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Rare Aluminum Body: 1950 Muntz Jet

You don’t gain the nickname of “Madman” by following life’s conventional path. That was the case with Earl “Madman” Muntz. He was a man who was willing to take risks in both his business and private lives. As a result, he managed to make and lose several fortunes. This included having to pay alimony to no less than six ex-wives! One of the business ventures that cost him close to half-a-million dollars was the Muntz Jet. Considered by many to be the first Personal Luxury Car, it predated the Ford Thunderbird by a full 5-years. It was also a car that sold at a loss of more than $1,000 per car. This 1950 Jet is a partly restored vehicle that has a rare claim to fame. It is looking for a new home, so the owner has listed it for sale here on eBay. It is located in Phoenix, Arizona, and with bidding sitting at $6,100, the reserve hasn’t been met. I have to say a big thank you to Barn Finder Kyle K for referring this legendary car to us.

Frank Kurtis developed the Jet, but the Madman could see the potential that it offered to the right person. He purchased the rights and the tooling from Kurtis, and after some redesign work, the Jet hit the market in a post-war market that was hungry for new cars. Actual production totals for the Muntz are quite vague, including some of the specific details of this particular car. Early examples were built in Glendale, California, and came equipped with aluminum bodies and Cadillac engines. Various sources claim that the build totals on these cars were anywhere between 29 and 40 vehicles before production shifted to Evanston, Illinois, and the panel material was changed to steel. This is one of the early and rare “aluminum” Jets, and the panels have been stripped as part of the restoration process. These generally appear to be in good condition, with no significant dents or damage. However, it isn’t all good news because a sizeable hole has been cut in the hood, which will need to be repaired. I said repaired because I suspect that you would struggle to find a replacement aluminum hood anywhere today. As part of the restoration process, a new firewall has been fabricated, along with new floors, new inner fenders, and new inner doors. It also appears that the majority of the original trim and chrome has been refurbished, and this shines beautifully. The owner has addressed one potential problem with this car. All Jets featured special hubcaps that were unique to this model. The limited build total means that replacements aren’t thick on the ground. The ones on this vehicle aren’t original, but the seller has gone to the trouble and expense of having the correct centers custom made.

The buyer had a choice of two engines for their Jet, and the original owner of this car chose to equip it with a 160hp Cadillac V8. Shifting duties were handled by either a Hydramatic transmission or, very rarely, an optional 3-speed manual. It isn’t clear which transmission this car is equipped with, but the Cadillac V8 has been treated to a rebuild. The owner states that the vehicle is around 90% complete, so we can hope that items like the power steering system, radiator, and other smaller items are present. One positive aspect of restoring a Muntz is that while the company could be considered a manufacturer in its own right, most of its mechanical components were sourced from other car companies. That explains the use of the Cadillac engine and the Hydramatic transmission. If any mechanical parts are missing, sourcing them might not be that difficult.

The original buyer of the Jet was offered an enormous selection of trim options. The vehicles were bespoke, which means that it is rare to find two cars that featured the same combination of paint color, trim color, and upholstery material. A previous owner has chosen to have this interior restored in White leather, but it has been sitting for many years. The seller says that the leather has become very dry, and he believes that a retrim will be on the cards. I would want to check this first because if it can be revived using a high-quality treatment product, that could save a considerable amount of money for the buyer. It isn’t clear whether the turned face for the gauge cluster is present or whether the original gauges and radio are included. One thing that is included is a reproduction steering wheel that the owner had custom made for this car.

When the Muntz Jet was new, it was not a cheap car. Its sticker price of $5,500 made it an incredible 25% more expensive than a range-topping Cadillac. However, even at that price, Madman found himself losing more than $1,000 on every sale. Earl Muntz always claimed that he sold 394 examples of the Jet, but this could never be confirmed. Various sources suggest that the total was somewhere closer to 198 cars, including the aluminum-bodied vehicles. Until his dying day, Muntz was still doing deals, and as would seem appropriate in the 1980s, he had turned his attention to the cellphone arena. Today, a good example will easily command a six-figure value. This car has the potential to achieve those sorts of numbers if the restoration is completed to a high standard. With that thought in mind, is this a restoration project that you would be willing to tackle?


  1. Avatar photo stillrunners

    Cool car I’ve always thought…someone needs to finish this one and put it back on the road !

    Like 7
  2. Avatar photo ran when parked

    I’ll take the Chrysler in the background in the 2nd picture

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo Ron

      I see a ‘57 Cadillac Coupe de Ville behind it, but no Chrysler…

      Like 3
      • Avatar photo Don P

        Look closer, there is a Christine like Chrysler behind the Caddy.

        Like 0
      • Avatar photo Joe

        Looks like there may be a Nomad behind the Chrysler also!

        Like 0
  3. Avatar photo Jcs

    Wayne Carini loves these. A quick Google search will produce some cheap entertainment for those with interest.

    Like 2
  4. Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

    Hardened leather car seats can be saved.

    When I had my restoration shop, and as we specialized in luxury British cars, we had plenty of cars with cardboard-like leather panels & seats. In the mid 1980s I found a wonderful product line in England for rejuvenating automotive leather, called “Leatherique”. You can find it today on ebay or amazon.

