The weekend of February 17-19 will be a busy one at Dallas’ Market Hall when the gear heads take over for the 52nd Annual Dallas Autorama car show. Several hundred classic, hot rod and collectible cars will be on display and one of them will be the legendary Dean Jeffries creation call the Mantaray.
This ultimate custom from the early 60’s has been restored and is normally on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. But it will make an appearance at Market Hall for this year’s Autorama and you don’t want to miss it!
Dean Jeffries grew up in Southern California, hanging out with racers like Troy Ruttman who had been a winner at the Indianapolis 500 in 1952. It was this relationship that got Jeffries hooked on cars and developed his skills, as he would travel to the Indy 500 in those days and pinstripe drivers’ helmets and race cars and learning about building a car. Later in 1962, Jeffries went to work for Carroll Shelby. Shelby had been knocking on the doors of Detroit’s automakers with the idea of a two seat lightweight American car to go racing with – that car became the Cobra. With Ford giving Shelby the go ahead to develop this ‘Cobra’, Carroll looked to Jeffries to build the first one, to be modeled after the AC Bristol British aluminum skinned sports car. Those aluminum fabricating skills would later be used to build the Mantaray.
Jeffries was inspired by the ‘Tournament of Fame’, a competition of select pro builders at the Oakland Roadster Show in 1964. It was this inspiration and the skills he learned hanging out at Indy with Ruttman and Shelby that lead to the creation of Mantaray and one of the milestone custom cars ever built. Dean was not an engineer, so he took the chassis of two old Maserati Formula 1 Grand Prix cars he had acquired, scrapped the skin, engines etc and went to work to create the form that would become the Mantaray. The Italian brakes, suspension, steering and a few other choice parts remained but for power it was the Ford 289 with four downdraft Weber carbs that fit the bill (an inspiration from the Cobra that he had just built for Shelby). Many hours of forming went into the 86 pieces of aluminum that make of the body of this ultimate custom car. The signature early 60’s custom car feature called a Bubble Top is formed of plexiglass by Jeffries.
It was February 14, 1964 that this Jeffries creation was rolled into the Oakland Roadster Show, and history was made. The car changed the way custom car builders looked at their craft, and on February 23rd the Mantaray walked away the Tournament of Fame First Place winner and $10,000, a trip to Europe and a new car – quite a award today and even bigger in 1964! Now 48 years later to the date, you can see this historic hot rod at the Autorama in Dallas.
The car would become immortalized in as the Hot Rod Magazine cover car in April 1964. In 1964 the car was featured in the classic surf and hot rod movie Bikini Beach with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Mattel Hot Wheels would make a collectible miniature version of the car. It would become the signature car for Jeffries, who in spite of what fellow custom car builder George Barris claims credit to, Jeffries would also create the Monkeemobile and the Green Hornet’s Black Beauty.
The Autorama not only has the Mantaray on display but you will be able to see the Drag City USA display of vintage race cars, Chevrolet’s Transformer III Camaro, the Toyarama of collectible automotive toys. If this is not enough, there will be a Burn Out Contest on Saturday and Sunday, Cacklefest with drag racing legends and the Bigfoot Monster Truck Car Crush. Want more? Then plan to meet Billy the Exterminator from the TV series, Rey Mysterio of WWE fame and the Texas Ranger’s Mascot Rangers Captain. It’s more than a car show – almost a three ring circus!
Tickets are $15 at the door, or go by O’Reilly Auto Parts for $13 discount tickets. Kids 6-12 are $5 and 5 and under are free. Hours are Friday February 17 3PM to 10PM, Saturday February 18 10AM to 10PM and Sunday February 19 11AM to 7PM. For more information go to http://www.autorama.com/