Earl William "Madman" Muntz was an American businessman and engineer who sold and promoted cars and consumer electronics in the United States from the 1930s until his death in 1987. He was a pioneer in television commercials with his oddball "Madman" persona, his alter ego generated publicity with unusual costumes, stunts, and outrageous claims. Muntz also pioneered car stereos by creating the Muntz Stereo-Pak, better known as the 4-track cartridge, a predecessor to the 8-track cartridge developed by Lear Industries. He was credited with coining the abbreviation "TV" for television, although the term had earlier been in use in call letters for stations such as WCBS-TV.
Muntz founded the Muntz Car Company, which made the "Muntz Jet", a sports car with jet-like contours. The car was manufactured between 1951 and 1953, although fewer than 400 were produced.
Muntz married seven times.
Muntz rejected the then-common opinion that used car salesmen should project a staid image. He realized the possibilities of generating publicity with odd stunts and developed a "Madman" persona.
Despite his early success, sales later declined and Muntz's creditors refused to provide further financing in 1954. Muntz admitted his business lost $1,457,000 from April to August 1953, and although he tried to reorganize, Muntz TV filed bankruptcy and went out of business in 1959. However, Muntz's success continued in the sales of cars and general consumer electronics.
In late 1970, Muntz closed his Stereo-Pak audio business after a fire severely damaged his main offices. He then entered the growing home-video market. Muntz centered his retail business on cellular phones, satellite dishes, a motor home rental company dubbed "Muntz Motor Mansions", and prefabricated aluminum houses.
The "Madman" method pioneered by Muntz was later copied by other retailers, including California car salesman Cal Worthington and New York area electronics chain Crazy Eddie.
He died of lung cancer June 21,1987 at the age of 73.