    It’s very rare I will suggest a product line by name here, but this product line helped me save more than a few Rolls-Royce & Bentley seats that were as hard as cardboard.

    Automotive leather is not “vat dyed” like clothing or shoe leather, it’s got a lacquer color coating, hence when it cracks, the brown color of the leather shows in the crack. Leatherique’s creator was a chemist who figured out how to get the softening agents to soak thru the lacquer coating without damage. And more importantly, it does not contain silicones, so the leather can be re-colored without the new color coat peeling back off later. [Never use any product with silicones on automotive leather!]

    I used to have a driver’s seat cushion from a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow that had seen plenty of use and no maintenance. I restored 1/2 of the seat with Leatherique products and left the other half dry and cracked. As soon as I would show a customer what I could do to the interior of their car, they generally said “Do it!”

    Like 16
    • Avatar photo wizzy

      I’ve used Leatherique several times, both on furniture and car interiors. It is quite amazing.

      Like 3
  5. Avatar photo That AMC Guy

    “Madman Muntz” was quite a character. Aside from the Muntz Jet his most famous other escapades were the Muntz TV (“engineered” by removing “unnecessary” parts from circuitry) and the 4-track “Stereo-Pak” car tape player which used Fidelipac broadcast carts.


    Like 2
  6. Avatar photo David Zornig

    The former Muntz factory in Evanston is on the N/W corner of Lee & Grey Streets, at 1000 Grey.
    Now part of C.E. Niehoff & Co. distributors complex.
    They had no idea of their building’s history until I told them.
    I lived nearby.
    I have photos from Muntz historian B.V. Munsen, but Barn Finds’ settings only allow image uploads from paid subscribers.
    Here is the Google street view.


    Like 6
  7. Avatar photo Mike

    My second favorite 50’s car after the Facel Vega. Looks like half of your resto cost are saved by having the bumpers already chromed.

    Like 4
  8. Avatar photo Malcolm Boyes

    There is a gent here in Sonoma, Ca with a beautiful restored canary yellow Jet. A lovely sight to see it causing around. This deserves a good home..wish it was mine!

    Like 4
  9. Avatar photo Frank j Opalka

    not an easy resto

    Like 1
  10. Avatar photo Riffraff

    Their website has the price listed as $35,000.00 as is, or $100,000.00 if they were to finish it. Way above my pay grade!

    Like 3
  11. Avatar photo Elanguy

    Pretty cool, and a little closer to the Kurtis Sport Car than the later steel bodies ones, though it looks like it does have the longer wheelbase. Nice video on the Sport Car here,

    Like 2
  12. Avatar photo chrlsful

    “…would be willing to tackle?…”
    “No, too ‘off’ a brand.” I really like the finished product, the history, ride, etc tho.

    Like 2
  13. Avatar photo Bob

    back in the 50s, my grandfather was handling an estate and it owned a car lot in Los Angeles. He took me with him once. I’m sure it was Muntz’s used car lot.

    I would love one of these.

    Like 1
  14. Avatar photo Gerard Frederick

    Truly a wonderful example of post-war America at its very best. Boy o boy, were there some great american sports cars around. What a shame, they disappeared.

    Like 0
  15. Avatar photo Lou Rugani

    In 1994 a wrecked Muntz was displayed at a nearby meet alongside a mint 1957 Chevrolet convertible, to the latter’s owner’s dismay.
    Which perhaps intensified as the attendees flocked around the Muntz instead.

    Like 2
  16. Avatar photo Mike Emerson

    Muntz TVs. My dad was a TV repairman throughout the 50s. I remember him ranting and railing about the Muntz TVs. He eventually refused to work on them because of their lack of parts. He called them ” gutless wonders”. Thanks for conjuring up a memory!

    Like 0
  17. Avatar photo wardww

    I have always loved these and this is a blank canvas. In terms of value, it would be better to restore to original but call me the devil but I would love to drop an LS in that engine bay.

    Like 0
  18. Avatar photo Frank j Opalka

    I live in evanston IL where this Muntz was bult, drive by his building every day, I have restored Muntz before so know them well, Muntz moved to CA for more nitelife action. Think he had something to do with first 8 track tapes, I used to have Revirb in my car, made the car like huge hall,

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Don P

      I vaguely recalled this name, and do remember Muntz being associated with car audio. I seem to remember in the late ‘60’s maybe early ‘70’s that there was a chain of Muntz stores, sort of like a Radio Shack.
      This was in Canada, think the one I remember was on Hartzel Rd in St Catharines Ontario.

      Like 0
  19. Avatar photo JimmyJ

    57 or 58 dodge behind the caddy I recognize the chrome my old man has had a beautiful 57 custom royal 2dht since 1990.

    Like 0
  20. Avatar photo Claudio

    This was a very beautiful design and if it were resto modded it would be even better and driveable

    Like 0
  21. Avatar photo bill

    i am former owner of this car & have many stories to

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo Claudio

      its time to share !

      Like 0

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