My 1946 Bantam T3C Trailer Restoration

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Apr 3, 2017
Plano Texas
Greetings all. Thought I would share my experience restoring a 1946 Bantam T3C Trailer. I bought this back in August of 2015 from a fellow in Arkansas. Found his ad on CL and this trailer seemed to be in fair shape. He had purchased this trailer to restore himself and had done a fair amount of work on it already. He decided it was not a project he wanted to continue so he was looking to move on and unload it. He had gotten so far as to have it blasted and etch primed, had some new spring shackles put on it, sprayed bedliner in the bed, weld a new hitch/tongue assembly on it. I don't think he fully realized the cost of restoring one of these trailers, so he wanted to get out of this project quick once he did. He put some just awful paint on it to get it on the road and sold. Aside from the tongue setup, and the tailgate hinges it seemed pretty original and workable for my needs.

The day I drug it home


I originally wanted this to tow camping gear behind my Jeep, so I was not looking for a perfect trailer. Just one that was not completely rusted through and falling apart. Decent tires would have been a plus but this one was not so lucky. They got the trailer home but I knew I would need to address that immediately if I really wanted to do something with this thing. The trailer sat stored in my garage for the rest of the year untouched.


Again, originally I was just going to put tires on it, have the wheels powder coated, and call it a day. I noticed the hubs were throwing grease all over the wheels, so I figured I would have to get into sealing those up. Well then if I have to do that, I might as well take a look at the bearings while I am in there......and so it starts. The more I got into this thing, the more I realized I wanted to make it something a little nicer looking. I get sort of sentimental with things like this. If this thing managed to survive since '46, who am I to deny it a proper restoration? Or at least the best one I could offer with my limited means.

So I figured for starters I would order tires for it. I ordered a pair of 6.00X16 Coker Classics to put on the wheels. I then found a pair of inner tubes on Ebay which I also ordered. While the tires and tubes were in transit, I thought I would have the wheels blasted and powder coated, then have the tires mounted once they arrived. I also knew I would need a spare wheel and tire for it so I set out to find another Bantam Hayes/Kelsey wheel. I would be dragging this thing long distances so a spare tire setup would be needed. Found a guy on Ebay selling a pair of wheels. So I nabbed them. Just needed one but thought I could sell one of them after everything was done. Price was too good to pass up.


So when I got these wheels, I realized they were not 'period correct' for this trailer. No matter though, it was just a spare. As I got more into it one was a '50's Korean war era wheel for an M38A1 Jeep. The other was unknown. They were not matched though.

So I took the wheels that were on the trailer down to the powder coater. Powder Coater BTW is Unit F14 Powder Coating. I highly recommend them for anyone looking for powder coating work in North Texas. Great guys to work with and very reasonable pricing. However, a few days after dropping the wheels off, I got a call from them. They told me after taking the tires off the wheels, they discovered that both wheels are rusted pretty badly and pretty well unusable. These 40's era wheels are notorious for getting water into the valve stem hole and rusting from the inside out. Well that was bad news. But luckily I had purchased the wheel pair from Ebay. So I shot photos of the wheels I had to the powder coater, and then drug them back out there to get those coated.

I wanted the wheel color to match the color of my Jeep wheels. We agreed that a 'Porsche Silver' would match the Jeep wheels the best. So I left them with the powder coating guys. In the time it took to discover the wheel issue, I had gotten my tires in. As I mentioned, I went with Coker Classic 6.00-16 tires with tubes to fit them. 7.50-16 would have been better, but the pricing jumps significantly between 6.00 and 7.50 for whatever reason. So I opted for the cheaper 6.00-16. I took them over to the powder coaters to have them mounted when the powder coating was done. They are a one stop shop for sure and again do great work. As mentioned the Ebay wheels were not matched and were incorrect for this period trailer. That bugged me a little, but I reasoned all I wanted to try and do is get the trailer really road-worthy. It would not be a show piece and mismatched wheels, although proper Kelsey/Hayes wheels, were OK in the spirit of getting her on the road.

