1952 Muntz Jet
Year of manufacture1952
To Be OFFERED AT AUCTION WITHOUT RESERVE at RM Sothebys' Amelia Island event, 6 - 7 March 2020.
$100,000 - $125,000
- Offered from the personal collection of Bill Warner
- One of only approximately 198 examples built
- Finished in striking purple over iguana-skin-patterned white vinyl
- Possibly the finest and fastest-driving example
In 1949 Frank Kurtis started building an aluminum-bodied two-seater sports car under his own name. However, by 1950 he sold the operation to Earl Muntz, who made his fortune selling used cars to returning servicemen, as well as Kaisers and Frazers and his Muntz television sets. He was known all over Southern California for his outrageous radio and television ads which earned him the sobriquet of “Mad Man.”
Kurtis made some changes for Muntz, including extending the wheelbase to 113 inches and adding rear seats. He called them “Muntz Jets” and priced the cars at $5,500. Muntz later admitted that he lost about $1,000 per car. The first 28 cars were built in Glendale, California, and the rest in Evanston, Illinois. Earl Muntz once claimed that 394 cars were built; however, the Muntz Registry, tabulated by Vic Munsen, deduced that less than 200 cars were completed by the time the operation ceased in 1954.
Earl Muntz used the services of actor Victor Mature to sell his Muntz TVs to the movie grips and the Muntz Jet sports cars to his movie-star friends in return for a “spiff.” Celebrity owners of the Jets included Mickey Rooney, Gloria DeHaven, Vic Damone, Clara Bow, Grace Kelly, Josephine Dillon (a gift from her husband, Clark Gable), Ed Gardner (from radio’s Duffy’s Tavern), newscaster Alex Dreier, Western star Lash LaRue, and orchestra leader Freddy Martin. A Jet can even be seen racing a Jaguar XK 120 in the movie The Caddy starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
The Muntz Jet offered is thought to have been owned by Grace Kelly, though those rumors remain unsubstantiated. The first known owner was Russell Gindlesperger of Levittown, Pennsylvania, who owned the car from 1963 until 1990. The car was then acquired by A.F. Long of Mays Landing, New Jersey, who in turn sold it to Ed Malkinski of Carlsbad, California. The Jet was restored by Malinski in 1991 and sold to Chuck Swimmer of San Diego in 1999. The current owner acquired the Jet from Swimmer in 2001 and has enjoyed it sparingly for the past 19 years.
The Jet was later reconditioned by Werner Meier’s Master Works in Troy, Michigan, with a fresh engine built by Gary Johns Engineering of Hilliard, Florida, and equipped with a triple-carburetor setup by Bill Jagenow of Brothers Custom in Troy, Michigan. The engine was also fitted with very rare Edmunds heads, which took the owner 14 years to find. The Muntz also features a removable Carson-type top and a white iguana-skin-patterned vinyl interior with a rare Muntz tape deck. The car is finished in House of Colors purple with just a hint of metallic.
The car has since been shown at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance as well as the Concours of America at St. John’s in Plymouth, Michigan. The car was also shown at the AACA Hershey fall meet where it earned a First Junior.To view this car and others currently consigned to this auction, please visit the RM website at rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/am20.