When you hear the name "Earl Muntz", what comes to mind? TV adds and low prices! Cheap TV's and wild schemes! I used to work on TV's and hated Muntz... AC/DC sets, eek!
Earl "Madman" Muntz was one of the most interesting hucksters that America has ever known. Muntz was a high school dropout and a tinkerer. He inventedf the Muntz Stereo-Pak 4-track system which became the 8-track... several of which I still have somewhere in the garage! Like Bill Lear, the father of 8-track, Muntz's tinkering led to some great machines. Lear had his Lear Jet and Muntz produced the Muntz Jet, a souped-up sportscar which sold for $5,500 (almost the price of a Caddy). Like Lear, Muntz was an audio nut.
Earl Muntz started out as a used-car salesman. He eventually began appearing on radio and television to promote his cars. He was kinda like an early-day Cal Worthington but instead of riding wild animals he would promise to take a sledgehammer and smash a car on television if the car wasn't sold that day. He screamed and hollered and loudly proclaimed. We all had a big laugh at him... but he was successful!
Earl Muntz would do anything for publicity. He dressed up in red long johns and a Napoleon hat, probably both as a caricature of the cliche of crazy people with Napoleonic delusions and as a representation of his plans to conquer the market. During the height of the McCarthy era, he contemplated joining the Communist Party in order to get more exposure. And conquer he did.
Muntz made $72 million in the car business (not bad in the 50's), and in the process he became a household name. Bob Hope and Jack Benny used his name as a punch line. Tour busses in Los Angeles regularly stopped at his lot hoping to see him. For us ham radio operators and TV tinkerers he was fascinating! How did these things work with so few parts?
A nice note from Angela
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Liles,
I write to thank you for posting the page about "Mad Man Muntz." This was an expression used humorously in my family for years, although no one could explain exactly WHO Mad Man Muntz was! I've been curious about this since I was a kid. Muntz must have been awfully big in his time to be as well known here in New York as in southern California! Thanks again for staisfying my curiosity, and my very best wishes to you and your family. Keep up the nice work!
Muntz went from cars to televisions. He supposedly named his daughter Tee Vee, although she was actually named Tina. He distinguished himself in this field both by making a fortune and by skimping on components in order to keep his prices low. Low and cheap!
I was honored to receive an Email from Tee V. Muntz on December 18th 2003!.
Hello Paul and Sue,
A friend of mine who visited your webpage about my father, Earl "Madman" Muntz just called me and questioned me about my name. "I didn't know your real name was Tina" said my friend. I told him that it wasn't and he suggested I check out your webpage.
To clear the matter of my name, I offer the following explanation:
I was 21" long at birth and dad had just come out with his first 21" set so he named me Tee Vee and this is the name that appears on my birth certificate. In fact, my birth announcement was printed in the business section of the newspaper and it read, "Muntz TV introduces new 21 inch model - Tee Vee Muntz". My mother was not appreciative of his humor, however, so she called me Teena Vale and Teena was the name I used until I graduated from high school in 1969.
Thanks for your contribution in keeping my dad's name out there!
Tee V. Muntz
Engineers of a certain age still refer to the practice of "Muntzing", which means reducing something to the absolute minimum number of parts it requires in order to run. I worked as a TV repair person while going to high school and it was amazing how we could make the TV's a lot better by adding back in the few components he snipped out!!! Bypass capacitors here and there made a big difference!
You left out of your page about Mr. Muntz, one of his favorite lines on his ads about Muntz T.V.’s. It’s a line I heard so much as a kid in the 50’s, that it has become a household saying in our family. At the end of his snappy commercials about his televisions, he’d look straight into the camera and say, “I want to give them away, but Mrs. Muntz won’t let me”.
Whenever I want to weasel out of anything, I say that I’d like to, but my husband won’t let me! It works GREAT !
Car audio was the next world Muntz set out to conquer. In the early 60's, he started producing the Muntz Stereo-Pak, a 4-track system. A hot seller in its day!
Earl Muntz died June 20th 1987. At the time of his death, he had shifted the focus of his business to cellular phones. There were many other schemes in between - projection T.V.'s and aluminum houses, to name just two.
The Muntz Jet was the prototype of the luxury "personal" car that would be popularized by the four-seater Ford Thunderbird beginning in 1958. The Jet was produced betwee 1951 and 1954 with about 850 sold. The Jet sported a wealth of innovative features: fiberglass body construction, bucket seats and a center console. Power was initially supplied by a Lincoln L-head V8, although other engines were later used.