Electronics promoter, Earl William “Madman” Muntz was one of greatest business legends ever, eventually producing the first black and white TVs to sell for less than $100. He was also a pioneer in some audio equipment as well in his later years, where the Muntz 4 track tapes were the pioneering technology before the 8 tracks and the cassette tapes. But, sadly his attempt to produce some of finest and fastest 1950’s automobiles ended with only 400 units produced. But, none of that takes away from the sheer awesomeness of his Muntz Jet automobiles, capable of 125mph top speed and zero to fifty acceleration of just 6 seconds!
As much as Muntz was associated with televisions and later his pioneering 4 track tapes, his first start in business was the small used car lot he opened in 1934 with just $500 in his pocket at the age of 20. The legal age in Illinois was 21, so Muntz had to have his mother sign off on the sales and registration paperwork. Later, setting up business in California, Muntz had a real passion for the automobile business. Frank Kurtis had been a racecar designer, who had high hopes to market a postwar sporty car with high performance, but very poor sales of just 36 cars by 1950 encouraged Kurtis to look for either more funding or a way out of the business. A year later, for a mere $200,000 Muntz bought out the car company founded by Kurtis, renaming the cars after himself with some minor restyling. V8 engines from Lincoln replaced the Cadillac powerplants, which saved a little money without much of a performance loss. But, this cost-cutting just was not good enough to make the cars profitable, with aluminum body panels and fiberglass roofs to make the cars light and fast, but so expensive to produce that the company was selling the cars for $1,000 less than they cost to produce, only forcing Muntz to have to exit the automobile business after 1954 with only 400 cars produced.
Muntz was at least the American sports car pioneer. He produced fast lightweight cars years before the Corvette, the Thunderbird, the Avanti. the Shelby Cobra, the AMX and other great high performance automobiles.