1952 Muntz Jet Period Custom SOLD

RM Vintage Motorcars in Arizona - Biltmore Resort & Spa, Friday January 19, 2007

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ESTIMATE: $150,000 - $250,000

$134,750 Sold

52M246 250hp, 331 cu. in., tri-power Cadillac V8 engine, GM four-speed Hydra-matic transmission, heavy-duty springs and shocks, four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 116"

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 Cadillacs 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. Due to Martin ’ s band tours the Muntz saw little use, and Mr. Silvertone eventually sold it to an Oregon man who stored it in his barn.

Tracked down by the current owner, the very rough but complete Muntz was shipped to Chicago for a full restoration.

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 body was e-coated before self-etching DuPont primer was applied, followed by two-part DuPont primer. The body was block sanded before three coats of surface primer were added. The entire body was then sprayed in Ford White DuPont Chroma before being masked to add the black. Coats of DuPont Chroma clear provided a glistening shine.

The Cadillac engine was completely rebuilt and fully detailed to concours condition. The suspension was also rebuilt, painted and the underside of the Muntz was treated to a coat of rubberized undercoating. A new chrome grille was duplicated, a set of new chrome wire wheels fitted and all other chrome parts were replaced or re- plated.

Inside, the dash and instruments were refinished or replaced to original specs and new carpets and red vinyl seats were installed. The removable black Carson top, with its white vinyl pleated lining, was rebuilt and replicated.

Only 400 miles have been added to the odometer since this stylish custom Muntz was completely restored. It was shown at Amelia Island, Milwaukee, Glenmore and Indianapolis in 2006 and 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. Addendum Please note that there was a typographical error in the catalogue. This vehicle is being offered with a reserve.

Reference Number 5760

as of 1/9/2007

Car 1952 Muntz Jet Period Custom
VIN 52M246 
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