Modernized Manta Ray: Reviving ’50s Aviation Design
Few may be aware of the Studebaker Manta Ray – and who could blame them, as only a single one was crafted. This remarkable automobile is peculiar outcome when two engineers from the field of aviation – with skill in the engineering of guided missiles – decided to attempt to design a motor vehicle. The Manta Ray was a fiberglass sports car prototype featuring a sleek look derived from the jet age craze ongoing when 1950s began.
Glen Hire and Vernon Antoine had the ambition of creating a cool reincarnation of the old Studebaker Commander; therefore, they decided to give it a complete makeover. Unfortunately, their fancy design was never brought to fruition. However, Rostislav Prokop, an artist from HotCars, envisioned a modern rendition of this vintage car and crafted a new rendering.
Beginning in 1951, the frame for the custom sports car was reduced in length by cutting out 3″ of it. Afterwards, the creation of a 14-section fiberglass body and wood mold to shape its ‘engine intake’ nose were done with great care and precision. As an added touch, three Lincoln taillights at the back intensified the impression of jet engines blazing through the sky. The craze over aviation-influenced vehicle design was at its peak during the 1950s and the Manta Ray certainly took inspiration from the 1951 XP-8 Le Sabre concept car. Although modest, the Studebaker motor and 3-speed manual gearbox kept this jet-like dream car running along smoothly.
This concept has a redesigned nose, boasting a turbine-style fuel intake for the engine. The front is much smoother and the headlights have been reduced in size, yet are now composed of LED lighting. Whilst the aerodynamic wheels remain absent from this render, the cars cabin continues to be positioned centrally with an extended bonnet and tail.
The displayed wheels have a classic vibe due to them being bronze, reminiscent of the 2024 Ford Mustang’s very own GT Performance Package wheels when they are decked out with the Bronze Appearance Package.
One doesn’t have to look far to discover the link between the vehicle and timeless classic cars. Details such as insignias on the side panels, the apertures on the rear bumper, and the convertible roof all point to its heritage. Its thicker track, advanced rims and muscular design brings it shoulder to shoulder with modern-day sports autos like the Audi TT and BMW Z4, or hardtop coupes just like the Alpine A110 or Toyota Supra.
The noteworthy Studebaker Manta Ray, initially drenched in bronze (frequently outnumbered as gold) and secondly painted a delicate pink, was mounted with a Cadillac V8 engine. After the acquisition of the Manta Ray in 1959, it passed through its original owner’s hands until his passing in 1990 when it was presented to his son. It manifested for auction; under the scrutiny of Mecum at the Monterey event in 2019 where it gained up to $190,000 in bids but failed to meet its reserve.
Beneath the frame of this proposed vehicle, a turbocharged 2-litre motor with an asserted 300hp would likely be discovered, comparable to the Honda Civic Type R. However, if that wasn’t enough, one could get creative by substituting it for a turbine engine, which is even more stimulating. It all originated from two guys who had a vision – these plans should be followed through by someone else, in order to carry on its lineage.