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Asuka 1/24 American Bantam Reconnaissance Car

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Asuka (formerly Tasca) 1/24 Bantam Reconnaissance Car

 

 

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In 1940, the U S Army asked 135 tractor and auto manufacturers to design a four-wheel drive, 40 horsepower, 1,300 pound reconnaissance car that could haul soldiers as well as heavy artillery. The challenge? The designer was expected to have a working prototype available for a test run within 49 days. Only two companies responded to the request, The American Bantam Car Company of Butler, Pa. and Willys-Overland Motors of Toledo, Ohio. Because Bantam promised to deliver the prototype in 45 days, they won contract.

 

Bantam’s Factory Manager Frank Fenn, former General Motors Executive Arthur Brandt and a skeleton work crew were feverishly working on the project when Fenn called freelance designer Karl Probst in Detroit and offered him the design job. Probst agreed to design the car in five days and forgo payment for his services if Bantam did not win the Army contract.

 

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The Bantam prototype. (blog.hemmings.com)

 

The Bantam prototype was called the Bantam Reconnaissance Car, or BRC. After maintaining a frantic schedule for nearly seven weeks, the Bantam group managed to bring the layouts and spec sheets to life. Ralph Turner of Butler drove the vehicle to Camp Holabird, Maryland on September 23. The Army tested it for 30 days. Unfortunately, Bantam could not meet the Army’s production demands of 75 vehicles per day. The Army gave Ford and Willys the Bantam’s blueprints and they produced the vehicles the Army required. Ford and Willys fulfilled the Army’s contracts for 600,000 Jeeps for World War II.

 

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Bantam produced a total of 2,675 jeeps and never produced another vehicle after that. They then produced ‘jeep’ cargo trailers, torpedo motors and other items until they closed in 1956. The Bantam jeep was the first of what would eventually evolve into the World War II US Army Jeeps, the Willys MB and the Ford GPW. (Text taken from www.bantamjeepfestival.com/about/history/ ). About 1000 Bantams were supplied to the USSR under Lend-Lease. Great Britain received 162 examples.

 

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The Kit.

 

I received the kit in a neat little box. Every sprue was separately packed to avoid scratches from other sprues. There are 4 olive drab sprues with the parts for the chassis, the bodywork, the engine and the seats and so on. One sprue with clear parts for the windshield, head- and taillights and the instrument cluster, a set of 5 vinyl tires, a little sprue of washers to keep the wheels attached to the model and a decal set with service markings for the engine and the bodywork as well as markings for 3 vehicles, 2 of them for the US Army in the USA and 1 for a British vehicle in North Africa 1942. The instructions are clear and look very well drawn.

 

The Sprues.

 

The first sprue contains the engine parts. The Bantam used the Continental BY-4112, 4-cilinder, 112 cubic inch / 1.8 litre, side-valve engine of 45 horsepower. Interestingly enough, variants of this engine were used until the 1960’s in industrial equipment such as forklifts under the designation Continental Y-112.

 

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The fan and fan belt.

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The battery and parts of the central transfer box.

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The “cylinder head cover” for want of a better word. Top left you see the right hand side of the engine block with carburettor. Being a side-valve engine, the intake and exhaust ports are located on the same side of the engine. The top part is the exhaust side, attached to the cylinder head cover, the lower part is fixed to the engine block part.

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The carburetor.

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Both the basic engine block parts.

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The radiator parts.

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The air filter parts and the fuel and oil filters.

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The real fuel filter.

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The engine in the vehicle.

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The next sprue contains the basic body tub, steering wheel, seats etc.

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The steering wheel and gear levers.

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The rear side of the steering wheel. Note the ejection pin mark on the steering column clamp. On the right side there are the circular brake and clutch pedal. The throttle pedal looks to be a tiny metal pedal on the real thing. See the tiny part top center. I’ve read on an internet site that the BRC didn’t have a throttle pedal but that the driver used a manual handle in the dashboard to set the throttle? It can be that that was only on the prototype series or that the production variant had both or a combination of both…

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The seats. Also accurate as the rest of the parts we have examined.

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The backside of the seats. The lower backsides show some sinkmarks. Here we also see some heavy ejector pin marks on the inner sides of the rear bench backrest. That should be no problem but dryfit to be sure that the parts do fit without a gap.

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The backrest.

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The dashboard with the holes for the instruments, although I do think that the ignition lock wasn't on wartime vehicles....

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The fuel tank which is located under the drivers’ seat.

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The basic tub of the body.

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The underside shows plenty of punch marks. Luckily they’re not deep and a good portion of them will be hidden by the chassis. If you don’t plan on looking at the underside of your model you can even forget about them! J

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When we shift our attention to the following sprue, we find the sides of the body, the bonnet or hood, grille and wind shield.

