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Bantam sculpture one-of-a-kind, just like its source material

Bill Secunda shows off progress on a Bantam sculpture in his workshop a few months ago. Secunda works with metals to make sculptures, and he was commissioned by the Butler AM Rotary Club to make a sculpture based on the original Bantam Jeep prototype, which was developed in Butler. Submitted Photo

Last fall, Bill Secunda set out to make an artistic recreation of the original Bantam Jeep prototype, which has become one of the most difficult projects he has taken on, and not just because he is not an engineer.

Secunda, a metal and steel artist from Summit Township, is creating a sculpture of the Bantam prototype for the Butler AM Rotary Club that will replicate a real vehicle and is even steerable. He said the project has presented two major challenges: the first that he doesn’t typically make sculptures with smooth lines, the other that there are not many photos available of the original Bantam prototype.

Secunda, who recently completed the “Cowboy” sculpture situated near the General Richard Butler Bridge, said creating the Bantam statue was more difficult than the cowboy.

“There was a lot of challenges because of building curved body parts out of heavy metal. The biggest challenges were pieces like the hood and fenders,” Secunda said. “I had to create it to look like something that nobody had drawings of and hardly anyone had pictures of.”

Secunda recently sent the sculpture to be painted, and he will then put the finishing touches on the sculpture before it is unveiled at the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival in June. Secunda said the challenges he experienced while crafting the sculpture were worthwhile, however, because he was able to outfit it with real tires made for Bantams and install real axles in its undercarriage so the statue is steerable.

“They found original tires in Ohio; we were really, really happy to see that the original tires are going to be on it,” Secunda said.

Butler AM Rotary Club president Jeff Geibel said the sculpture is meant to be a photo attraction for Butler, similar to how Mars has a UFO and Punxsutawney has Phil the groundhog.

The Rotary club and Butler Downtown raised money to pay for the creation and placement of the sculpture, and Geibel said the fundraising goal of $100,000 has been exceeded in pledges. The Rotary club also plans to attach a Bantam trailer to the sculpture, which the group is currently in the process of restoring.

Once complete, the Bantam sculpture will be moved onto a cement pad in the parking lot next to the Peoples Natural Gas building, and it will remain “parked” there for photos.

“It will be on display year-round, alongside permanent signage that kind of tells the story,” Geibel said. “(Secunda) is building it so it is extremely sturdy, you can literally tap dance on the hood of this.”

Geibel said the sculpture will be unveiled during the Jeep Invasion at around 7:30 p.m. June 7, while Main Street is closed for the festivities. Secunda said he anticipates the sculpture being a draw for photos, especially to people visiting town in their Jeeps.

“We want it to withstand people taking pictures with it and getting in it,” Secunda said. “It's built with quality. I think it probably weighs pretty close to the same (as the Bantam).”

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