Auctions and Brokerage
James Farmakis, Berwyn, Illinois (acquired circa 1960)Ed Heath, Boulder, Colorado (acquired from the above in 1967)Keith Carpenter, Parker, Colorado (acquired from the above in 1991)Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2000)
Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, Florida, March 2004Palm Beach International Concours d’Elegance, Florida, February 2005 (Best in Class)Keeneland Concours d’Elegance, Lexington, Kentucky, July 2012 (First in Class)
Earl “Madman” Muntz made his mark selling used cars in Los Angeles during the 1940s by whipping up publicity with wild ads on billboards, radio, and a new medium called “television.” Muntz, who had a great interest in engineering, soon made a fortune selling televisions carrying his own name. In 1950, Earl Muntz bought the rights and tooling for a two-seater sports car designed by famed race car constructor Frank Kurtis. Earl Muntz made several changes before commencing production, fitting powerful Cadillac and Lincoln engines, automatic transmissions, and well-appointed luxury interiors. Most significantly, he extended the wheelbase and added rear seats. The car, named the Muntz Jet, cost $5,500 at a time when a new Cadillac cost around $3,000.
In 1953, with his car and TV businesses both in trouble, Muntz reverted to Kurtis’ original two-seat, short-wheelbase design. Like the Kurtis, the Muntz Roadsters had removable Plexiglas side windows – not wind-up windows – and a low-cut two-piece windshield. Like other late-production Muntz automobiles, the Roadsters have fiberglass fenders and under the hood were outfitted with Lincoln’s new-for-1952 OHV V-8, developed for the Carrera Panamericana road race. This engine was paired with GM’s four-speed automatic Hydra-Matic transmission. Inside, Earl Muntz anticipated the safety legislation of the 1960s by fitting a padded dash and seat belts.
Until his death, Earl Muntz claimed that 394 Muntz cars were built. Extensive research can find no evidence of more than 200 cars. In fact, the accepted production number is 198 cars. Of this limited supply, 194 were four-passenger Jets and four were two-passenger Roadsters.
This two-passenger Roadster, 53M602, features the exotic “Boa” snakeskin-pattern vinyl interior, a factory option, and a 1960s-era Muntz AM radio/eight-track player. The current owners acquired 53M602 in 2000, complete but non-running, and commissioned a ground-up restoration in early 2001. Painstaking removal and analysis of paint revealed the original color was dark blue. Miraculously, NOS material of the original vinyl snakeskin was tracked down. Work was completed to an exacting standard, resulting in an invitation to the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and class wins at two other concours. This Roadster was restored with driveability in mind and is thoughtfully equipped with a more modern carburetor, stronger rear axle, and a custom exhaust, yet could be returned to original specifications with the accompanying original components.
Celebrities including Mickey Rooney, Clara Bow, Grace Kelly, and Clark Gable purchased Muntz cars, and the marque captures the creativity and unbridled optimism of the early 1950s like few other automobiles. As one of just four two-passenger roadsters, with nearly 50 years of continuous provenance, this car represents a unique opportunity to become the caretaker of a true American Classic.