The Muntz Jet Was the Best American Car of Its Time

Image: eBay

Earl “Madman” Muntz was a salesman and a showman. He owned automotive dealerships nationwide, and built television sets. Allegedly he coined the term “TV” because it was too hard for skywriters to plastertelevision” in the clouds. He was so proud of TV that he named his daughter Tee Vee Muntz. He was also the name behind, and the emblematic character on the wheel caps of, the Muntz Jet.

The Muntz Jet was originally designed as the Kurtis Sports Car, a two seat aluminum-bodied roadster. After Earl Muntz purchased the tooling from Kurtis, he revamped the car as a four-seater and appointed it far more luxuriously. The changes added nearly 400 pounds to the Jet from its Kurtis origins, giving it a near 4000 pound heft, while adding 10 inches to the wheelbase.


The Jet was built to accommodate either Cadillac or Lincoln V8 power, giving it serious performance for the time. Numerous sources of the day claimed the car was capable of 140 miles per hour, and Muntz made the outlandish claim that the Jet could shoot from zero to 80 mph in just 9 seconds. It was, regardless of the truth of Earl’s statements, one of the best performing American cars of the time, and certainly one of the most luxurious.

The Jet was considered among the most stylish offerings in American motoring of the day, and the $5500 price tag reflected that. A contemporary Cadillac sold for about $4000, while a Lincoln could be had for $3600. Only 198 Muntz Jets were produced, and many of them were purchased by wealthy and famous folks of the day, including Mickey Rooney and Grace Kelly.


This particular example is currently on eBay with a buy-it-now price of $169,895. That seems a bit on the higher end of the spectrum for Muntz prices, but where else are you going to find one? Of particular interest is the fact that this example is said to be one of the six original “Hop Up” option cars, featuring a Lincoln V8 with Edmunds aluminum cylinder heads and intake manifold mated to a pair of Carter WCD carburetors.


Each of the Muntz Jets built allegedly cost Mr. Muntz $6500 to produce, meaning he lost money on every one sold. It is possible you may do the same if you were to buy this car, but it’s also possible this car will continue to inflate in value. Collector cars are volatile, and you’d be a Madman to get into the game. Then again, aren’t we all a little mad?


To see more photos and the full description of the car, check out the full eBay listing here.

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Bradley Brownell

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.