On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
“HERE’S THE ROAD TEST you’ve been asking for,” proclaimed Road and Track, September 1951. Well, perhaps not exactly you here in 2022 unless you were tantalized by John R. Bond’s mention of “A Muntz Jet windshield was reworked—4” narrower” in description of his sports car here at SimanaitisSays.
Wasn’t Earl Madman Muntz the bargain-price TV guy? Yes, that too.
Road and Track Clarifies. “Fact and Fancy,” the magazine wrote, “truth and fiction have infiltrated the reports given to the public. These stories have been thought provoking on one hand, and utterly ridiculous on the other. Nation-wide releases have spoken blandly of 0-80 in six seconds and truly astronomical top speed runs.”
“Ordinarily, Road and Track is inclined to laugh off this type of ballyhoo along with the rest of the sports car world, but this time there seems to be more to the situation than just hokum. First of all, the Muntz is not far removed from the Kurtis-Kraft (as which it originally started life).” See here for more on this latter machine.
“Then too,” the magazine wrote, “Sam Hanks, Muntz’ right hand man in the project, is highly respected by Road and Track, not only for his successful career as a driver but for being the type of winner (1941 and 1949 AAA Midget Champion) who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty in the engine compartment. Sam knows cars and when he tells us the Jet has a lot of promise, we get curious.”
“To top it off,” Road and Track said, “there’s Earl “Madman” Muntz himself: a real ‘lead-foot’ driver and an enthusiastic MG and Jaguar XK-120 owner.”
Performance Details. “When we drove the Muntz to the Road and Track test area,” the magazine reported, “we were accompanied by two Jaguar XK-120s whose owners were anxious to compare figures. The upshot of the day’s trials was a victory for Jaguar not only in acceleration but in top speed. However, the victory was not as marked as one would have supposed, considering the difference in weight of the two cars (the Muntz outweighs the Jaguar by 1000 pounds).”
For the record, the Jaguar XK-120, tested in Road and Track, May 1951, got to 60 in 10.1 seconds and reached 123.2 mph.
“Both Jaguar owners,” Road and Track said, “were amazed to find that going thru the mountains, the Muntz rolled less than their own sports cars.”
“One of these owners was so impressed with the Muntz that he has placed an order for two… one for his wife and the other (with a standard transmission and overdrive) to be driven in the Mexican Road Race this fall.”
A Philosophical Point. Road and Track wrote, “The interior is upholstered attractively in plastic, the individual front seats being separated by a very large transmission ‘hump’ which is surmounted by a spacious hinged compartment and radio. Our British brethren will probably be horrified to find an insulated compartment (by the rear seat) which can be filled with ice and bottled refreshments. (In a sports car? Really, old fellow!)”
Not That There Weren’t Bugs: The magazine wrote in abbreviated Notes and Comments: “Instrumentation is very complete, one of the best we have yet seen. However, gas gauge on first car was indicating 1/4 full when ye Ed. heard the ‘now empty’ cough-cough… walked four miles in pitch dark.”
Also, “In the normal passenger car,” Road and Track observed, “the Hydromatic [sic] unit heats considerably, but the heat is successfully dispersed. Not so in the case of the Jet. On the contrary, the calf of the driver’s right leg, which is apt to rest against the gearbox, becomes uncomfortably warm. Some form of insulation would help.”
The Car’s Character. “The Muntz Jet,” Road and Track observed, “was not intended as a true sports car but rather as a deluxe high-speed convertible touring car in the American manner.”
“As such,” Road and Track wrote, “it offers the fastest acceleration and highest top speed of any American-built car available from the salesroom floor today. For those who wish to travel rapidly, carry five passengers, be protected from the weather, and who have the necessary change ($5250 fob Evanston)… this is the car!”
A Concluding Bit of Trivia: The sobriquet “Madman” Muntz reminds me of two other automotive entrepreneurs: Stanley Harold “Wacky” Arnolt and Lee Iacocca.
Why the latter? Because of the legendary (likely apocryphal) press correction: “In a recent news article, we referred to the Chrysler Corporation CEO as Lee Iacooco. We regret the error; his correct name is Lee Iacacca.” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022
My mother’s cousin was Freddy Martin, a well know band leader on the West coast. Freddy had a customized Muntz Jet that sold several big auction about ten years ago.
Good article, I remember the Muntz Jet but not that it was in any way a good car .