1930 Austin Bantam Coupe / Specs, Model History

The car featured in this article is an American built 1930 Austin Bantam Coupe. The company that manufactured this automobile is certainly not a household name but it's story is quite interesting. It's a story of how a start up automaker strove to survive during one of the greatest economic downturns in world history.

American Austin Car Company and American Bantam

austin bantam photos

The 1930 Austin Bantam

The American Austin Car Company was a U.S. corporation which was founded in 1929 in Butler, Pennsylvania and built automobiles under a license from the British Austin Motor Company. The American company styled automobiles based on the British Austin Seven.

Starting a new automobile manufacturing company in 1929, just short of the stock market crash, proved to be a daunting task. The Great Depression that followed the market crash forced established American automakers to slash prices. The Austin Car Company was building smaller vehicles like the Austin Bantam shown her. What was not anticipated was that larger automobiles from the established automakers were being sold for a price that Austin Bantam required for their vehicles. The price squeeze was on. It's well known the difficulties luxury car makers had during the Great Depression. In the case of the American Austin Car Company, they were hurt on the lower end.

1930 austin bantam specsA smaller automobile like the 1930 Austin Bantam was proven to be popular in Europe. European taxes favored smaller cars with less horsepower. The question was, can this same automobile make it in the U.S. where many car buyers felt that bigger was better. You could make the case that the economical Austin Bantam was like the Volkswagen many years before Volkswagen was imported to America.

American Austin Car Company Opens for Business in 1929

When the American Austin Car Company marketed their new small yet well designed car, orders went through the roof. They received orders for over 50,000 vehicles but had a factory in Butler, Pennsylvania that could only turn out about 100 cars per day. This was a huge problem but it was remedied before too long. When the Great Depression began settling in, orders dropped drastically and the factory in Butler closed it's doors in 1932.

A young auto dealer from Florida named Roy S. Evans along with investors bought the Butler, Pennsylvania plant and began turning out vehicles once again. The plant still couldn't meet the relatively low demand and the money investors pulled out leaving things with the young yet still optimistic auto dealer.

As it turned out, the American Austin Car Company went bankrupt in 1935 and was taken out of bankruptcy by Evans who renamed the company American Bantam. All formal ties with the British company then ceased. American Bantam began producing cars from 1938 and ended production in 1941.

When American Bantam started selling cars again in 1938 the economy was still a giant headwind. Prices for larger automobiles were still heavily discounted and when all was said and done, American Bantam lost about $75 for each of the 6,700 vehicles they produced from 1938 through the next two years.

austin bantam automakerMilitary Orders

During 1939 and into 1940  the U.S. military was awarding vehicle contracts for all purpose vehicles. Ford and Willys had complete access to Bantam's design and submitted their own designs.

There was the question of whether American Bantam had production facilities that could meet the demands of a military contract. In the end, American Bantam received a government contract for a vehicle known as the Bantam Reconnaissance Car (BRC). The army had requested an all-purpose military vehicle, and it was the BRC that became the prototype of the jeep, later produced by Willys and Ford.

1930 Austin Bantam Specifications

The 1930 Austin Bantam like the model featured in this article came with an 46 Cubic Inch Inline 4 cylinder engine. The engine produced 15 HP. The Bantam was very economical to operate achieving about 40 miles per gallon. Top speed was also about 40 MPH.

The automobile came with a three speed manual gear box.

Bantam's wheelbase was 75 inches. It's length 105 inches and weight averaged about 1,100 lbs.

New car price in 1930 averaged about $375. This was just slightly cheaper than than Ford's V-8. As an example a 1930 Ford Model A could be bought for about $400.

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The 1929 Stutz Model M Le Baron Phaeton

The 1934 Pierce-Arrow 836A

The 1934 Ford V-8

Reference material for this article includes...Collector Automobile Magazine...American Austin Bantam Club...Standard Catalogue of American Cars.

Austin Bantam Collector Car Values

The American Austin Bantams produced from 1929 to 1934 are affordable for just about any collector. Good automobile to start a collection with. These cars are indeed rare since only about 20,000 American Austins of various body styles were built before the factory in Pennsylvania closed in 1935. Another 8,000 were built from 1938-40.

austin bantam engine

Austin Bantam Inline four engine

As of this writing we're finding running 1930-1934 Bantam Coupes in the $6,000 to $15,000 range. Full restorations and frame off restorations will command a higher price. Restored American Austin Roadsters are seen in the $20,000-$29,000 range.

The American Austin Bantam Club is the world's first organization dedicated exclusively to the restoration and preservation of American Austin and Bantam vehicles that were built in Butler, Pennsylvania. The club welcomes owners and fans of American Austin, American Bantam, Bantam Reconnaissance Cars, as well as the English Austin Seven and its derivatives. Check out their website at www.austinbantamclub.com

(Article and photos copyright Auto Museum Online)



1934 Pierce Arrow 836A Sedan / Specs and Design History

pierce-arrow sedan

1934 Pierce-Arrow Sedan

The automobile featured in this article is a beautiful 1934 Pierce- Arrow 836A Sedan. The Pierce Motor Company, founded in 1901 by George N. Pierce, was a well known automobile manufacturer based in Buffalo, New York. The company manufactured automobiles from 1901 to 1938.

