM   #23
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Default Re: Pre-War Inhibitions

In my book series, "Orphan Babies, America's Forgotten Economy Cars," I briefly mentioned this car, which was to have been a street-legal sports roadster adaptation of the Miller/Ford race car. But the team did not have enough cash between them to finance even a prototype. In order to acquire development capital, Hibbard and Miller accepted a commission to design a line of American Bantam baby cars.

Roy Evans, president of the American Bantam Car Company of Butler, Pennsylvania, hired Miller and Hibbard in 1936. Miller was to design a new, sturdier engine to fit the defunct American Austin frame and named him Vice-president in Charge of Engineering. Hibbard was assigned the task of updating the tired Austin bodies and he carried the title of Vice-president and Designing Engineer.

Hibbard’s proposed 1937 Bantam designs differed only slightly from the Austin group. Hood side panels retained a row of stamped louvers. Fenders followed the same line as the Austin with deeper skirting. Stamped artillery wheels and a new grill and bumpers were added, but Austin ancestry was evident. The proposed Bantam roadster even retained the Austin’s three-point fixed windshield. Frankly, the new Bantam proposals resembled miniature General Motors products of 1933.

An eager town and an anxious body of stockholders required tangible results from their investment. So Evans released a prospectus with a yellow and blue sales booklet, illustrated with photos of Miller and Hibbard, as well as black ink renderings of Hibbard’s proposals. Evans promised a pickup, panel truck, roadster, Custom Roadster, and three coupes—one of which was fitted with a bustle-back trunk.

The most enticing of the bunch was the Custom Roadster, “America’s smartest speedster.” Slim, cycle-type front fenders, a built-on trunk, snap-down boot to hide the collapsible top and a folding windshield were all featured on the proposal. Miller envisioned a 71.3 cubic-inch, single-overhead- cam, 4-cylinder engine of an astounding 75 horsepower when equipped with the optional supercharger. (That compared with the former Austin’s 13 horsepower.) Speeds of up to 100 miles per hour would have been easy in a Bantam Custom Roadster, built to order.

By September 1936, plans were in place to develop the Bantam automobiles to sell in the $300+ range. Inquiries to handle the car outside of the United States were received from 42 dealers in 23 foreign countries and from 37 export companies. American dealers with the desire to sell the product wrote to the manufacturer from 1,804 towns across all 48 states. In addition, 1,146 letters from individual prospective buyers asked when the new Bantam line would be available.

By 1937, the prospectus and design proposals were in public hands and full-scale mock-ups were being prepared using American Austin body panels. An Austin pickup cab was modified with rounded corners and an all-steel top. Management was so convinced of its progress that production was announced in the January 1937 issue of Commercial America:

The new Bantam cab pick-up commercial car, which is now in production at the Butler, Pennsylvania, plant of the American Bantam Car Company is a complete steel unit. Not only is the floor of the truck of steel but the cab itself is of complete steel construction to provide maximum safety for the driver as well as added durability.

But the vice-presidents had not yet offered an estimate for toolingand machinery. When the figure was presented, all of Pennsylvania couldhave heard Evans as he flew into a rage and fired Miller and Hibbard. The pickup prototype was abandoned.

Tom Hibbard eventually became head of styling for Ford Motor Company and worked effectively there for several years. Harry Miller stayed around for a while and rented space from Bantam to develop a small, four-wheel-drive racer for an old friend, Ira Vail. Vail wanted two racers that would be suitable not only for the Indianapolis track, but for smaller dirt tracks, too. Miller built one of the cars and he had it running around the Bantam plant. As payment for the space he occupied, Miller redesigned the old Austin manifold system for use on the new Bantams. When that work was completed, he moved down to Pittsburgh where he created a series of sensational front-wheel-drive Gulf-Miller race cars at Gulf Oil Company’s research and development center. Several Bantam employees assisted.

Bantam employee Frank Fenn, who replaced Miller as Vice-president, was particularly impressed with Miller’s little four-wheel-drive racer. He suggested to Roy Evans that it might have interesting military applications. Three years later, Bantam built the first four-wheel-drive reconnaissance car, which they called the Bantam Reconnaissance Car (BRC). The rest of the world called it a “jeep”.
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Old 09-23-2012, 09:02 PM   #24
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Default Re: Pre-War Inhibitions

The '35 Miller could easily work its way into my garage,simply beautiful.
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