Category: Kaiser Motors

Charles Hunt’s ’51 Kaiser Deluxe – @GarageHotRods

Charles Hunt’s ’51 Kaiser Deluxe – @GarageHotRods

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I was embarrassed. I was at the Park & Shine Carolina Cruise-In at Carolina Detail Supply in Thomasville, North Carolina. I was looking at this beautiful classic car and I had no idea what it was. When Charles Hunt told me, “It’s a 1951 Kaiser Deluxe,” I felt less embarrassed – and even more interested. I’d never seen a Kaiser before.

Charles acknowledged that even he, as a Kaiser owner, doesn’t see very many of them. “I’m on a Kaiser group on Facebook,” he said. “There’s a few of these up north, but I’ve never seen one anywhere close by. I’d never even heard of a Kaiser until I saw this. That’s kind of why I got it. It’s something different.”

There’s a good reason you don’t see a bunch of Kaisers at your local cruise in. The company wasn’t around very long. Kaiser Motors built cars from 1945 to 1953. Then in 1953, Kaiser merged with Willys. In 1963 they changed their name to Kaiser Jeep Corporation. Eventually, the company sold the automotive part of their business to American Motors. For hot rodders, the Henry J, which became a classic gasser drag racer, is probably their most well known car. It was named after Henry J. Kaiser, the company president.

Charles got the Deluxe about a year ago. A friend of his, who was in the military, had it, and sold it to Charles when he shipped off from Camp Lejeune for his tour of duty in Iraq.

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1953 was big year for American cars. Which of these four would you choose for your dream garage? – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

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As it happened, 1953 turned out to be a pretty big year for the domestic auto industry. Material shortages initiated by the Korean war had ceased to be a problem, 50th-anniversary celebrations spawned special models, and several manufacturers were in the process of, or had just introduced, a new line of V-8 engines. In our latest edition of This or That, we’re celebrating the domestic class of 1953. Let’s take a closer look at four fun examples for you to ponder, all of which are currently available in the Hemmings classifieds.

Chevrolet wasn’t on the anniversary list this year, but it did make a mark for itself by introducing the Bel Air into its own line of top-tier cars. Simultaneously, the entry-level 150 designation effectively replaced the Special, while the 210 Series – like this four-door sedan – supplanted the mid-priced Deluxe line. With the exception of the station wagon, this would be the only four-door passenger car in the 210 series this year. Costing $1,761 (or $17,180 today), it came standard with a 108-hp straight-six engine and manual transmission. It was also the biggest seller in the series, attaining 332,497 buyers. According to portions of the seller’s listing:

It underwent a complete frame off restoration by Skyline restorations in 2010/2011 where it was totally gone through. It features a two tone Horizon Blue and Regatta Blue combo which works well on a 50s car like this. The body is all rust free and the steel panels all straight. All of the chrome and trim pieces are in good condition with a nice shine. The glass is all new, in good condition and is tinted. It has 70,920 miles on the odometer and based on its condition these are believed to be original. The inline 6 cylinder motor runs well and still utilizes its original 6 volt system but an 8 volt battery was added for extra starting power. It is combined with a column shifted 3 speed manual transmission that moves through the gears smoothly. The brakes, hoses, wheel bearings, gas tank, sending unit, exhaust, etc., were all replaced during the rebuild. The interior is done in a two tone to match the body. The upholstery is in excellent condition and it has a bench in front and rear. The dash has the stock layout and keeps with the two tone Blue theme which looks very clean. Even the steering wheel has the two tone look which looks really sharp.

Conversely, Ford was honoring its 50 years in the business of building and selling cars. But other than a little levity, not much was made of the anniversary except for special steering wheel trim. This meant the lineup remained unchanged from the previous year, with the entry-level Mainline and upscale Crestline series book-ending the Customline, such as this two-door Club Coupe. It was offered in six-cylinder guise starting at $1,743 (or $17,004 today), or with the famed “flathead” V-8 at $1,820 (or $17,755 today) without options. Our featured example contains the V-8, making it one of 43,999 built during the year. According to portions of the seller’s listing:

