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						Manta Ray 5

1956 Bangert Manta Ray

By Dean Larson

It’s quite possible that no car better represents the early days of fiberglass than the Bangert Manta Ray. Not in terms of volume, as less than 20 Manta Rays were produced, but in terms of sensational design, the Ray is hard to beat. Like other glass cars of the ‘50s, the design of the Manta Ray body is completely unhinged. It throws practicality and drivability to the wind in favor of sensational looks with a radical fender design borrowed from the ’54 Buick Wildcat II concept car. Fiberglass body producers weren’t constrained by the same limitations as big auto manufacturers, and they were free to make wild concept cars a reality.With only four examples known to exist, the Manta Ray is a rare catch, and this one comes from the vintage-glass authority Forgotten Fiberglass.

The Manta Ray was the third design penned by the young Noel Bangert and offered by his company, Bangert Enterprises from 1954-57. The design of the Ray captivated Elwood Caufmann, who purchased a Ray body in 1954 because he had never seen anything like it on the highway. The car was completed using a 1941 Mercury sedan donor and a hand built chassis. Caufmann’s finished Manta Ray was powered by a 350 ci Chevrolet with dual carbs hooked to a three-speed Ford transmission and rode on transverse leaf springs front and rear. The handy Navy vet fabricated many of the finishing details himself, like the steering wheel, handbrake and exhaust system, and applied 14 coats of bright red lacquer to the exterior. Surprisingly, Caufmann sold the Ray not long after its completion in 1956 and the car was not seen again for the next 60 years.  

In 1996, Caufmann wrote a letter summarizing his build to Harold Pace, who wrote for Kit Car Magazine. Pace forwarded the information to Geoff Hacker of Forgotten Fiberglass who eventually located the Caufmann Manta Ray in 2009. Hacker and his team restored the car and preserved as much as Caufmann’s work as possible. The decision was made to convert the bodywork back to original, with the headlights inside the grill, as Bangert originally designed it. The restored Manta Ray was debuted in 2017 at the Amelia Island concours.

If you’re a classic glass aficionado with some extra coin, the Manta Ray can be found here on eBay. There’s no bidding on the Ray, just a listed price of $59,900 with about seven days remaining. Coming from Forgotten Fiberglass, you can bet there’s a whole wealth of information that goes along with the sale, hopefully including the letter handwritten by Caufmann and his build photos, which can be seen here.

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