1952 Muntz Jet

When Earl "Madman" Muntz saw the KSC (Kurtis Sports Car), a 1941 Buick-based and powered two-seater developed by famed Indy race car builder Frank Kurtis, he fell in love. After Kurtis developed a production version, Muntz bought two. Of the opinion that he could sell lots of them, in 1950 Muntz bought the line, tools, rights and unfinished chassis from Kurtis and moved production from the West Coast to his plant in Evanston, Illinois. Production proved uneconomical, with the resulting costs being higher than the car’s retail price. Muntz later claimed he lost $1,000 on every one of the 394 cars he built. At $5,200, the Muntz Road Jet cost more than contemporary Cadillac’s and Lincolns. Making matters worse, Muntz’s own "Madman" persona did little to entice sales to wealthy potential customers. Production began in 1951 and ceased entirely in 1954. Muntz, however, had plenty of connections among television and film celebrities as well as in the music industry. A customer was found in Los Angeles bandleader Freddy Martin, also known as Mr. Silvertone, who purchased a 1952 Muntz Road Jet. By 1955, Mr. Silvertone felt that his Muntz was beginning to look dated and its once omnipotent 160hp Lincoln V8 was well behind in the horsepower race. To solve his problems, Mr. Silvertone contacted San Francisco hot-rodder and custom car guru Joe Bailon to do something special to his ?52 Muntz. Bailon pulled the Lincoln engine in favor of a 1949 331 cubic inch Cadillac V8 in optional Eldorado form with a Weiand intake manifold and three Stromberg 97 two-barrel carburetors. Design updates came in the form of a new front end featuring a cut Buick "electric shaver" grille, extended front fenders featuring headlamps with chrome eyebrows, a large hood scoop, enlarged wheel openings and crisper rear end styling with just a hint of a fin. The back end featured 1954 Mercury-style tail lamps and a full Continental kit. The customized Muntz was painted in a two-tone black and white, and is fitted with a black convertible top. Upon completion, the sexy-looking custom Muntz was featured in the March 1955 issue of Motor Life. Hidden anway for many years, the car was discovered and subjected to a Concours quality restoration, with an emphasis on preserving the uniqueness of this special car. When fully stripped, the Muntz still bore the hallmarks of Joe Ballion’s customizing. It was decided that all the bodywork would be done with lead using the same method and finishing techniques as Baillon had back in 1954. The Cadillac engine was completely rebuilt and fully detailed to Concours condition.

Inside, the dash and instruments were refinished or replaced to original specs and new carpets and upholstery were installed. The removable black Carson top, with its white vinyl pleated lining, was rebuilt and replicated. Few miles have been added to the odometer since this stylish custom Muntz was completely restored. It has been shown at numerous Concours including Amelia Island, Milwaukee, Glenmore, and Indianapolis where it has garnered much praise and many awards. The estimates of total Muntz production range from as few as 200 units to as many as 400. Regardless, these expensive, hand-built American cars are scarce and this meticulously restored example with its wonderful 1950s provenance is truly unique and an icon in American car culture.

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