Manta Ray

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A photo that Verne Harrison took of the Manta Ray in April of 1953. Verne's nephew Gene Harrison doesn't know why his uncle took the photo, but he believes he was just passing by as the car stood parked next to the road. Photo by Verne Harrison, courtesy of Gene Harrison.
Another photo that Verne Harrison took of the Manta Ray in April of 1953. Photo by Verne Harrison, courtesy of Gene Harrison.
The Manta Ray as it appeared when it was featured in Rod & Custom February 1954. Photo courtesy of Rod & Custom Magazine.
Photo courtesy of Rod & Custom Magazine.
Photo courtesy of Rod & Custom Magazine.
Photo courtesy of Rod & Custom Magazine.
Photo courtesy of Rod & Custom Magazine.
Photo courtesy of Rod & Custom Magazine.
These colorized photos of the Manta Ray were published in Popular Science March 1954. Photo courtesy of Popular Science.
Photo courtesy of Popular Science.
A photo of the Manta Ray appeared in Custom Cars 1955 Annual, in a story about automobile insurance.
The Manta Ray as it sat in 2008.
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The Manta Ray as it appeared in August of 2012, after ER Detailing had detailed the car for the Lacer family. Photo courtesy of ER Detailing.
Photo courtesy of ER Detailing.
Photo courtesy of ER Detailing.
Photo courtesy of ER Detailing.
Photo courtesy of ER Detailing.
The Manta Ray out in sunlight in August of 2012. Photo courtesy of D.E. Lacer.
Photo courtesy of D.E. Lacer.
Photo courtesy of D.E. Lacer.
Photo courtesy of D.E. Lacer.

The Manta Ray is a fiberglass bodied Sport Custom built by Glen Hire and Vernon Antoine of Whittier, California. As many other futuristic builders of its time, the 1951 GM LeSabre concept car inspired Glen and Vernon when they designed their outrageous creation. Both Glen and Vernon worked for the North American Aviation Company, in the engineering and design department of the guided missile and jet aircraft divisions to be more specifically. The enthusiastic duo actually had plans for a small scale production of the Manta Ray. Something that never happened.[1]


The car featured a handmade fiberglass body molded in 14 sections. Building the body was not an easy task at all. There were plenty og problems, like deciding how many body mounts they had to have, keeping the body contours within certain limitations so the shell could be removed from the mold and more. The body was constructed on a modified 1951 Studebaker chassis in Glen and Vernon's garage. Power came from the stock 1951 Studebaker V8 engine that came with the donor car. Glen and vernon were more interested in the appearance of the car than performance, therefore the 1951 Studebaker engine and chassis were left alone. The frame side rails were shortened 3" though. The bumpers were handmade out of Hudson parts, and the taillights came from a Lincoln. Once completed, the Manta Ray stood 40 inches high, had a 112 inch wheelbase and weighed 1000 pounds. The car featured Stewart-Warner instruments and a Plymouth speedometer grouped around a cone shaped steering wheel housing with a 1953 Lincoln steering wheel attached. It had no deck lid, but the seats could be tilted forward for storage. The gas tank filler neck was hidden under the center tail light. Upon completion, the car was painted a metallic golden shade of lacquer. It took 4200 hours of work to complete the build.[1]


At an auto show in Los Angeles in 1954, Glenn and Vernon received a special trophy for the car, as well as a cash reward from a local newspaper for "Outstanding Creativeness and Engineering". After the show, Leading L. A. auto dealer Bob Yeakel fell in love with the car after seeing it in person, and he was able to buy it from the duo.[1]


In 1959 the car was sold to L.L. Lacer of Junction City, Kansas. By then the car was located in Topeka, Kansas. L.L, also known locally as Peanuts, traded the Manta Ray for a 1952 Morris, a 1952 Volkswagen and a 1953 Packard. The estimated price for these three cars at the time was about 600 dollars.[2]


The Manta Ray Resurfaces

After Glen and Vernon sold the Manta Ray to Bob Yeakel, it quickly fell off the face of the earth. In 2008 Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama began researching the traces of the car for a "Featured Story". It was nowhere to be found, and it seemed to be forever lost. March 13, 2009 D.E. Lacer wrote Sondre to tell him that the Manta Ray was still around, owned by L.L's wife Darlene. At the time it was located in a barn in Junction City, Kansas.[3]


In August of 2012 the Lacer family brought the Manta Ray to ER Detailing for a full detail job.[4]


Magazine Features and Appearances

Motor Trend July 1953
Rod & Custom February 1954
Popular Science March 1954
Custom Cars 1955 Annual
Collecting Automobile June 2007


References


Sources

Motor Trend July 1953
Popular Science March 1954






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