The very first Pierce-Arrow was a one cylinder, two speed car with no reverse. In 1903 a two cylinder car was built to be followed up in 1904 with a four cylinder model. The 1904 automobile was named the Great Arrow and won a cross country race in New England.

As it turned out, George Pierce sold his interest in the company in 1907 and would pass away just three years later in 1910. The new company would become Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company.

1934 pierce arrow

Pierce-Arrow grille with in fender headlights

It's been said that during the teens, twenties and thirties there were more familiar automaker names than Pierce-Arrow, but as far as quality went, Pierce-Arrow led the way. The company focused on quality above all else.

Pierce-Arrow's Financial Challenges

It goes without saying that selling high priced luxury automobiles during the depths of the Great Depression was a huge challenge. The Pierce-Arrow cars were priced high but the quality of these motor cars was well known. With that being said, by 1934 even some of the wealthy were taking a second look at what they were paying for their automobiles.

It's interesting to note that by the year 1934 the company was essentially bankrupt. Not a surprising situation for a luxury automaker during the middle of the 1930's. Several disappeared forever. These included Cord, American Austin, Franklin and others.

pierce-arrow history

New 1934 fastback rear

Pierce-Arrow considered a possible merger with automakers like Auburn who also had financial difficulties in 1934 but in the end loans were finally secured to continue operations. These loans did come however with requirements. These included reorganizing as the Pierce-Arrow Corporation...scaling down production, and selling through independent dealers rather than factory owned dealerships.

Even with these loans and the reorganization, the Pierce-Arrow Corporation was insolvent by 1938 and production ceased. It's said that the very last Pierce-Arrow built was put together by the company's chief engineer using parts he obtained from the bankruptcy's receivers.

Changes to the 1934 Pierce Arrow Models

Pierce-Arrow came out with three new cars for 1934 and during the Spring of 1935 they added a fourth model to the line up. These were the eight cylinder 840 and two twelve cylinder models, the 1240 and the 1248. The fourth model that came out later in the model year was the 836A built on a shorter wheelbase of 136 inches. The 836A had a smaller engine and was the least costly Pierce-Arrow but still offered buyers the company's superior quality.

The 1934 models brought many changes to the traditional Pierce-Arrow design. A more modern look was given the cars using rounded body lines. The traditional Pierce-Arrow triple taillight, a standard feature since the mid-twenties, was replaced by taillights molded into the rear fenders, copying the style of the traditional fender headlights. The radiator shell was painted, with only the grill chromed, and the radiator cap was moved under the hood and the archer ornament was permanently attached to the radiator shell. The hood was also restyled using horizontal doors.

New car prices for 1934 Pierce-Arrows were high by any measurement considering the economy. The model 840 V-8 models were p[riced between about $2,800 to $4,900. The 836A could be bought in the $2,500-$2,700 range. The two V-12 models had a wide range of prices depending on body style, etc and ranged between $3,300-$7,000.

The 1934 Pierce-Arrow Specifications

The two 1934 V-12's came with a 462 cubic inch V-12 delivering 175 HP. The 840 Pierce-Arrow had a 385 cubic inch straight eight delivering 140 HP. The 836A was built with a 366 cubic inch straight eight with 135 HP.

Transmissions were three speed manuals.

Wheelbases varied by model. the 840 was 139 and 144 inches. The smaller 836A was 136 inches , the 1240A was 139 and 144 inches and the 1248A was 148 inches.

Pierce-Arrow 1934 production was around 1,520 units. To give you an idea of what the Great Depression did to luxury car sales...for the 1929 model year Pierce-Arrow produced just under 10,000 vehicles. For the 1936 model year the company produced less than 800 units. It's important to note that all production figures are estimates since official records were destroyed when the company closed in 1938.

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The 1931 Cadillac 852A V-16

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The 1934 Ford V-8

Reference material for this article included...Pierce-Arrow: First Among America's Finest (Ballantine's Illustrated History of the Car: Marque Book) by Maurice D. Hendry...Pierce-Arrow Legacy by Mrs. Elenore T. Leigh...Pierce Arrow Society.

Pierce-Arrow Collector Car Valuations

The Pierce-Arrow is a very rare automobile. Those of the 1930's especially so for the fact they were produced in low numbers due to the effects of the Great Depression. Also during the mid thirties Pierce-Arrow was experiencing serious financial problems.

pierce-arrow 1930's

Original Pierce-Arrow wheel

A total of about 1520 total units were built for 1934 which makes any Pierce-Arrow rare. It's also the first year of the rounded more modern look and with the fastback trunk design.

