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Restoration Unlimited II

Redusernab August 31, 2012 All Things Hoon 12 Comments
[Reader zms msz has something you need to know, check it out below — Redusernab]
If you like to see unusual cars being restored while listening to stories from people that have been working on them their whole adult lives and you find yourself near Cary IL the first Saturday of the month from now until November [  ], try to head on over to Restorations Unlimited II. It’s a very pretty town and in case you need more convincing, there’s good BBQ (by Illinois standards) in nearby Algonquin as well. But the shop, it has a Muntz Jet and the only known Alpena Flyer in existence. Plus there are some more surprises.
Anyway last year I missed-out on the open houses when I found out about it too late in the year, and there was a beautiful PV being restored there back then. Well that PV is finished now and the owner has since told me he is very pleased with a car better than new. But before then, I thought I would not get a chance to ever see that PV444, so my friend sent me a handful of images of it which he had taken. The one abovev caught my attention. I quickly replied to his email, “That’s a very pretty PV, but that is a Muntz Jet behind it! Holy cow, do you know any more about it?”
It turns out that Restorations Unlimited II was also restoring a ’50 Muntz Jet… and I could see it!
So off I went to the coffee and doughnuts open house the first Saturday of last month at [  ]. When I got there it was like some dreamworld on account of all the great cars that people drove over to get there. Here’s just a few:
The Muntz Jet was a sports car sold by Earl “Madman” Muntz [  ]. There are some great images at the wiki page, one is of his TV persona (which was pretty off beat) and another is an example of a print ad for his stereo-paks. Ha, those ads were suggestive in the unique manner that only those from the ’60s could ever be. But his hifi, radios, and TVs (though neat)  were not what caused my infatuation a few years back, it was his cars and Illinois connection. He started-out as a used car salesman in Elgin (near where my parents live to this day) and after moving out to LA he eventually bought the rights to a Frank Kurtis designed sports car which he had modified with the addition of rear seats and more powerful engines. He first had them built in Glendale CA, but later they were built in Evanston. So I went gaga over this IL based car, but never had a chance to see on in person and there it was right in front of me in glorious Volvo, no scratch that, Mars red after all these years!

Like always there were some things you would not really know or expect unless you had the chance to see the car in person. In this case, the battery and braking system were crammed under the fenders, interesting:

A while back google started putting old magazine issues online, the Muntz Jet was featured in a three way comparison in a September 1951 Popular Science article [  ] Here’s that beefy rear spring that the author had credited for the good handling despite the Muntz Jet’s heft:
And here’s that padded safety dash and airplane inspired instrument cluster also mentioned in the article. The Muntz Jet also came with seat belts, at least in the front. But what’s that blue thing?
It’s just a radio it turns-out. Muntz manufactured (and sold) all sorts of interesting hifi equipment, like four (yes four, not eight) track players. This car was an early one and just came with a radio. That’s okay though since Ray who works at Restorations Unlimited II [  ] has hidden a modern head unit well into the storage compartment between the front seats described in the Popular Science article. You can also see the restored Arvin heater here.
The Muntz Jet seats four and it looks to have been a tight squeeze back there, but what’s that little silver circle in the back?

