April 28, 2000

Legendary BRC Recovered after Decades of Hiding.The ExChecker Jeep.

©WmSpear '00

Some answers were revealed, but many more intriguing questions were posed by the discovery and rescue in Kalamazoo, Michigan USA of a long hidden Bantam Reconnaissance Car. The existence of the car had been suspected and speculated about for decades, but its location was never revealed by its owner Jim Stout, a well known engineer at the Checker company, and head of its Experimental Vehicles Division during the pre-war and war years. Mr.Stout passed away some years ago, and with him much of the information that might have cleared up this intriguing chapter of Bantam history. Certainly, if there are those with any information about the following observations and hypothesis, please let us know. Email me.

The controversy has been whether this jeep, (and two other jeeps) are Bantam Reconnaissance Cars in the very strict sense of having been actually built and assembled in Butler and shipped to Kalamazoo, or whether the cars are BRC's which were built from scratch by Checker pursuant to Bantam plans, or whether they might have been shipped to Checker from Butler as a sort of "kit" and assembled in Kalamazoo. (Although it is suggested from time to time, there appears to be no evidence at all that Checker built these cars from scratch on their own motion thus making them some sort of "CRC's".)

It should be said at the outset that it is far less important to know who assembled the cars (which either way or the other are clearly Bantams), than it is to know how and why they came to be at Checker, who sent them and with what purposes in mind and how that all fits into subsequent Bantam history.

This much is known. At some point in 1941 Checker had three jeeps. One, a Bantam 4 wheel steering model, is currently on display at the Gilmore auto museum at Hickory Corners near Kalamazoo. The subject car (pictured at top) which is now in California and a third 4steer, which was either destroyed in testing at Aberdeen or Holabird, or cannibalized for parts for the other two...or both.

Much of the controversy begins with seemingly conflicting (but not irreconcilable) comments attributed to Stout himself, that the cars were "produced" at Checker. However an uncritical press, and boosters of various points of view have worked hard to keep the "CRC" view alive (an original Checker designed jeep). The Gilmore car which was apparently restored 15 or twenty years ago, has a big sign on the windscreen declaring it to be a Checker product (however they apparently have no file with any substance to support this conclusion).

Old Cars Weekly printed a 1986 photo of this very 4steer in their 6-27-91 issue. It had been submitted by one Don Mayton, a Willys "Jeepster" owner of Hudsonville,MI and identified as a "Checker Reconnaissance Vehicle" and was asserted to have been built with one other by "Mr. Taxicab", Jim Stout. The Austin/Bantam Club Newsletter editor and BRC owner Bob Brandon reprinted the picture with the skeptical comment that "Except for the front bumper and windshield, not a bad looking BRC." Brandon has recently had the chance to examine this car in person at the museum, and we await his comments about it, now he has seen it up close.

Bob Brandon inspecting the other ExChecker at the Gilmore

There is another website which reports one Kevin T. Graham of Elkhorn, WI on the subject. My emphasis.

"Several years ago I went to Grand Rapids, MI to visit a former Design Engineer from the Checker Car Co. He told my father & me how Checker almost collaborated with Bantam to make jeeps for the gov't. Checker actually produced three jeeps to the BRC40 design with 4-wheel steer & Checker logo on the dash instrument panel. Only one complete Checker jeep remains and was observed & photographed by me at the Hickory Corners Auto Museum in Michigan. As luck would have it the photos turned out poorly. The old designer, Jim Stout, said he still had remnants of a Checker in an outbuilding on his property but did not want to show us. The Checker jeep also had a spotlight mounted on the side of the windshield assembly."

The car referred to at the end is the subject car of course. It's hard to know what Stout actually said here, or in a Clintonian twist, what "produced" means even if he did say it.

Okay...let's have a peek behind the curtain and see the first photos of the actual car and some comments and speculation about it.

Bantam Home | BRC Home |