In 1940, with the onset of war becoming imminent, the United States government sent out a request to over 100 automobile and tractor manufacturers to design a vehicle suitable for war-time duties. The government specified that the vehicle must be 4 wheel drive, have at least 40 horsepower, a wheelbase of no more than 80 inches, ground clearance of at least 6.25 inches, and weigh about 1,300 lbs (the weight demand was unrealistic and was later increased). To add another layer of complexity, the government requested that a prototype be delivered for testing within 49 days. Of all of the companies who received requests, only the American Bantam Car Company of Butler, Pennsylvania was able to submit a running prototype within the designated timeframe. The vehicle, known as the Bantam Reconnaissance Car or the “Blitz Buggy,” managed to pass the Army’s rigorous testing. Unfortunately for Bantam, the blueprints were the property of the government and were therefore distributed to other, larger manufacturers such as Ford and Willys-Overland that were better suited to meet the demands of war-time mass production. Bantam did produce a little over 2,500 “Jeeps” over the next few years, but in the end they just couldn’t keep up. The company aided in the war effort producing military trailers but eventually dissolved about 15 years later.
Nonetheless, Bantam’s impact on history is remarkable. Without their prototype, we would not have the Jeep as we know it today. As a matter of fact, we would not have Toyota FJs or Land Cruisers, either! Willys has become synonymous with the granddaddy of Jeeps; however, the Bantam Reconnaissance Car was actually the granddaddy of them all.
The events of 75 years ago forever altered the course of history, both in the U.S. and worldwide. The 75 years since have brought with them a great amount of change. One thing, however, has remained the same: the pride of driving the world’s most recognizable vehicle. Jeeps have a brotherhood that is simply unrivaled: their owners are fanatics; they treat their vehicles like a son; they see another Jeep owner and instantly become friends. Driving a Jeep empowers one with the confidence to take on anything. It is a treat. So, on the 75th birthday of the Jeep, it was time to celebrate.
The 5th Annual Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, held just outside Butler, PA, brought together over 25,000 Jeep enthusiasts from all over the country. Vendors showcased their wonderful assortment of aftermarket goodies, Jeep presented some of its concept vehicles both past and present, and on-site trails and the “Jeep Playground” provided participants with a place to take their Jeep into it’s natural habitat. The highlight of the event was the Jeep Parade and subsequent Jeep Invasion that featured 2,420 Jeeps making their way through the heart of Butler, the town where it all began. The Parade broke the world record for the longest ever Jeep parade and the official documentation has been submitted to the Guinness Book.
As Jeep enthusiasts, it was inevitable that we would find ourselves making the trek from North Carolina to Pennsylvania to join in on the celebration and the record-setting parade. Since the TJ has been in the family the longest and is guaranteed to never leave us, we only felt right taking it to receive recognition in the Guinness Book. 996 miles, 4 states, 3 days, and 1 amazing trip that we will never forget. Oh, and we were Jeep #2,066.
Enjoy the pictures below!