Updated – Long before GM built the “Mako Shark” concept car in 1962, and the “Manta Ray” that followed, custom and concept car builders, including Harley Earl began using the styling cues for their creations early in the postwar “Jet Age.”
This aircraft-like mystery car appears to be a very well constructed front-engined vehicle with either a single rear wheel or two that are placed closely together. Both the front and rear fenders share the same general appearance of the pectoral fins a Manta Ray uses to move through the water. The vertical rear stabilizer fin carries a logo, and it, and the front air intake have the same shape as those on the F-86 Sabre jets on the far-right. The hubcaps appear to be from a 1953-55 Oldsmobile “Fiesta.”
The pair of F-86’s and the mountains in the background of the image suggest that the location might have been at the Muroc AFB near Lancaster, CA, or the Norton AFB in San Bernardino, CA. The F-86 Sabre, the USAF’s second production jet aircraft, made an initial flight on October 1, 1947, at Muroc (now Edwards AFB) and was placed in service beginning in 1949.
Using all of these visual clues can any of our readers identify and date this car or add more to the story?
Dan Strohl at “Hemmings Daily” covered the story of another early-1950s Manta Ray that will be on the field a month from now at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. The photo is courtesy of the AACA Library.
Update – Thanks to reader Paul Jaray this mystery has been solved: The custom car was constructed on a 1934 British BSA car chassis and was a project constructed by the members of the Arizona 197th “Copperheads” Fighter Inceptor Squadron, an Air National Guard unit. Learn all about the “Sabre Jet”car in the “Popular Mechanics” September 1957 issue.
The brothers that built the body for the“Sabre Jet” also constructed a custom 1940 Mercury convertible that can be found in the April 1952, “Popular Science.”