THE CAR AND ITS OWNER
1938 American Bantam Deluxe Roadster owned by Wade Jacobs
WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING
While U.S. manufacturers shunned small autos in the 1930s, American Austin took the leap by selling domestic versions of Britain’s popular tiny cars from 1930 to 1934. Bankruptcy forced the company to reorganize a year later under the American Bantam name and it went on to build more Americanized models through 1941. Bantam even developed a successful Jeep prototype, but relinquished manufacturing to Ford and Willys-Overland when it couldn’t meet World War II demand. Jacobs says his “Deluxe” has “two taillights (instead of one), trim rings, a little extra stainless trim and two windshield wipers.”
HOW LONG HE’S OWNED IT
“I probably bought it around 1990,” he says.
WHERE HE FOUND IT
He purchased it from a Hicksville owner. “My father was a car collector and in the late 1930s, he had a few American Austins and Bantams,” says Jacobs. “When I was 11 or 12, my father showed up with an American Austin roadster. He gave it to me and I would drive it around the backyard.”
“It was a driver-quality car,” he says of his Bantam. “It started and it ran and I ended up paying too much for it.” He drove it as-is for a few months and then started to make repairs and consider a full restoration. A donor Bantam bought from a Locust Valley repair shop supplied a new chassis and other parts. After some health setbacks, he finished the roadster and displayed it at an Old Westbury car show last year.
TIPS FOR OWNERS
Jacobs advises joining one of two Austin-Bantam clubs, where enthusiasts advertise estate cars and parts. “Go through the clubs,” he advises. “Parts are hard to find. Headlight buckets are impossible to find.”
He says some have been auctioned for as much as $44,000, but “I think that’s outside the box.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
“It’s intimidating,” Jacobs says of his ride. “It’s very tiny. It’s got 17 horsepower. I’ve only driven it on the road a few times. People love it.”