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Selling on Saturday Evening

1953 Muntz Jet

  • 1 of fewer than 200 produced
  • Offered from the final year of production
  • 317-cubic-inch Lincoln V-8 engine
  • Upgraded power brakes and rear suspension
  • A characterful mid-century convertible

Register To Bid Auction Info

Earl “Madman” Muntz often called himself “Crazy”, and just maybe he was, crazy like a fox, that is. At the age of 20, he opened his first used car lot in his hometown of Elgin, Illinois. After the end of WWII, he moved to greener pastures and was able to secure a Kaiser-Fraser dealership in Glendale, California. For the 1947 model year, it was reported that his outlet sold over 22,000 units, about 14 percent of the company’s total output. So successful was Muntz with this dealership, Kaiser set up a plant to assemble knock-down units shipped from Willow Run in Michigan to an airport hangar at the Long Beach airport. In the late 1940s, he saw how expensive new television receivers were and set about to design one that everyone could afford, being the first to offer ready-to-play TV sets for $100. Then he met Frank Kurtis. Kurtis was primarily known for his race-winning open-wheel race cars, but he started to produce his own sports car, a two-passenger configuration using a variety of engines. Muntz saw the car, made an offer to buy Kurtis out, and began to produce his own version, the Muntz Jet. A few alterations were made, such as lengthening the wheelbase, adding 13 inches to the body to accommodate a back seat and two more passengers. The first two Muntz Jets produced were powered by Cadillac V-8s but, failing to be able to secure more from GM, the big Lincoln flathead V-8 engines were employed, the majority of which were backed up with the Hydramatic transmission. Production started at the Muntz facility in Glendale, but after about 28 cars were produced, production was moved to Evanston, Illinois which allowed for easier access to parts and a more central location for distribution of the completed cars. At one point, Muntz claimed that 394 units had been built between 1950 and 1953; however, according to the Muntz Registry maintained by Vince Munsen, the actual numbers may be closer to just shy of 200 cars.

Seldom seen today as so few were produced, this late-production Muntz Jet has been a recipient of a complete restoration sometime during its life. Showing slight signs of patina in the paint, the exterior is finished in classic Torch Red that is complemented by a white lift-off convertible top. The exterior appearance is completed with a set of chrome wire wheels that feature “Madman” himself in his Napoleon-like costume on the center caps. The interior is finished in alabaster off-white, which appears to be in good shape. The dash is reminiscent of a vehicle from the Art Deco era, and a vintage-looking AM/FM/CD stereo system can be found in the armrest.

Factory rated with a top speed of 125 miles per hour, which was quite the spectacle in its day, Road & Track wrote, “The Muntz Jet offers the fastest acceleration and highest top speed of any American-built car available from the showroom floor today. For those who wish to travel rapidly, carry five passengers, be protected from the weather, and who have the necessary change, this is the car.” Today, the 317-cubic-inch L-head Lincoln V-8 engine and Hydramatic automatic transmission both perform flawlessly, as this Muntz has been well-maintained under the current owner's care. Other mechanical components on this Muntz are new ignition components, a Holley four-barrel carburetor that sits on top of the original manifold, upgraded power brakes, and an upgraded rear suspension.

With less than 200 built and far fewer surviving today, this example stands as a tribute to the desire of a “Madman” to create an iconic automobile, while making a name for himself and, most importantly, a car built for true enthusiasts.

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