So I after using my Ebay 'spare' as a now promoted full-time road wheel, I was left with locating another spare. I originally purchased a Omix-Ada reproduction wheel for a Willy's Jeep. Those are decent reproductions, but when I got mine it just did not look quite the same as the originals. So I decided what I would do is send that back, and set out to locate another original Willy's wheel. This would give me the opportunity to try and find a matched wheel to one of the ones on the ground, so I would have a matched set on the trailer. I finally found one on CL from a guy in Maine selling a whole bunch of them. He had another 50's era Willy's wheel. I bought it sight unseen and he sent it to me. When it finally arrived, I discovered that it did not fully match the other 50's wheel I had. You gotta be kidding me. How many different types of Jeep wheels are there out there? Turns out many. This new wheel was a 50's era wheel, but it had some kind of Bead-lock rim to it. Mostly the same but if you look close you can tell the difference.


Its close enough for my needs, so I ran this one over to the powder coaters, along with a third tire. Hopefully this would be the end of the wheel nonsense.
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So while the wheels were getting finished, I set out to get the hubs addressed and checked. I got the hubs removed, removed the seals, bearings and races, and cleaned them up with some solvent.

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I drove out the wheelstuds and stripped the hubs with a wire wheel

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Then I put on a fresh coat of paint

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I ordered a set of wheel studs and new races and pressed them in the hubs. These trailers come with both left-hand and right-hand wheel studs. I ordered a set of normal thread wheel studs for both sides of the trailer so that to remove the wheel you removed the lug nuts the same way for both sides. No trying to remember which way. I know its easy to do but I am lazy. The wheel studs were a bear to get in there. I did not have access to a press so I used a ball joint press from Autozone to do it. What a beat down, but I got them in.

After looking at the bearings and races, they seemed to be in great shape, but I opted to go ahead and order a whole new set for both sides just so I know its been done. I also ordered a new hardware set, lug nut set, and seals for both sides as well. Added grease and sealed everything up.

Shortly after this I got the call that the wheels were ready. Went over to pick them up. Turned out great IMHO. Photo with one of the wheels, new tires, and restored hub installed on the trailer.

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So now after getting this far, I realized that the wheels now look too nice to go with that crummy battleship paint. I started trying to figure out how I could get this thing painted. I started looking around for quotes for someone to do it. A painter I am not, so I knew my limits. Oddly enough though, I was having a hard time even finding a place in my area that would do a re-spray on something like this. Seems all the proper body shops around here are basically collision centers for cars and painting anything other than a brand new body panel seemed totally foreign to them. I did find one shop that said they would do it but it would cost more than the trailer had up to this point. I think they gave me the 'we don't really want to do this' pricing.

After searching for a few weeks, I had given up on the painting idea. Seemed like it was going to just cost more than I could do at this point. But after walking by this newly wheeled classic, seeing it covered in that ridiculous paint day after day, it was just more than I could bear. I mean this stuff was like house paint, really bad house paint at that. Nope, this survivor deserved much more than this. I came this far, and my Bantam was not going to be left this way. I decided maybe this would be a good opportunity to learn something new.

So I read up as much as I could on auto body painting. First step was to obviously prep the gray paint for a re-spray. As I mentioned the PO had etched primed this trailer so I thought it should have a decent base to work with. I removed the fenders started sanding.

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Did some additional filler work on the back of the trailer to smooth things out some

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Prepped the fenders....

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So after weeks of sanding, priming, sanding some more, I finally have a prepped trailer. I went down to my local English Color store and picked up some paint, reducer, and hardner. I went with a nice dark charcoal metallic color. I ended up going with Ford G5 Alloy Metallic single stage. Looked great in the store. I also picked up an air hose, paint gun, some mixing cups, and an air filter/dryer. I think I may have spent $150 on all of that. Beats the $2000 estimates I was getting for having someone do it for me. I have a 26 Gallon air compressor, but I was not sure it was up to the task of properly applying paint. I took the day off, cleared my schedule, and went to work. Having never painted before I had no real idea what I was doing. Below is the finished result.

