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Bantam BRC (Model 60 / BRC-40)

Light Multirole Military Reconnaissance Car

United States | 1941

"The Bantam BRC began the line of four-wheeled light vehicles that would eventually become the JEEP."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 03/05/2024 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
Origins of the classic World War II-era (1939-1945) JEEP can be traced back to the Bantam Reconnaissance Car (BRC) developed by American Bantam Car Company of Butler, PA. The concept revolved around a compact, reliable all-terrain vehicle intended to revolutionize American Army cavalry formations of the time - which were still powered by the almighty horse. The resulting vehicle eventually became the foundation for competing designs manufactured by both Willys-Overland and Ford Motor Company.

The original concept was forged by one Charles Payne (Bantam, USN-Retired) and Robert Brown (Army Quartermasters Corps) while the design and development of what would become the first JEEP can be credited to multiple individuals, each destined to play a part in bringing the BRC to life: Frank Fenn (Bantam President), Karl Probst, Harold Crist, Ralph Turner, and Chet Hemphiling. It was Chief Designer Crist himself that drove the prototype Bantam vehicle to Camp Holabird when the time came in September of 1940.

The relative success of the BRC prototype before Army authorities led to the slightly evolved "Model 60" (Mark II) of which 69 were completed as pre-series offerings (8 of these being built with four-wheel steering) before the end of 1940. In this model, the grille and fenders were both rounded and the windscreen was of single-piece design but the basic shape of the classic JEEP was already there.

The light-class, reconnaissance-minded car took on the classic JEEP form-and-function: four road wheels were in play, each set at the extreme corners of the design. The engine was housed in the bow in typical fashion with the driver positioned behind a steering wheel at front-left. There was seating for one to his right and additional seating aft. The windscreen could be folded over the engine hood and a soft covering erected over the passenger area. Rounded headlamps were positioned to either side of the grille unit and a bumper ran across the bow ahead of the front wheel pairing. A spare road wheel was carried along the rear frame wall. Dimensionally, the JEEP was quite small by modern standards with relatively cramped conditions for taller occupants - but utility was at the very heart of its design, satisfying the Army requirement.

What followed was the "BRC-40" to fulfill a standing order for 1,500 of the cars. These were built between March and July of 1941 before the American entry into World War II (December 7th, 1941 with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, HA). Early forms had corrugated metal serving as floorboards but this later gave way to flat steel sheets. Power was handled through a Continental Y-4112 6-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine of 48 horsepower seated under a now-flat hood and flat grille design. The single-piece windscreen was changed to a two-piece solution. Again, a limited stock were completed with four-wheel steering; 50 BRC-40s featured the quality.

Before the end of 1941, Bantam finished up a third production batch of 1,175 cars - which effectively ended their role in the story of the American JEEP. Lacking the production facilities needed to enhance the American war effort into 1942, the design was manufactured - and evolved - by both Willys-Overland and Ford during the wartime years. Before the end of the conflict, the diminutive reconnaissance car had become critical to Allied operations around the globe, some fitted with medium and heavy weapons atop trainable mountings over the rear and others modified to undertake crucial battlefield frontline and second line roles that included MEDEVAC and VIP transport.

For its part in the story, American Bantam is credited with building 2,675 of its JEEPS from the period of 1940 to 1943 - though its worth noting that most of its deliveries took place before the end of 1941. Furthermore, much of the Bantam stock made its way, via Lend-Lease, to Allied forces in Britain and the Soviet Union. With Willys-Overland and Ford taking over quantitative production of the small car for the Army during the wartime years, American Bantam continued manufacturing the much-needed T-3 tow-behind, JEEP-specific trailers that were used in number throughout the war.

Bantam eventually went defunct in 1956 following its takeover by American Rolling Mills (now AKSteel, A Cleveland-Cliffs Company).

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one land system design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the BRC-40 Light Multirole Military Reconnaissance Car.
1 x Continental Y-4112 6-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine of 48 horsepower driving four-wheeled, all-wheel arrangement.
Installed Power
55 mph
89 kph
Road Speed
165 miles
265 km
The physical qualities of the BRC-40 Light Multirole Military Reconnaissance Car.
10.5 ft
3.2 meters
O/A Length
4.5 ft
1.37 meters
O/A Width
6.0 ft
1.83 meters
O/A Height
2,601 lb
1,180 kg | 1.3 tons
Armament & Ammunition
Available supported armament, ammunition, and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Bantam BRC (Model 60 / BRC-40) Light Multirole Military Reconnaissance Car.
Typically none though pintle mounting supporting 0.30 caliber Medium Machine Gun (MMG) or 0.50 caliber Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) proving commonplace in wartime.

Also any personal weapons carried by the crew.
Dependent upon armament fitting.
Nightvision - NONE.
Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Protection (CBRN) - NONE.
Notable series variants as part of the Bantam BRC (Model 60 / BRC-40) family line.
BRC - Bantam Reconnaissance Car.
Model 60 (Mark II) - Pre-series vehicle numbering 69 total units; 8 completed with four-wheel sterring.
BRC-40 - Base Series Designation; flat hood / flat grille design; sheet metal floorboards; two-piece folding windscreen; Continental 48 horsepower engine; original 1,500 unit Army order;
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Bantam BRC (Model 60 / BRC-40). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national land systems listing.

Total Production: 2,675 Units

Contractor(s): American Bantam Car Company - USA
National flag of the Soviet Union National flag of the United Kingdom National flag of the United States

[ Soviet Union (Lend-Lease); United Kingdom (Lend-Lease); United States ]
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Image of the Bantam BRC (Model 60 / BRC-40)
Image from the U.S. National Archives; Public Domain.

Developments of similar form-and-function, or related, to the Bantam BRC (Model 60 / BRC-40) Light Multirole Military Reconnaissance Car.
Going Further...
The Bantam BRC (Model 60 / BRC-40) Light Multirole Military Reconnaissance Car appears in the following collections:
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