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Austin 7 — Grandfather of the Jeep?

• CATEGORIES: Bantam-FordGP-WillysMA-EarlyJPs, Features, Unusual • TAGS: This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

So, I’m doing my best to avoid going out to my parents very cold, damp garage to finish fixing my mom’s car.  Of course, the internet is one of the best avoidance tools ever invented.

On a lark, I typed in ‘Flat Fender Babes’ into google just to see if anything came up.  While most of the links were garbage, one link lead me to a list of significant production automobiles, created by Angry Stan at AngryStan’s blog.  Naturally, one of the vehicles listed was the Willys MB.  What was interesting about the MB’s inclusion was Stan’s comment that the MB was “very loosely based on the Austin 7”.

Whoa .. news to me.  What you talkin’ ’bout Stan?

Now, I already knew that Austin had built four wheel drive vehicles such as the Austin Champ and Austin Gypsy in the 1950’s, but I didn’t know about the long history between Austin and the military.

You know what this means?  It means I now had a perfect garage avoidance project!

A quick search yielded the following bit of information:

GRANDFATHER OF THE JEEP. An interesting historical note is the role these cars [Austin 7] played in the development of the jeep. The American Bantam Company was formed from the American Austin company, which was set up to produce Austin 7’s and derivatives of them in USA under license. Bantam used them in the 1930’s to develop military cross country scout cars, which led to their jeep prototypes. The Austin 7 Military Tourer can honestly claim to be the original jeep prototype, predating the Bantam and the Ford GP.

Also, the British military was using the austin 7 throughout the 1930’s as an excellent cross country vehicle.

Thus, it may be argued that based on Bantam’s British and American military experience, it’s entirely logical that Bantam would be the first to develop the jeep prototype. But wait, it gets better ….

Hmm .. I didn’t see this coming.  As part of my research I stumbled upon a very extensive history on the interrelationships between Austin and Bantam, Bantam and the QMC, Bantam and Willys and more at  Moreover, in 1937, according to the allpar Bantam History,

“a British infantry captain used the Austin chassis and parts to build a small, light vehicle with four wheel drive. It was about 70 inches long, 37 inches wide, and weighed around 1,000 pounds. Those “specials” were given tough jobs to fulfill, with machine gun and small artillery mountings. They were given exceptional ratings and rave reviews from the British infantry.”

Meanwhile, Bantam had hired a lobbyist familiar with what the British were doing to lobby the QMC for a lighweight recon vehicle.  At some point, Bantam loaned the QMC several different vehicles to test.  One big draw back was the lack of four wheel drive.  However, the lobbyist was aware of the British 4wd experiment, so the lobbyist worked with the QMC to draft some specs which, not coincidentally, matched the short-wheel base typical of the Bantam vehicles (in other words, the fix was in) …

Another interesting fact is that the owner of Bantam, Roy Evans, who bought the bankrupt American Austin and renamed it American Bantam, also owned a majority share of Willys-Overland, which he purchased in 1935.  Evan’s was one of the largest Willys dealers even as he ran Bantam.

The last little bit of trivia included in the Allpar history is the code name for the first BRC, “The Blitz Buggy”

So, read the all-par history for an interesting take on how Bantam really developed the jeep.


Ok, enough fun.  Time to head out to the garage and put together the remaining pieces of mom’s car (I spent yesterday transfering all the parts and pieces from her old car door to the replacement one).


3 Comments on “Austin 7 — Grandfather of the Jeep?

  1. Pingback: 1953 Austin Champ Lawrenceburg, Ky $3000 | eWillys

  2. Bull Spear

    I think you would have a very difficult time documenting very much, if any of what you have to say here about jeep history. The original Bantam jeep was a completely scratch built car using only a part of the cowl, instruments a steering wheel and some windshield stanchions from an American Bantam. There are no parts that can be traced to the A7 or the American Austins licenced uder it. Even the stripped down 3 main powered Bantam truck was deemed far too underpowered to handle the requirements the Army wanted and Bantam abandoned any thought of using its civilian cars as a basis for the Army jpob on the first day. I think you could say, as I do, that the essence of the jeep is its small size, and the 75″ WB of both the American and English cars was a jumping off point (added 4.5 inches for the transfer case. But, the jeep itself is disticnctly American and primarily the workof race car builder and Bantam engineer Harold Crist.

    Evans did save W-O from almost certain bankruptcy in 1935 by selling 12,000 cars out of their inventory…a deed he may have later cone to regret.

  3. deilers

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks for the comment. Those are all fair points. This post is merely intended to record information I had found on the internet (and sometimes it isn’t very reliable) and make an initial conjecture. I hope it doesn’t read like it’s the final word on the subject, because I can safely say that you are far more the expert than I. In fact, it was written before I came across your great website and I hadn’t updated the post — though I’ve been meaning to update it. Here’s a post directing readers to your site (

    I also need to add your website to my list of linkworthy sites. I’m not sure how I missed doing that.

    Thanks again,

    – Dave

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