Today's valuations are very dependent upon the particular model and of course it's condition and degree of restoration. As of this writing there are Pierce-Arrow models for sale from the 1930's  priced at $45,000 for a 1934 Brougham...a 1936 Town Car V-12 at $249,000...a 1935 model 1245 seven passenger at $45,000...a 1933 model 836 convertible at $75,000...a 1931 Eight Club Sedan at $55,000.

pierce arrow specs

34 Pierce-Arrow dash

For Pierce-Arrow enthusiasts there is a unique Pierce-Arrow Museum. The museum is located on the grounds of the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan. Most of the exhibits are permanent and owned by the Pierce-Arrow Foundation. The remainder are owned privately and are rotated.

Also, for much more information regarding Pierce-Arrow models and the company history see the Pierce-Arrow Society at pierce-arrow.org

(Article and photos copyright Auto Museum Online)


1956 Mercury Montclair / Specs, History and More

The automobile featured in this article is a very good looking 1956 Mercury Montclair. The full-size top of the line Mercury Montclair was the newest model after the 1955 redesign.

1956 mercury monterey specs

1956 Mercury Montclair

1956 Mercury Montclair Features

Of major significance with Mercury was that the automaker changed from a six volt electrical system in 1955 to a twelve volt system in 1956.

In addition to this, there were some great new features that Mercury offered with their Montclair model. The Montclair featured the very best Mercury had to offer. This included extra chrome trim and two-tone paint combinations as seen on our featured model. Standard features included a deep-dish steering wheel which added protection from the steering column in case of an accident...safety door locks, a breakaway rear-view mirror, padded dashboard, another safety feature and optional seat belts. The dash was modified with three-tier instrumentation. Dual exhausts were standard on all Montclair and Monterey models. Almost 90 percent of all Mercurys for 1956 were sold with automatic transmissions. Standard equipment was a three speed manual.

mercury monterey styling

Montclair's  distinctive use of chrome in styling.

All 1956 Mercurys had a large "M" medallion on the hood front with the word "Mercury" spelled out in block letters on the center horizontal grille bar.

For the 1957 model year Mercury would receive a significant new body styling.

Four Mercurys for 1956

There were four Mercury models produced in 1956. These were the Mercury Medalist, Custom, Monterey, and Montclair. The Mercury Medalist was the lower priced bottom of the line and the Mercury Montaclair was higher priced the top of the line. For 1956 the Medalist replaced the Custom as the bottom level Mercury.

So what were some of the differences. For one, the Medalist had less side chrome than the Montaclair. When you moved up from Medalist to Custom you'll find upgraded interiors with the Custom. Going up from Monterey to Montclair you'll find more chrome trim including chrome rocker panels. Both the Monterey and Montclair had their model name with chrome script on the front fenders. Of significance was that the entire Mercury line in 1956 offered a four door hardtop.

56 mercury monterey styling

56 Montclair  rear styling

1956 Mercury Montclair Specifications

The 1956 Montclair had a 312 cubic inch V-8 engine with 210 horsepower. There were two optional V-8's, both being 312 cubic inch. One produced 225 horsepower and the other 260.

As mentioned above, although a three speed manual was standard, some 90 percent of all 1956 Mercury models were automatics with the Merc-O-Matic.

All passenger cars had the same wheelbase of 118.0 inches.

Mercury production for 1956 was 327,943 units, just a bit less than 1955's 328,808. It appeared that the public approved of the brand's unique styling. The styling was different from both Ford and Lincoln and represented a distinct difference from the two.

In 1956 Mercury produced 50,562 Montclair models.

To give you an idea of new car pricing for 1956, the Mercury Montclair Convertible price was $2,900. The highest proced vehicle was actually the Monterey Wagon at about $2,985. The lower priced Mercury Medalist has a $2,250 price tag for it's two-door.

The Mercury brand came on the scene in 1938 compliments of Edsel Ford, son of Henry Ford. The line would eventually cease production during the first week of January 2011. The stated plan for the new Mercury line was to establish an entry level luxury car.

See the Auto Museum Online articles on the links below...

The 1953 Mercury Monterey

The 1949 Mercury Sedan

The 1955 Buick Special

Reference material for this article includes...The Cars of Lincoln-Mercury by authors George H. Dammann and James K. Wagner....55 Years of Mercury: The Complete History of the Big "M" by John Gunnell.

1956 Mercury Montclair Collector Cars

As we have said before, generally all 1950 American automobiles and trucks are popular collector models. Valuations, of course, are dependent on if there has been a restoration and to what degree and date, originality, and precise model. When it comes to collector automobiles, nothing beats a finely restored original.

1956 mercury montclair photos

1956 Mercury Montclair dashboard

With that being said, all mid 1950's Mercury models carry strong collector interest. They also have a wide range of valuations. With the Mercury Montclair, a range could be from $9,000 or $10,000 to $50,000 plus for a finely restored model.

Mercury designers showed with the Montclair model what just the right amount of chrome along with distinctive styling curves could do. The 56 Montclair is a good looking model.

When discussing the characteristics of these mid 1950's Mercurys, many would say they resembled a Lincoln to a degree without the Lincoln price tag. Mercury was really positioned to be the model between the working guy's Ford and the wealthy's Lincoln and that wasn't a bad place to be.

(Article and photos copyright Auto Museum Online)