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So as you can see in the photos, it just turned out black. In the light its a nice dark charcoal color and it looks metallic. But it mostly looks black. A lot more black than I was after. I was initially disappointed in how it turned out. I wanted it dark but lighter than this. I thought maybe it would lighted up over time, but after a year it hasn't. The paint job itself is just OK.....the result of 0 previous experience. Not bad, but it won't win any awards. Someday perhaps I'll have it painted professionally, but this will do for now. I think its improved from when I got it, so that I can live with.

I did have one little issue. After getting the trailer painted, I painted the fenders. By the time I got around to painting them, I was much more adept at using the paint gun, and they turned out really nice. Best part of the trailer by far in terms of painting. I had them set up on a saw horse to get paint on them. Just after finishing all the painting and cleaning up, while the paint was drying, this happened.....


The saw horse collapsed dropping both fenders down onto the plastic drop cloth I had below the sawhorse completely ruining the paint. Boy was I pissed. For the fenders at least it was back to the drawing board. I started all over sanding the fenders. Took me two additional weeks and additional supplies to get it finally done. What's worse is when I went to paint them a second time I did not do as good a job. Well, lesson learned I guess.
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So to get the fenders painted a second time, I tried a different approach. I decided to hang them instead to make sure they don't fall again, and to ensure I got coverage over every inch of them.

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Well it worked and I got them finally painted....

Next I put everything back together. Wheels, hubs, bearings, fenders, lights, wiring, the whole bit. Below is the end result.

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I added some additional top coat to the bed to take some of the dullness out of the bed liner.
Next I needed to figure out a way to mount that pesky spare tire. I had heard of folks getting a spare winch from an FJ60 to fit on these and mount the spare under the bed. Not a bad idea but would require drilling into or welding the winch onto the trailer. I could not really bring myself to do that so I opted for mounting the tire on the tongue. This thing has survived intact since 46' and I was not going to be the clown after all these years tearing into it that way.


I also needed to come up with some sort of landing leg for this guy. The original one is long gone which is too bad because it was a perfect setup for this trailer. I used a folding RV stabilizer as this leg. Something like this. This works nice as its length is adjustable and it fold up nicely when not in use. Its not as sturdy as I would like but it gets it done. I mounted this to the tongue using some trailer axle square U-bolts from a trailer axle mounting kit. I drilled some holes in the flat spring plate, and then mounted the RV stabilizer to that. Then I just mounted the whole thing to the tongue using the U-bolts and a receiver hitch reducer sleeve. I then bolted some super strut mending plates to the reducer sleeve end, and ran threaded rod with a bolt on one end up through holes in the mending plate. I then fed the rod through the wheel lug holes and tightened the tire down using wing nuts. So the whole assembly handles both the landing leg and spare tire mounting all in one go. Works perfectly.


Next I ordered a new fitted tarp for this trailer. Got it from an outfit that makes proper reproduction canvas tarps for the M100 trailers. They also make them for T3-C trailers as well. I think name is Pizzoferrato Enterprises. They make all sorts of military reproduction gear, not just trailer tarps. You can see a short listing of what they have for the trailers here. I had to call them to get mine ordered as I could not find where they offered T3-C tarps on their site. I ordered one in black vinyl which I had no idea was an option. Got it in and was amazed by the quality. It fits perfectly and really keeps the weather out. Can't say enough good about their stuff.


The tarp came with ropes to tie the tarp down with. I made up a PVC tarp bow setup for it. Works a treat.
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First day out of the garage since getting it back in August 2015. Been a long time.



As you can see I needed to rethink the tarp bows. I changed them to be a little more arched after this trial run.

