Richard Farr of Little Ferry, New Jersey, always loved Bantam trucks. When asked why, he said, “There was a photo taken of me as a child sitting next to my uncle’s Bantam car.” In fact, he calls that car “my first Bantam,” though we suspect he didn’t actually own it. When he was finally able to indulge his lifelong desire, Richard bought this 1939 Bantam panel truck and had his work cut out for him. Richard performed a complete restoration on the tiny truck, doing all the work himself except for the upholstery, gold-leafing, and chrome work. Specs on the truck include a 1,200-lb. GVW, a 45.6 cid engine developing 20 hp at 3,900 rpm, and an original cost of just $498.78. According to Richard, the little truck fits entirely into the bed of an eight-foot pickup truck, but once you are seated inside, you have a fair amount of leg room. However, he cautions that getting in and out requires twisting like a pretzel! It’s hard to imagine a truck this small being manufactured in the United States, where bigger is usually better. In the early 1900s, the Austin 7 was Europe’s most popular car, and Herbert Austin, founder of Austin Motor Company, brought production to the U.S. in 1930. He hoped the American Austin would be equally well received. However, such a small vehicle was ridiculed on this side of the pond, and the company eventually went bankrupt. After reorganizing in 1937 with a new owner and changing the name to Bantam, production resumed, but with some changes. The Bantam truck appeared on the market with a syncromesh gearbox and styling updated by Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky – the same Sakhnoffsky who redesigned and streamlined White trucks during the same time period. Even so, a new Bantam cost nearly $500, which was no competition for a bigger half-ton Chevrolet available for nearly $600. By 1941, Bantam was no longer in production. Regardless, Richard loves his little truck and the attention it gets at the truck shows.
John & Shirley Sponholtz have been involved with old trucks for over 20 years. Shirley was editor at Wheels of Time for 12 years before going out on her own and starting Old Time Trucks magazine in 2004. John is an avid photographer who enjoys taking pictures of odd and/or rare trucks (he provides most of the pictures for this article and their magazine). John & Shirley, who are from Richmond, Indiana, have been regular contributors to 10-4 Magazine since 2006.