Monday Musings 48

Best wishes to Dr. Zal. Unexpectedly, he is returning to the working world after a brief retirement. People with Ph.D. STEM degrees will remain in demand for the foreseeable future.


I don’t know why I am compelled to repeat this message, but it is OCD. So-called reality TV is NOTHING of the sort. The camera is not an unobtrusive observer of real life, of something that existed before the cameras and would exist without them. In addition, the participants are very aware that they are being filmed and the producers edit the footage to create maximum tension and drama.

Why do so many of these shows exist? The reason is that it is show business. These shows, without highly-paid writers or actors, are very inexpensive to produce.


I almost called today’s post Monday Muntz. How many of you have heard of an automobile called the Muntz Jet? The first-generation Ford Thunderbird is sometimes credited as America’s first personal luxury car. However, the Jet was of a similar idiom and predated the Baby Bird by years. Without further ado a picture from Wikimedia:


See the source image


This is a Muntz Jet. Earl “Madman” Muntz had made a fortune selling TV sets and other consumer electronics. In 1949, he bought all of the manufacturing rights to the Kurtis Sports Car, designed by Frank Kurtis. Muntz had also worked as a car salesman before getting into the automobile production business.

These cars, derived from Kurtis’ car, were powered at first by Cadillac’s modern overhead-valve, 331 cubic-inch V-8 that produced 160 HP/312 LB-FT of torque. For some reason, the engine was later changed to Lincoln’s older 337 cubic-inch flathead V-8 that produced 154 HP/275 LB-FT of torque. For all Jets the standard transmission was GM’s Hydra-Matic automatic although a Borg-Warner manual with overdrive was available.

Typical of the “shoestring” cars that sprang up in the late 1940s and early 1950s, production of the Muntz Jet was inefficient and was actually moved from California to Illinois during the brief production run from about 1950 to 1954. Total production numbers are a matter of debate as are the exact start and end dates. The figure that used to be accepted was a total of 394, but many automobile historians think that was an exaggeration by Muntz himself and that the actual number is closer to half that many, maybe 198.

Despite their looks and performance, the removable hardtop and a myriad of luxury options (like an available liquor cabinet and ice chest placed under the rear armrests), at a price of $5,500–equaling the cost of the most expensive Cadillacs of the day–demand wasn’t strong and Muntz lost money on each one even at the hefty price.

I think these are fabulous cars and I long for a 21st-century version. My desire is almost certainly a pipedream, but the coronavirus will not be with us forever and this is still a country with many wealthy people who no longer have children living with them (or never did).

Hail to the Muntz Jet!






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15 thoughts on “Monday Musings 48

  1. I’ve seen one Muntz in all my travels, in a museum years ago. Not being a big fan of early 50’s styling it looked ok to my eyes, but not exceptional. For my eyes a Cunningham or an Allard from the same era were more pleasing to view.

    I’m not sure a manufacturer would be willing to take the risk on a low volume car like that today. Looking back at the exclusive cars of the 50’s, Eldorado Biarritz, Continental, Imperial, they were money losers. The Thunderbird, especially in 58 when it went to 4 seats,was a money maker. Enough so that other OEM’s soon followed, Pontiac Grand Prix, and years later Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

    Just last year, Lincoln offered their Coach Door Edition Continental. Production was estimated to be around 100 units for 2019. Even with a price “north of $100,000” there is no possible way they made a nickel on them. Is it worth it for “bragging rights?” I guess FoMoCo thought so. I’m not their target market so I really can’t say. I’m more of a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy. I prefer cloth interior to leather, and still remember when now standard equipment, AC, power windows, etc, were expensive options. I like for my vehicles to fill a need, or want, and luxury has never been high on my need/want list. I even feel conspicuous when I take a limo (usually a Town Car or a Suburban) to the airport (cheaper than paying for extended parking at the airport).


    1. Many thanks, sir.

      I am not thinking of a limited production run of cars like this, but production numbers like Ferrari, 8,000-9,000 a year. With some “borrowing” of components from other company makes (whatever company that is), but not so many that the car won’t really live up to its luxury status, I think the startup costs can be managed so the car is profitable at Ferrari numbers, including price.

      Before the coronavirus, 7% of all American households had a net worth of $1 million or more and the number of households with a net worth of $25 million or more had increased 70 percent since 2008. There are also more married couple/no children households than married couple/with children. That doesn’t even include all of the single person households. A potential market is there, but execution would need to be nearly perfect. I still think it would be a feather in the cap of the company that can pull it off successfully.


  2. Looking on the Internet, there are a lot of pictures of well maintained Muntz’(?). I would think the RR Drophead Coupe is the modern day version of the Muntz, with the cooler in the back. But to your point re folks with money, yes there is an untapped market for cars like these. Singer Porsche can’t make their mid six figure “RestMods” fast enough.


    1. Yes, I think a market exists, but it will have to be a big company that can borrow parts from other cars and can use existing production equipment to tap that market.


  3. I am familiar with the Muntz Jet as well as the Kurtis cars and chassis. I have never seen a Muntz in the wild or in a museum. It was, I believe, a little ahead of its time as there was not enough of its target market to afford one, yet.

    Myself, I am not big on exclusive luxury cars. One-off customs or customization of a car to make it unique, yes. I am too much of an individualist and my “wants” are such that I don’t want what everybody else wants. The closest thing to a luxury car for me would probably be a subtly customized Cadillac XLR pro-touring. Lots more power, lots more brakes, chassis mods to handle better and a sleeper so people would not suspect it was not stock.

    A limited production car as you describe could be done here by one of the Big Three and be a success. I believe, though, that one of the unintended consequences of the economic shutdown because of the pandemic will be that all manufacturers, and especially the automakers, will be a lack of cash for doing anything new and different. The tremendous slow down in cash flow will have enormous effects on how everyone does business. The need to bring back drug and other essential manufacturing to the United States will require tax incentives from the Federal and State governments in order for our manufacturers to do the production of these strategic needs here.


    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Philip. Glad to see I am not the only one who thinks a limited production luxury car could be successful here. Like everything else in life, planning and execution are both important–usually.


  4. One thing that occurred to me reading thru the replies; Would there actually be a domestic manufacturer willing to go down that road, at the same time they are dropping passenger cars from their line ups? With the recent fixation by consumers on SUV’s, CUV’s, WhateverUV’s, and pick up trucks, would there even be a platform available in the next couple years? The few car platforms left are for the most part performance cars, or some type of hybrid or electric. Other than Tesla, all the electric or hybrids are on small platforms which would not lend itself to a luxury coupe.


    1. May not seem like a big deal to anyone other than me, but you have joined photobyjohnbo with 100+ of the last 1,000 published comments on this blog. Thanks, never had two people at that level.


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