TO THE EDITOR:
Regarding "Owner community meets business community" (Aug. 27), Toledo, Ohio, may call itself the home of the Jeep, but the original Jeeps were invented and produced by American Bantam Car Co. in Butler, Pa., and the community holds a Jeep heritage festival each June.
Bantam had started in 1929 as American Austin Car Co., one of the country's few makers of small cars. When the company folded in 1934, Austin salesman Roy Evans bought it in receivership, and in January 1938, the reorganized company, then named American Bantam Car Co., redesigned its models and submitted three vehicles for Army testing.
Formal bid requests were sent in 1940 to 135 manufacturing companies. Willys-Overland Co. in Toledo, also presented a design, but only Bantam said it could deliver a prototype within the required 49-day time frame.
A military committee had been formed to develop a midget combat car. Before deciding on specifications, committee members visited Butler and drove a Bantam roadster. The committee's report indicated the vehicle' potential and the plant's capabilities.
In 1940, American Bantam Car Co. developed the Bantam Reconnaissance Car in response to a U.S. Army request for an all-purpose military vehicle. The vehicle became the prototype of the Jeep, later manufactured by Willys and Ford, and is the direct ancestor of today's four-wheel-drive vehicles.
June 7-9 was the ninth annual Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival in Butler. More than 15,000 people participate in off-road trails, a Jeep playground obstacle course, the original Jeep Invasion street party and more, making the festival the Jeep road trip of the year.
JOHN PUTZIER, CEO, Greater Pittsburgh Automobile Dealers Association