1949 Kurtis Sports Car
One of the most famous American racing car constructors of the period before and after the Second World War is Frank Kurtis. Although he is best remembered for his all-conquering midget and Indy racers, Kurtis produced a series of very successful road racers bearing his name as well. The first of these was the Kurtis Sports Car or KSC, which was introduced in 1949.
It was available in various stages of completion, with prices ranging from $1,495 for a kit to $4,700 for a fully running example. It was not a full blood racer and on the road it was eclipsed by the cheaper Jaguar XK120. After only around 20 examples were constructed, Kurtis introduced the 500S that proved to be a very potent racer.
This was not the end of the line for the KSC; Earl 'Madman' Muntz had made quite a fortune selling radios, televisions and related electronics, and considered the automobile business next. He purchased the production rights from Kurtis and turned the KSC into a proper road car. The biggest change was to lengthen the chassis by 12 inches to allow for rear seats.
To cut production costs the aluminum used for the Kurtis bodies was replaced by the much cheaper, but heavier steel. Power initially was supplied by a Cadillac V8, but soon after production started it was replaced by a flathead Lincoln V8. To shave additional weight, fiberglass fenders were fitted on some of the last cars.
Dubbed the Muntz Road Jet, the revised four seater debuted in 1950. After the first 30 cars were assembled by Kurtis in Glendale, California, production moved to Evanston, Illinois halfway through 1951. After the move Muntz discarded the aluminum body and Cadillac engine, and increased the wheelbase by another 3 inches.
Thanks to very expensive machinery and a time absorbing construction method the fit and finish of the steel bodies was immaculate.
As a result the Muntz Jet was very expensive, and it is estimated that about $1,000 was lost on every example produced. This was not a big problem at first, but when Muntz' other businesses went south as well, the car production was quickly abandoned.
When 'Madman' Muntz learned that both Ford and Chevrolet were developing a two-seat sports car, he decided to go back to the Jet's roots. Ready in time for the 1953 Indianapolis Sports Car Show, the Muntz 'Roadster' was very similar in design to the original Kurtis Sports Car. Sadly the Roadster shared the show floor with the new Corvette, which received all the media attention. Whereas the Corvette and Thunderbird turned out to be best sellers, the Muntz Roadster was built just four times before the company went out of business in 1954.
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