Rare Rides: The 1951 Muntz Jet, First-ever Personal Luxury
Did you ever wonder which vehicle is credited with being the very first personal luxury car? Wonder no more, as it’s today’s Rare Ride, the Muntz Jet.
The Muntz owes its creation to an earlier sports car that was creatively named the Kurtis Sport Car, or KSC. Created by Frank Curtis, the KSC was on sale from 1949 to 1950 and was available as a kit or a fully-assembled car. The KSC was based on a ’49 Ford, and as such used a variety of Ford engines. Kurtis quickly realized his hardtop convertible was too expensive to produce, and exited the business after selling around 25 KSCs.
Kurtis sold all the tooling and manufacturing rights for the KSC to Earl Muntz. Muntz (a well-off used car dealer) had his own ideas about a hardtop convertible, and redeveloped the KSC into his own Muntz Jet. Muntz added a luxurious interior to his Jet, and reworked the exterior visuals only slightly from the KSC. Though it looked very similar, the Jet was 400 pounds heavier, and had a 10-inch longer wheelbase than the KSC upon which it was based. The longer wheelbase allowed for a back seat, and room for four passengers instead of two as in the KSC. Notable features on the Jet included standard seat belts, and a padded dashboard for additional safety – neither of those were found on most production cars of the time. It also featured hydraulic brakes, a dual-coil ignition, independent front suspension, and power steering.
Gone were the Ford engines, and on offer instead were Cadillac and Lincoln V8s, both of which made 160 horsepower. Sporty customers could order the Jet with a three-speed Borg-warner manual, while more traditional luxury coupe buyers selected a GM three-speed Hydramatic.
The engine in the Jet depended upon production location. Early on the Jet was built in Glendale, California, and had an aluminum body and the Cadillac V8. Later on production moved to Illinois, where steel bodies were paired with the Lincoln engine instead.
The complicated and technologically advanced Jet was very expensive to make, and lost money even with a $5,500 price tag. It competed with Cadillac convertibles on sale for around $4,000, and Lincolns for $3,600. Worth mentioning, each Jet cost $6,500 to produce. Each sale put Muntz further in debt. Even though the Jet had famous owners like Grace Kelly and Mickey Rooney, the company never made money. Muntz lost an estimated $400,000 on his Jet, and closed down the company in 1954. 198 Jets were built, and around 125 of them are still in existence.
Today’s Rare Ride is a lovely brick red example with a cream interior. It’s the second Jet assembled, one of 40 or so made in California. Yours for $225,000.