Jeff Motes' 1938 Austin Bantam

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Take a 1938 Austin Bantam 5 Window sedan body. Cut it into bits and pieces. Weld it together again, equip it with tractor steelies and a toyota 4banger, and you end up having a wild ride looking like it has escaped the drawing board of Ed Roth.

This is exactly what 23 year-old Jeff ”Cookie” Motes did. After rescuing the remains of an old Austin Bantam from a 55 gallon drum behind a welding shop in Tennessee, Jeff shortened the body 10”, chopped it 4.5” and sectioned it 2”. All traces of vinyl were removed from the roof before the rusted body was sent to sandblasting. Back from blasting, Jeff and his shop partner Mike Overcash poured over the remains.

Jeff wanted to keep the car superlow. As the suspension was designed, he decided to make a straight frame that he could put the front and rear axle above. To get the front suspension to attach to the 4 inch drop axle, there is a cantilever to a front engine rail dragster front spring perched under the headlights, together with a pair of friction shocks. The rear is held up by ’35 Chevy front springs cut in half for quarter elliptical action, running up though above the frame instead of out like normal. The front and rear are held on with hairpins.

The big wheels are a striking feature on this truck. 19X3 inch wheels from a Ford 9N tractor with bias-plys from a 1938 Harley Davidson were used in the front. To make this fit a pair of spindles from a 1954 Chevrolet, they had to be machined down. 9N tractor hubs were narrowed and machined before bearings were installed. To give the Austin a seamless look, Jeff skipped installing front brakes. In the rear, a couple of 20x5.5” wheels from an old International Harvester running Model AA tires is used.

For a dependable, yet Model T 4-banger feel, a polished hopped up Toyota 20R motor was used. The 215 horsepower from the Toyota mill is distributed by a Celica aluminum 5 speed tranny, all the way back to 4.86 ring gear inside of an 8” rear end.

With the drivetrain in place, it was time to concentrate on the body. A tubing roll cage was built to support the new body. After using up 40 feet of thick wall tubing, the body sat tight and nice on its new support structure. With the body on place, Jeff also had to make a brand new floor, firewall and tranny tunnel in the truck. The bed was the last step of the build. Jeff originally planned to build his own bed, matching the old jeep military trailers, that he found out was actually built by Austin Bantam company. The plan was abandoned when Jeff stumbled over a 1953 Cushman Truckster bed. After a ton of sandblasting and cutting, the bed was fit, and it was time for some major body work.

As it came to the last phase of the project, Michael and Jeff dragged the car to a paint booth. They started out by painting the chassis a few coats of glossy blank, before the body was sprayed in International Harvester Red. After 6 months of hard work, it was time for the final assembly. The headlights are Model T aftermarket parts equipped with aftermarket bubble lenses. The atomic taillights originate from a couple of 60’s Dazey ice crushers, and look killer on the car. The dashboard, was found on eBay, and comes from a European car. Jeff stole the steering wheel from a 1968 John Deere lawn mower. The seats were built from wood, and covered by a co-worker of Jeff. After tons of water lines were run to the back, where the radiator resides and black and red wiring was run, the project was finally coming to a close. It had been 6 hard months, but I think Jeff would do it all over again for this tricked out ride.

Jeff has sold the Austin Bantam. Hopefully we will see more innovative rods coming out of Tennessee in the near future.

Magazine Features

Rolls & Pleats Number 20
Rod & Custom December 2008

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