Story and Photos Mike Spicer
You may not know his name but more than likely you’ve come across his work. Dean Jefferies is an American icon and the “Mantaray” he designed and fabricated is the pinnacle of 1960’s hot rods. The styling is so forward thinking that even today it grabs the eye with its sleek lines and unique curves.
In 1963 Dean Jeffries built the “Mantaray” and turned the hot rod car world upside-down. The car was inspired by marine life he observed while visiting an aquarium, specifically the manta ray.
His father in-law at the time had a few pre-World War II Maserati Grand Prix cars lying around in his back yard and he gave them to Jeffries for free. These were perfect for his vision. The original Maserati brake assembly can be seen on the finished product as they melded into his design seamlessly.
The engine came from his friend, Carroll Shelby. It was a high performance Cobra 289 with a four speed gearbox. Dean had painted Carroll’s first Cobra and never took any money for the work, so the engine was a gift from Carroll.
At first glance, the panels appear to be fiberglass but they’re all aluminum. No Bondo or lead filler was used to forge those curves, just old world craftsmanship.
Dean Jeffries followed many pursuits in life and accomplished amazing things. He was a racer, Indy car painter, and custom hot rod designer who built Black Beauty from The Green Hornet, the Monkeemobile, the Landmaster, and the Moon Buggy from Diamonds Are Forever. He was also a Hollywood stunt man. From striping his friend James Dean’s Porsche, to building the Kyote dune buggy, he did a lot!
I highly recommend Tom Cotter’s book “Dean Jeffries: 50 Fabulous Years in Hot Rods, Racing and Film”. Dean Jeffries is a legend and the book reveals his life and rise to the top with many rare photographs and interviews. It’s a must read for any car person.