Missing for 50 Years: 1956 Bangert Manta Ray

This rare kit car, known as a Bangert Manta Ray, has been the subject of extensive hunting and research. You could also call it the Cauffman car, as the original owner was one Elwood Cauffman who built it to his exact specifications shortly before selling it on. He later re-surfaced, looking for his car, and set about a treasure hunt that would result in the car being discovered in very needy condition in Texas and later being restored and shown at Amelia Island. That exact car is now for sale here on eBay, where bidding is over $33K and the reserve remains unmet. 

According to Hemmings, production numbers of the kits range from 15 to 300. No one knows for sure. What is known is that Bangert produced kits for a very short time before the founder – Noel – pursued a career in the film industry, making them exceptionally rare today. This example was discovered in Texas in forlorn condition, following a two-year search by kit car enthusiasts who met Cauffman shortly before he passed away.

Image courtesy of Hemmings

The Manta Ray was discovered with extensive damage to its fiberglass shell, despite spending many years indoors. The Cauffman car had some subtle tweaks from the original Manta Ray as Noel Bangert originally designed it with no cuts to the rear section, meaning no doors, and headlights mounted inside the grill, similar of Ferraris competition cars of the same era. Once the car was located and restoration began, the team that found the car chose to return to the original design.

Originally, Cauffman built the Manta Ray using a 1941 Mercury as a donor, which included pillaging the flathead V8. Prior to selling it on, he installed a small block Chevy for more power, and another SBC resides under the hood today. With no one source knowing for sure how many are left and the extensive history that comes with this example, this may be one of the few kit cars you can buy with the hope of future appreciation, and admission to some of the most prestigious car events in the world. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Craig Johnson for the find.

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  1. Chris Kennedy

    Hey Guys and Dolls!

    What I would have in mind, if my pockets where deep enough and, I was able to weather the purest fire storm, would be to do some personal modifications.

    I would close out the front end and make a more “Farrari look” bringing the headlights more outboard. Add thin, split wrap around chrome bumpers, front and rear!

    Re-do the wheel openings, making them tighter to better radius the tires… maybe add side pipes similar to the Shelby Daytona to “thicken” the profile a bit…

    That’s just me…cool design BUT, just looks somewhat awkward to me?

    Thanks Men!

    • adam

      Add black to.s and white walls?

  2. Martin

    Why is it worth more? Just for the lost owner looking for it story? It is very nice but so would be a kellison or a kelmark.

  3. Steve A

    I could think of a lot of better things to spend the $39k it’s up to now. (Reserve has been met) Sure not getting a lot there for your money, other than some history.
    Not that impressed with it myself.

  4. Coventrycat

    Think there’d be some high speed lift with the front fenders cut that way. Guess it’s not an issue today, because it’s 5 mph or less onto a trailer.

  5. rick

    My thought is you need to work on it’s stance, drop that front end and inch or two, then add twin four barrels on an intake with just enough rise to poke through the hood, and top off with a clear plexiglass early Ferrari-ish hood scope.

  6. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    I think Coventrycat is right. With the SBC replacement engine instead of the Merc flathead, that winged front end has a shot at takeoff once the speed gets high enough.

    A big air dam in front would be good.

  7. rod444

    Probably the cleanest design for a fiberglass car I’ve ever seen. It’s beautiful, proportionate, spartan but not austere. Definitely a stand out at any auto show.

  8. canadainmarkseh Member

    I guess you don’t need wipers if the windshield isn’t high enough to cover your face. Speed would be dictated by how much wind you can tolerate and how many bee welts you care to endure. The front fenders are aerodynamicly backwards and would be terrible for handling at high speed,ok in 1915. ( for those who can take a lot of wind ) if I had the kind of money being asked I sure would put it here, story or not.

  9. scottymac

    From the e-Bay ad: “With this in mind, the body was returned to its original design and the mechanics and chassis kept closely to Cauffman’s original build.” With an HEI distributor, alternator, dual master cylinder, and what appear to be radial tires. Huh?

  10. Martin Horrocks

    This is nice.No doubt flawed in execution, but I´m glad it has survived. Of course it seems bad value and the money could buy a better car. But it could also buy this.

    If artefacts were a sum of their parts, we would have a lot of $300 Picassos/Monets/name your own…..

  11. Three Pedal Steve

    Must be hard to steer at 100+mph. Front tires airborne?


    Gee the guys down at “FORGOTTEN FIBREGLASS” sure are thinning out the herd, they must be just buying them, do ’em all up then moving them on!

  13. Big Al

    Pretty cool, I like it. It’s kinda quirky, definately different, but good different. I like fiberglass, check out my build.

    • BMW4RunninTundra

      Big Al, that looks like one interesting ride!!!!!!!! I would love to see some kind of write up about the story of this build!!!!!!!!!!! If you can find ANY opportunities to “slip” in a few more pictures, that would be cool!

  14. Alfonso DeMagistris

    Check out my build on YouTube under my name or Google search East Coast Gullwings. Thanks for your kind words.

  15. Gjorvik

    Wow, the proportion on the body are perfect to the original! Is there a cyber-link to the YouTube report or anywhere else we can read about it?

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