April 28, 2000
Legendary BRC Recovered after Decades
of Hiding.The ExChecker Jeep.
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
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
There is another website
which reports one Kevin T. Graham of Elkhorn, WI on the subject.
"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.