LOST CAR: Bill Freedman’s Bangert Manta Ray Race Car

Hi Gang…

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!

Buick Wildcat II Show Car

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.

What Makes This Photo Even More Special Is That The Actors Who Starred In the Movie Are in the Bangert Manta Ray shown in this Publicity Photo – Cornel Wilde and Jean Wallace.

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:

Click Here To View Photos That Are Part of the Petersen Publishing Archives

Hope you enjoyed the story, and remember…

The adventure continues here at Undiscovered Classics.



LOST CAR: Bill Freedman’s Bangert Manta Ray Race Car — 7 Comments

  1. @ Michael Lugo – thanks for the kind words and good to see you at Amelia too. I’m working on a story on the 3rd Bangert with an owner of one. Hopefully I’ll get some photos soon and we’ll be good to go. Best for now….Geoff

  2. This is a great story and a masterpiece of investigation. This is truly a good looking car, but my favorite Bangert is his third design. Which I believe was show at the Petersen Museum exhibit in 2010. Please do a story on the 3rd design, with all the information and photographs that your have at hand. If I had to chose between the 3rd Bangert and the Byer asthe most beautiful I don’t think I could do it.
    It was good to meet you in person at Amelia. Great show, good time. Michael

    • @Brandon – Great information. Let’s see where this information leads us. Would be great if we can add to this story a bit more. Thanks Brandon. Geoff

  3. Geoff, if I remember right I think it was 1956 and Cornel Wilde was making one of the worst movies of all time and he was filming it during one of our California Sports Car Club races at Paramount Ranch where he dubbed in footage from our races and in the pits for his awful movie Devils Hairpin.

    • @Ralph – I’ll have to get the movie and watch it for some of the specials that will be in the race. Maybe the movie will turn out to be a bit better if I can find some on the screen 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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