The trailer pulled great. You hardly even know its back there.
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I took the trailer to Colorado this past Summer (2016). It worked perfectly. Pulled great the entire 1400 plus miles. Here are some shots of it in the mountains.

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Here is a shot to get a little better feel for the color. Just looks black I know but it does have a little color to it with enough light.

Well done sir. And, a perfect example of the effect of "while it's apart" :)
Here are some before and after shots of the trailer.





Its not perfect but I think its much improved from where it was.
One of the things these trailers came with were tailgate hooks. They had chains welded to the rear side wings of the trailer with hooks on the end. What you would do is put the hook through holes in the tailgate to hold it up and closed while traveling. When not traveling you would then un-hook the hooks and fold the tailgate down and attach the hooks to hold the tailgate level. My chains were long gone when I got this as well as the hooks. I tried my hand at making a set of hooks to work with this trailer using a rod bender. Came out OK but the rod I used was a little too big to fit in the holes on the tailgate. I may be making some more using thinner rod. If anyone knows where I could source the proper hooks and or chains I would appreciate info on that.

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Well done sir. And, a perfect example of the effect of "while it's apart" :)
Thanks. So true. Try to just get it on the road but once you do this, then what's the big deal in doing that, and then if you do that, might as well do this too. Before you know it, its totally restored. I have to say my Wife was very understanding with all this considering the original idea was just to buy it and use it as is. She never signed up for all the additional cost and mess a full restoration had behind it. I didn't really either. Months of our garage being completely overtaken by this project. Basically unusable for everyday life, covered in sanding dust and paint residue, paint fumes, parts and grease and tools everywhere. Hard to even walk through it with this going on. Just thankful she understood.......and even if she didn't, I am glad she did not tell me about it.
Newer shots from last summer Colorado trip. Started the trip in my '84 60 series LC, but got all the way to Childress Texas and had to turn back and get my Jeep as I was having issues with the 60 series carb (thankfully sorted now with help from MUD).



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Some updates on the trailer. I decided I wanted to have some way to mount the spare tire vertical. Also always wanted to have a gas can mounted on it to help balance my cruisers short range. I also wanted a way to add some electrical power to the trailer but didn't want to go the route of putting a tongue box on the trailer to house the electrics. The goal of this trailer is to keep it light enough still to be pulled by my 60 series. A giant battery with a bunch of chargers and cabling just didn't make sense if I couldn't do it in a fairly compact way. I also wanted a way to mount an axe and shovel on the trailer. Again, I am trying to not do anything that wouldn't allow someone else to return it back to totally stock if they wanted to. So I came up with a rack system fashioned out of big box super strut steel. I basically took a bit of superstrut and strapped it across the top of the tongue of the trailer. Then I mounted a vertical piece of super strut to the horizontal piece, which I used as a pole to mount my spare tire on. I also fashioned a vertical axe/shovel mount which was attached to the rack base:



Its a pretty simple setup with basicall a horizontal piece of strut across the trailer tongue and everything else bolted to that.

For power, I purchased one of these Solar Generators. Something like this:

Amazon product ASIN B085MZ63G8

This is a self-contained DC power source that allows charging from a solar panel, AC power source, or DC power source from a car. It also has a DC to AC inverter built into it to get AC power if I need it. I mounted it up in a PA-108 Ammo can, which I attached to the super strut rack under the gas can mount. Now I have a sealed case for the battery system to keep it dry during towing:



I tried out the rack system this past fall when camping with my buddy:

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Some details of the rack:


I also added a DC powered light to the setup:


Made a plug which allows it to run off the Solar Generator. The nice thing about this setup is that its totally reversible if someone wanted to take it off. It just unbolts off the tongue and the trailer is returned to stock. No drilling done to anything.
My brother got a trailer in about the same shape, and I may scam it from him at some point and redo it. Very good photos and story of your rehab of this trailer. I found the link to this page in your sig line on Mud.

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