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						Muntz Jet
Madman Muntz’s Luxury Liner

Early aluminum Muntz Jet surfaces on eBay

By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, eBay

The early bird gets the worm, or so they say, but the first movers in the automotive world haven’t always been the most successful. The Tucker 48 is one such example, which pioneered directional headlamps, built in roll over structures and collapsible steering columns, all before the year 1950. But Preston Tucker was only able to build 51 iterations of the Tucker 48 before declaring bankruptcy. In a similar fashion, American businessman Earl “Madman” Muntz set out to build a personal luxury vehicle that broke the mold, only to find himself some $400,000 upside down on the venture. One of just 198 built, this Muntz Jet on eBay is probably one of the most desirable examples in existence, being one of the first 29 cars built with early aluminum bodywork.

Earl Muntz was just 20 years old when he opened his first used car lot in Elgin, Illinois in 1934, but he soon moved to California in 1940 after discovering how much more profitable the auto market was out West. It wasn’t long before Muntz made a name for himself by adopting a wild persona in public appearances. Witty quips, wild promotions and flamboyant advertisements soon became Muntz’s brand, and by the mid 1940s, he had made a considerable sum of money in the business.

Muntz was also an electronics wiz, and started marketing his own television sets by the late 1940s and audio equipment by the 1950s. While most of his audio equipment would prove unprofitable, Muntz continued grossing large sums in the television industry and dabbled in various audio and technology hobbies until his death in 1987.

But most interesting for our purposes is the Muntz Jet, Muntz’s own automobile manufactured from 1949 to 1954. The Jet was born from Frank Kurtis’s Kurtis Sport Car, of which 16 were built from 1949-1950 with Cadillac 331 ci V8s. The Kurtis was a symbol of excess from booming post-war years, and was the first car to be featured on the cover of Motor Trend in 1949. Muntz bought manufacturing rights from Kurtis and began building cars in Glendale, California, but moved production to Evanston, Illinois in 1949. It’s this early batch of cars built in California that are considered to be the most valuable of the 198 total built, as their bodies were constructed in aluminum, allegedly with tighter dimensions than the later steel bodies. Figures vary, but between 26 and 40 aluminum cars were built before the move.

Other than the sleek lines penned by Kurtis, the Muntz Jet boasted power steering, four-wheel hydraulic brakes, deluxe interior accommodations and Stewart-Warner gauges. A wide array of paint shades could be specified, along with wild options like interior ice chests and liquor cabinets. It was offered only as a removable hardtop convertible with body-on-frame construction and a rear solid axle. Additionally, all Muntz Jets came standard with a Muntz radio installed.

While the initial run of Jets was done in aluminum with Cadillac engines, most examples would have been sold with steel bodywork, Lincoln engines and GM Hydramatic transmissions. Customers bought their cars straight from the factory, as Muntz’s dealer network dreams never came to fruition. Well optioned and stylish, the Muntz was a bargain compared to your average Lincoln and Cadillac of the day, but that’s only because Muntz was selling each car at a $1,000 loss. After four years, Muntz would give up on the project, loosing some $400,000 on the venture.

Despite the anticlimactic nature of the Muntz story, these cars have serious value with collectors. Hagerty’s price guide places the average Jet right around $100,000, with concours examples fetching twice that. In fact, a nicely restored steel Muntz crossed the block at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island 2019 event, fetching $117,600 including buyer’s premium.

It’s plain to see that this Muntz Jet on eBay is going to take a lofty investment to get it off the ground, but it has all the right things going for it to support a nice restoration. See the listing here on eBay where the current high bid is $7,777 with four days remaining in the sale.

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