Charles Probst inspects Checker Cab Bantam #101

28 April,2000

We were honored to be visited by Charles Probst and his lovely and lively wife Sally last week (April 22, 2000). Charles is the son of Karl Probst, the designer and developer of the original jeep at Bantam. Although Charles has had a fascinating and very productive career of his own, (including the authorship of many technical automotive books still in great demand) he is revered by Bantam people because of his authorship of the Automobile Quarterly article "One Summer in Butler". Although the article says it is written by Karl and Charles, Charles actually wrote it, using the extensive note he found of his fathers. He admits to a few mistakes in that article, one of which he particularly regrets in not giving full credit to Ralph Turner (still living in Butler) for driving the prototype to Holabird. (He had Karl driving it as I remember.)

Charles was 22 when Karl was working on the jeep in Butler, and as most of us are at that age, not as attentive to his Dads activities as he was to getting his own career started. He has some amusing anecdotes about his father though, most of which he has written about over the years. One I liked was when Karl was watching the news on TV in 1960 during the Katanga secession from the Congo. The west was backing Moise Tshombe, and the Russians were giving aid to Patrice Lumumba. As the film clip unfolded showing some of Lumumbas troops in action, the jungle brush jostled, and what should appear out into view on the screen but a ROUND NOSED BANTAM! (To understand this, you have to know that the round nosed cars were the first 70 Bantams of which only one survives (#007) in the Smithsonian collections. After the 16,000 "standardized" contract to Willys the services tried their best to get rid of as many non conforming jeeps as it could, mainly in the lend lease programs...this would include not only the Bantam round nosers, but the 1,500 BRC's, the 1,500 MA's (Willys) and the 1,500 GP's (Ford) as well...which makes them all so rare today.


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