The businessman, nicknamed “Mad Muntz”, had the idea of building a car that would take him to the next level and speed up the TV business at the same time. However, he went so far in his “madness” that he went bankrupt with the brand.
Today, I’m going to talk about the production of a car that was unsuccessful when it was first built, met with bad luck, by a marketer, TV star and inventor, nicknamed “crazy”. Moreover, it is not just an ordinary car… Even if it is short-lived, I will talk about a “milestone” that brought the concept of “personal luxury car” and models suitable for it to the American automobile industry in the future. I don’t think you’ve heard of the name, but let me tell you: “Muntz Jet” or Kurtis Sport as it was originally called…
Frank Kurtis grew up in California’s auto culture. At the age of 14, he started his career as an “apprentice” at a bodywork company in Los Angeles. At that time, those who made private cars were called bodybuilders or bodybuilders. Having developed his mastery here, Kurtis was quick to set up his own business and start making special vehicles. He founded the Kurtis-Kraft company and produced special racing cars for those who wanted to race on the Indianapolis Track and muddy tracks.
Withdrawn from the project
Kurtis, who was very successful in this regard and received racing car orders, also made special vehicles for Hollywood movies. Until, in 1948, he was asked to build a car that could be called “the only one in the world”. “Studebaker”, one of the major American automotive manufacturers of that time, asked him for a special car that could introduce new suspension systems and V8 engine. Kurtis designed a completely different car, inspired by a scrapped 1941 Buick. He dreamed that this car could be mass-produced and even sold at Studebaker dealers, if demanded in the future.
But before we could start assembling the vehicle, Studebaker canceled the V8 project. A little disappointed by this, Kurtis did not give up and turned to Ford for engine supply this time. The car, which was a mixture of fiberglass, aluminum and steel parts, had a wonderful design. Frank Kurtis decided to produce it on his own, but lost interest and enthusiasm for the project after a while. Until then, he had produced 15 of the vehicle he called “Kurtis Sport”.
And Muntz shows up!
However, one person prevents the project from getting up on dusty shelves. Because Earl Muntz, a Southern California native and nicknamed “crazy”, convinces Kurtis to sell the design of the vehicle in question to him for $200,000. So who is Muntz?
In fact, those who are under 50 years old will say, “Come on, is that it?” will say. Because the younger ones do not know much about the “8-channel cartridge cassette tapes” in automobiles. Muntz is the inventor of this, and he is also the one who utters the word “Tee Vee” while advertising the televisions he manufactures… Earl Muntz, who made a considerable fortune by producing TV sets and tape recorders, selling second-hand vehicles, etc. He was also known as “the man who advertises himself”. Building a car for himself could mean attracting more people to used car showrooms.
There is also a seat belt
Frank Kurtis lengthened the chassis to transform the Kurtis Sports into the “Muntz Jet,” adding rear seats and making it a four-seater. It started with Cadillac’s new 331 cubic-inch V8 engine, while Lincoln’s machines were preferred in the later models. Details such as fully leather upholstery, soft leather details on the front console, glove compartment, storage compartment in the center console, seat belts have been added to the equipment. This made the vehicle more luxurious. There were even “Muntz-style” elements among the flooring options. For example, “crocodile skin” upholstery was available. Even the minibar and ice bucket could be placed in the optional vehicle. In addition, the car could be bought in colors that would make it stand out on the road: purple, pink, white, liquor green…
The Muntz Jet was one of the most luxurious and fastest convertibles of its time. He was rooting for Thunderbird and Corvette. In fact, Muntz kept saying that Ford designed the Thunderbird inspired by the Jet. It was selling for $5,500, but Muntz was losing $1,000 on each vehicle. Thereupon, Muntz started to have difficulties and production of the Jet ended after 198 units. He himself was on the verge of bankruptcy and also finished TV production.
However, he later found an investor and returned to the TV production business. Meanwhile, he made in-car music systems and invented the “8-channel tape cartridge”. He made up for his losses. But he did not return to the automobile business…
Created a new class
Even today, the Muntz Jet is considered in many ways a very special vehicle, like the Citroen DS or the Tatra T867. It can even be called a touchstone or a guide. Although it’s unclear whether Jet was the Thunderbird’s muse, as Muntz claims, it is known that he pioneered something else. He also pioneered a class called “personal luxury car” in American automotive history.
Although it lost some of its influence in the current period, “personal luxury cars” meant sporty, elegant coupes that were developed and designed with comfort rather than performance in mind. American manufacturers shared platforms between their brands for this type of vehicle, and produced different luxury models on the same basis. For example, Cadillac Eldorado, Ford Thunderbird, Studebaker Avanti, Buick Riviera, Mercedes SL450, which have been in production for 50 years, are among the ones I can count…