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The tail plate, headlights and hand holds.

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The rear lights of the real deal.

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The sides of the bodywork. Fine crisp details. You could try to hollow out the moulded in tie-downs if you feel you’re in a winning mood…!.

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The insides show slight punch marks. Most of them won’t be seen but check which ones will. Filling and or sanding them won’t be a dramatic chore.

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The bonnet or hood. The inside also shows some punch marks. These are also very shallow. However, if you want to show the engine and have the bonnet open, you better fill them in.

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The windshield. The real car had the possibility to open the windshield some to vent fresh air behind it without the driver having to eat all kinds of bugs. The kit doesn’t give this option. It’s either windshield up or down. All the latches and things are provided, however, so the windshield will look accurately busy with fine details. These details, together with the hooks for the windshield in the “down”-position and the bonnet are to be found above of the windshield part. In the right lower corner you can see the handle for the single windshield wiper.

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These pictures show the fenders, the vented plating behind the front wheels and the tubular front grille. Look at the delicate hollow moulding of the vents!

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The last of the olive drab-colored sprues contains the parts for the chassis, suspension, wheels and the driveshafts and differentials for the 4-wheel drive.

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Swipe your sanding stick a couple of times over the hubs of the front wheels.

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The rear wheels and the spare.

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The leaf springs.

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The driveshafts and differentials.

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The U-shaped rods that connect the axles to the springs.

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The exhaust, shock absorbers and the inner wheel hubs.

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The tires are vinyl. I know there are people who hate this medium and there are people who are afraid of chemicals in the tires “melting” the rims or of the tires drying out over time, cracking por breaking in the process. I’m not afraid of this; the problems with melting rims were only noted with the tires supplied with AMT kits in the ‘90’s. The material of those tires was vastly different from the material used by Asuka. The Asuka tires are much more like those found in Tamiya car and motorcycle kits. I have built a few of those Formula-1 and motorcycle kits myself and have yet to find ANY adverse effect of the tires. Not unimportantly; the color is not pitch-black and the tires aren’t gloss, so painting them over isn’t necessary at all. Just weather them together with the rest of the vehicle. So I’ll be using the vinyl tires with confidence.

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The clear parts look clear enough and free of distortions.

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As mentioned earlier; the decalsheet contains markings for three vehicles; two Stateside, and one used by British forces in North Africa.

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One of the finishing options in the kit. The Duke of Gloucester in a Bantam. Note the sun compass in front of the driver, not supplied in the kit. (IWM)

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What do we think?

 

The details in the plastic parts are very finely molded. The kit does show a lot of punch-marks but that is the natural downside of having a finely molded detail-rich model. While a few of those punch marks do need removal with a razor-saw or a scalpel, most are very fine and easily filled. Besides, a good few will be covered by other parts, so before filling them all in, check if they will be visible…

 

I knew Asuka from their magnificent line of Sherman kits in 1/35 so I had high hopes. And the people of Asuka delivered! I spent some time looking for photos of the vehicle and it’s engine on the Internet and purchased the WWP R059 “Bantam Jeeps in Detail”. The kit looks dead-on accurate when held against these sources. I haven’t been able to find out how the throttle was fitted on the production vehicles, but the model mirrors the photos of the real thing.

 

The prices of the kit I found at the writing of this review were €42,50 from a shop in Poland. And $39,95 from a shop in the USA.

 

Very highly Recommended!

 

 

We like to thank Asuka Model for providing us with the review sample.

 

 

A Sherman II next to a BRC  Willys MB jeep (IWM). I must've been cross-eyed when I attached this image to the review... Sorry! But it's a seriously nice photo, so it stays in! ;)

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Here is an interesting walk-around (external link):

http://militarymodels.co.nz/2011/11/21/bantam-brc-40-jeep-photo-walkaround/ 

Edited by Erik B.
Corrected the caption with the photo of a Sherman II next to a Willys Jeep
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hi Erik

 

nice to see you guys hooked up ok

 

thanks for the review - i had never realised it was a Bantam in that famous Sherman II pic - now if only you could recreate THAT diorama in 1/24?!

 

cheers

 

Nick

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Ooops!! Never post a review during the night shift.......

 

Of course that's not a Bantam next to that Shermie, Nick..... I must've been blind or so...! But a very nice pic, for sure, innit? ;)

 

 

Cheers,

Erik.

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Erik, I never knew you had it in you ;)

 

Great article. Some excellent photos there too.

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Errr, what he said.... You don't mind if I stay with the decimal system do you? :)

138.6mm x 65.6mm

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This is one of the best review I've ever seen Erik!!

 

The kit looks very nice indeed, I hope they do an accurate GPW, then I could review it with actual GPW parts from my restoration project.

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