American Bantam rose from the bankruptcy of American Austin Car Company. The Austins were built in Butler, Penn., from 1930 to 1934, but these minicars never developed enough sales to survive the competition of established automakers whose cars were priced near or below the Austin's base price of $445.
American Bantam began in 1937 and built cars from 1938 to early 1941 with updated styling by Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky. An improved engine better suited for U.S. driving conditions (genius race-car designer Harry A. Miller did some of the work on the engine's manifold system) resulted in a more competitive automobile emerging from Butler, with an array of body styles priced from $399 to $565. But with WWII threatening, most of Bantam's thin resources were poured into developing the prototype Jeep in hopes of winning the U.S. Army contract. This effort was in vain, however, as Willys, and later Ford, went on to build all of the Jeeps while Bantam closed its doors forever in 1941.