American Bantam first made
these trailers to be towed behind jeeps during WWII. The army contract to
Bantam for trailers was in consolation for not having awarded them the
for Jeeps which they invented. (The jeep contract was awarded to Willys and Ford.)
When I bought this trailer,
it was straight, ding free, and tweak free with only minor surface rust (no
bondo, no welding, and no rust-though). The paint was original and good, but
weathered. Rarely can you find a 70 year old Bantam trailer that is in as good condition as this one was.
The trailer is Bantam’s
commercial model. Unlike the military trailer, the ‘commercial’ has a
tailgate and does not have a hand brake. It is rated at a 1/4 ton pay load
which is actually a lot of camping gear and beannie weenies. The hitch was a
Fulton ball type, unlike the pintle/lunette coupler used on military
trailers. This trailer has the original ID plaque complete with model and
serial number. Also, of note, the trailer originally only had a tail light
on the left side (port side). The tail light on the right side was added at
a later date. \I assume the added light was to make it compliant with
California law. This should help in ascertaining its manufactured date.
• Extended the tongue so that
the trailer would pull straighter and the rear door of a TJ would open
without touching the front of the trailer.
• Replaced the ball hitch with a (3) axis hitch. (design found on the internet)
• Extended the safety chains.
• Welded a rear attachment point to the rear of the trailer. It will enable the trailer to be strapped backward.
• Installed TJ shocks. They are probably not needed, but I had them, so I put them on.
• The left side wheel studs were “lefty-tighties…righty lucy.” So, I replaced them with “righty-tighties”…avoids big time confusion when trying to remove the wheel.
• Repacked the wheel bearings. The hub design reminds me of those found on a 1950 3/4 ton Ford truck.
• Put on and balanced 33” BF Goodrich KM2 tires (used). They provide good clearance and levels the trailer with a TJ on 35’s with a 4 inch lift. (runs at 15 psi)
• Added a wheel to the front drop-down tongue jack. This allows the trailer to sit level and roll easily when off of the jeep.
• Installed new tail lights and wiring harness.
• Had the trailer sandblasted to bare metal. I then primed and painted the trailer with WWII OD enamel.
• Made removable wooden bows to support a canvas cover.
• Had a custom heavy-duty thread count canvas OD cover made. (military grade)
• Hand lettered military markings.
• Installed (2) 2 1/2 gallon NATO style fuel jerry cans…port and starboard.
• Made and installed oak wooden handle wing nut/bolts to close the tail gate without a gap. The original tail gate design is like a pickup truck with a gap. I wanted the trailer to be as ‘air tight’ as possible. The wing bolts, while not original to jeeps, look like something that would have been
made in the 1940’s.
• Installed a lockable tongue box (Harbor Freight) and added an electrical waterproof outlet door to lead battery cables
into the box.
• Mounted a folding shovel on the port quarter.
• Mounted a ‘medical’ ammo box on stb. quarter.
• Mounted 18” axe on port forward.
• I kept the ‘California style’ chrome wheels that came with the trailer. They are not ‘military’ but are like totally bodacious.
• I purchased a 16oz. tarp and set it up to be installed as a shade on either the port or the starboard side.
• I ran a wiring harness from the tongue box battery back to the rear tailgate and installed a DC type outlet. (allows for DC lighting and other DC applications)
• I installed a bolted-in battery box inside the tongue box with a wired-in volt meter.
I saved all the original
parts so the trailer can easily be retuned to original. The military theme
is meant to be a tribute to all of those who have served. This trailer is
set up as an “Expedition Trailer.” It will go where your jeep goes.
If you search the web you
will not find an original Bantam in as good condition as this one. It was a
rare find. I have approximately $2500 invested in this project, not counting
two years of on/off again work. I did most of the work on this trailer
except the hitch welding (I had a pro do this work) and the sandblasting. It
was a fun project for me.
I considered putting a ‘sleep on top’ tent structure on the top of the trailer. They are popular on many expedition type trailers, but they are expensive, restrict access to the inside of the trailer, and are complicated. I figured I could set up a tent just as quickly as unfolding a complicated trailer top tent, plus save a great amount of top-heavy weight. Also, crawling up a ladder to enter a tent seems curious to me. I suspect my dad would have found this idea amusing. Also, I wanted to keep, as much as possible, the WWII theme.