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Bantam initially started as American Austin building the Austin Seven under license from 1930 through 1934. Throughout the Depression an inexpensive car like the Austin Seven would have looked like a frugal option. Sold for $445, the price was lower than a Ford V8’s $495… but still didn’t appear to be a great value due to their diminutive size. In the four years of production 20,000 American Austins would be manufactured and yet the Bantam’s existence would be very short lived.
Powered by a 20-horsepower, 747cc inline four-cylinder engine, this was seen as under powered by the standards of the day. Those who restore them today know they are not capable of being driven on a modern highway due to the low top speed.
Microcars had a second renaissance during the 50’s with, among other brands, the Crosley. Today, we’re once again faced with a new run of microcars in the US thanks to the Smart Car, Fiat 500, and Scion iQ. The premise behind the microcar is sound but we, as Americans, simply do not trust vehicles of this size.