There’s a quote by Mark Twain that I enjoy and while I often paraphrase the quote, the gist of it is this:
“It Takes A Long Time To Write A Short Letter”
Today’s story is ten years in the making. And it started with two friends – Erich Schultz and Joel Driskil. Many years ago each of them separately noticed a small photo and caption in the December, 1957 issue of Hot Rod Magazine. What they found was a Bangert Manta Ray race car. One of my favorite cars.
Now Bangert is one of those lesser known makes, but I had a chance to meet Noel Bangert on two occasions. One time here in Florida and one time at his home in Los Angeles. The Bangert Manta Ray was the second car that Noel built and offered to the public. It came out in 1955 and the styling was inspired by the 1954 Buick Wildcat II show car. Not a bad pedrigee!
The Manta Ray had open wheel wells in the front. The purpose was to create a larger cooling area for the front brakes. This was a popular styling cue in the mid-fifties for 2-3 years, and many European sports cars had this styling feature. Bangert Enterprises was a small company but it’s estimated that Noel may have sold around 15 of the Manta Ray sports cars and bodies before coming out with a third model (more about that in a future story).
The design of the Manta Ray must have appealed to sports car builders at the time. Period documentation shows that three race cars were built and two of these exist today. One on a Kurtis Kraft chassis and one built on a custom tube chassis called the “Kennedy Special.” Check out the photo of a Bangert Manta Ray being used for the premier of the film, “The Devil’s Hairpin” in the Los Angeles area below. It certainly had a distinctive look.
The image that both Erich and Joel sent in showed a Bangert Manta Ray owned / driven by Bill Freedman drag racing another car in a Top Eliminator run. The photo below was all that I had seen or heard of the car – until recently. That’s the fun of research. Always keep your eyes open.
The Petersen Publishing archives has put some of their collection online thanks to the hard work of their senior archivist Thomas Voehringer. In reviewing photos in the archive, one of our Undiscovered Classics aficionados out there spotted what looked like a Bangert Manta Ray, and he sent it in for verification.
When I joined him on the research hunt, not only did we find other photos of the car but it matched the numbers and styling of the one that was racing above driven/owned by Bill Freedman. So far we’ve found 5 photos of Bill Freedman’s Manta Ray in the Petersen collection and these were taken at the 1957 Oakland Roadster Show in Oakland, California. Let’s have a look at the photos gang 🙂
So who was Bill Freedman and where is this car today? Sounds like a good project for our Undiscovered Classics aficionados out there. Time and again we find the cars and hopefully we’ll have the same outcome with this one too.
And for those of you who want to explore the Petersen Archives in greater detail, have fun and click on the link below:
Hope you enjoyed the story, and remember…
The adventure continues here at Undiscovered Classics.