It’s labeled ‘T’ … No it couldn’t, could it? Does it? Sure enough it pops the trunk!
This here is the very nicely redone trunk, but what you don’t see is just under that is the license plate. If flips down to reveal a receiver for a trailer hitch. The owner wants to use his Muntz Jet to tow his small race car! That has to be the best part so far.
Or that was the best part so far, it just got better! Some of the early Muntzes came with Cadillac V8s. The ones made in Illinois had L-head Lincolns. Not only is is rare in this also rare car, that’s just so darned pretty right there!
So I should mention something about Ray, he’s very nice to listen to, has lots of great things to say. Like he owns a 1900 Mobile steam car something like this:
Just look at all that glorious steam! Doesn’t that look like a blast to drive. Like a foggy wet burn-out every time you set off, and as you go, and when you stop… And really more cars should come with tillers these days. But that’s not all, he also has a 1907 Holsman Model 4 [  ]!
“Solid rubber tires – no pneumatics to collapse. Air-cooled – no water to freeze. … Two simple levers regulate entire control.” My Ford Syncy MacDaddy Master Pro Edition could learn from this car. Okay I digressed a bit there, sorry, but then Ray wants to show me something else he has been working on. Oh… 
(All this time I had been in the front partition of the shop, only two cars there, trying to not have an aneurism burst somewhere.)
He takes me to the back, and there is an 1911 Alpena Flyer! Okay I knew nothing about this car before coming here, but it’s impressive.
What’s more impressive, it looked like this when it got to the shop:
What’s less impressive is that I neglected to get a better photo of the entire car. I must have been just so overwhelmed by the Muntz Jet, sorry everybody. But there are some photos at the restoration page itself [  ]. Get a load of the state of that shackle pin in particular! Imagine the dusty roads of that time, together with oil being used instead of grease at the time. There is not a single zerk fitting in sight, just oilers, oil cups, and pin holes. It must have made the oil something like liquid sand paper according to Ray.
The Alpena Flyer was made in Alpena Michigan from 1910 to 1914. Back when it was made it’s niche was being somewhat of a sporty car that seated more than just two. It required a lot of attention, it was no Model T, but this was difficult in the rural area this one called home. The original owner did the best he could to keep it going and drove it until it was just too much trouble. Then it was largely forgotten. In the mean time the Alpena manufacturer was sued for patent infringement to the tune of $400K and went bankrupt. The company which bought what was left, decided it was not worth keeping much of anything other than the bargain for the equipment and buildings they were interested in and all the documents were destroyed. Nobody even knows how many were made or sold, not to mention having any blueprints or forms for a restoration. As far as anyone is aware, this is the sole remaining Alpena in existence, and it was quite a find really. The plan is to restore it and then the owner intends to loan it to a museum in the city of Alpena. It’s really quite a story, and Ray can tell it well. For the restoration his knowledge of brass cars is very valuable. He brings parts from some of his brass cars in to the shop when he needs something to base his work on the Alpena off of. To give an idea, there are only a handful of illustrations and photos of Alpena Flyers left to go on. So for example all that is known about the gas tank is that it was under the front passenger seat and a rough idea of it’s volume. Ray has made one and it will be coppered like the ones of the same period. Considering how little of the original car remained, it’s really something! The woodwork with the hinges and latches were really incredibly well done for example:
Here you can see some notes about how to shape the sheet metal to fit:
I think i remember Ray telling me that the engine was stamped Hazard co. on the oil pan which was a company based in Ohio that made these two cylinders per cast T-head engines typical of the time.
I always get a kick out of this on brass cars, these gears here are off of the front passenger wheel:
Which lead to this incredibly restored speedometer:
And finally here you have it the three point suspension in the rear that Alpena used without license which did them in:
If you do head out here, there’s plenty more to see. I shouldn’t spoil any more of the surprises in store (ice cream truck, cough). Oh and in case you want that BBQ (I think they have veggie choices as well, but I recommend the pulled pork) that’s The Texan Bar-B-Q in Algonquin.
  • Plecostomus

    :[ All but one picture is borked

    • fixed.

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        Thanks Jeff! Also I hope I got things pretty close to right. I took no notes and promptly went on a vacation.

      • Plecostomus

        danke :]

    • FЯeeMan

      Must. Fix. Pictures.

      Quick, someone Hoonibbles!

  • ramLlama

    There is a whole lot of awesome in that article and its photos. You, sir, have just given me reading material for the weekend. I go to Chicago regularly, so when I do, I will be sure to keep this place on my radar.

    Thanks for the write up and the pictures!

  • Awesome story about a great find, Mike. Thanks!

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      Aww gee… Thanks!

  • dukeisduke

    Earl Muntz also sold TV sets, and was notoriously cheap. He would take a set design, and using a pair of wire cutters, cut the leads to components, one by one, until the set stopped working. Any parts that didn't didn't stop the set were then taken out of the design, to reduce costs.

  • dukeisduke

    I imagine the front discs on the Jet are an upgrade – if you read the specs in Wilbur Shaw's road test, the Jet was tied for last in brake swept area (176 sq in) with the Nash-Healey, yet it outweighed the Healey by 900lbs.

  • NoKetchup

    ….wow! I had no idea about that place but I guess I know where I'm headed tomorow (and good to hear about that texan bbq place on rt31, I drive by it all the time)

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      This makes me so happy! I was really hoping by getting this out there before the next one, someone would go that otherwise had no idea. Ask about the brakes for duke if you get the chance. Have a blast! Oh and I emailed a friend to tell Ray or Ralph about this post, but have not heard back. He might be gone for the Labor Day weekend, please let them know.

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