Inside is a tasteful gray interior. The comfortable velour-like cloth has the fresh feeling of a more recent investment, but this design has a great ’50s look that will keep you loving this vintage ride. In fact, this one really likes to keep the classic attitude going, right down to details like the working AM radio. And don’t forget to check out the steering wheel. 1953 was Ford’s 50th anniversary, and so these have a special center cap commemorating it. Ford’s flathead V8 is a legend all on its own for the power it provides, and the 239 cubic-inch displacement would be the largest installed in the Ford cars. It presents well in the engine bay with the tall oil bath air cleaner and copper-colored block/heads. This is a well-maintained package that fires up readily. You get proper control from the column-shifted three-speed manual transmission and the manually engaged overdrive adds to the cruising versatility.

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Doesn’t look like it would take much to make a daily driver out of this 1953 Kaiser Manhattan – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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Does anybody look for a classic car to drive anymore? Not to drive to shows or on occasional club tours, but to drive on a regular basis – if not daily, then at least a few times a week? (Excepting, of course, certain seasons in certain parts of the country…) After all, that’s what all cars were built to do, and nothing has fundamentally changed to prevent them from continuing to serve their purpose, right?

In that spirit, let’s take a look at this 1953 Kaiser Manhattan for sale on Hemmings.com. It’s not perfect, but it also seems like there’s nothing that would keep it from regularly setting tire to road. Flathead six-cylinder? Just learn patience. Carburetor instead of fuel injection? Pump the pedal once or twice before turning the key. No seatbelts? Add a few. Then, while putting some miles on the car, you can really get to know it and start to appreciate it in a way you wouldn’t merely by leaving it in the garage. From the seller’s description: here

Kaiser-Frazer and the Making of Automotive History, Part 2 – Richard M Langworth

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Transcript of a speech to the Kaiser-Frazer Owners Club, 30 July 2015. Continued from Part 1.

Delving in

Kaiser-Frazer and the Making of Automotive History

While I received no extra pay for writing the Kaiser-Frazer book, I did have the use of an expense account for travel. That was where Bill Tilden came through again. He helped me track down and interview many of people responsible for the cars Kaiser-Frazer built. Others were located through the deep tentacles of Automobile Quarterly, its many contacts in the industry. We also searched for archives, large and small.

Our greatest archival find was at Kaiser Industries in Oakland, California: the Kaiser-Frazer photo files, placed on loan for AQ’s use. They documented virtually every design drawing, clay model and prototype the company built. Bill and I pored over them for several days, bleary-eyed as the secrets of the company came to life. Fortunately we were able to reproduce many in the book.

There were so many, it was hard to choose. Toward the end of the second day I picked a photo up, saying, “Ever see one like that before?” And Bill said, “I think we’ve seen a dozen like that, but let’s use it. It has a good looking tailpipe.” Later the archive disappeared. I don’t know if it ever resurfaced. I hope it’s in good hands.

“You know,” I said to Bill after Oakland, “this is going to be one helluva book. We’ve found this massive archive, and all these people to interview. All concentrated within ten years. I have a chance to go into far more detail than if I were writing a history of, say, General Motors.” So it proved.

Kaiser-Frazer and the Making of Automotive History

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Related – Moto Exotica – 1953 Kaiser Dragon

Kaiser-Frazer and the Making of Automotive History, Part 1 – Richard M Langworth

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Kaiser-Frazer and the Making of Automotive History

Two Kids Hooked by the ’54 Kaiser

Joe Ligo of AutoMoments, who produces highly professional YouTube videos on vintage cars, has published an excellent video on the 1954 Kaiser Special he’d admired since high school. No sooner did I start watching than I heard Joe say his liking for the ’54 Kaiser was bolstered by my book—as well as the car: “My ninth grade self thought it was beautiful…. In person, I still think the design is drop-dead gorgeous.”

Well, I too was in the ninth grade when a ’54 Kaiser (on the street, in 1957!) swept me off my feet. It lit a fire that I only put out twenty years later with my first, and perhaps my best, car book.

Kaiser-Frazer: Last Onslaught on Detroit (1975, reprinted 1980) was based on dozens of interviews with company engineers, stylists and executives, and packed with rare photos from prototypes to personalities. In 1975 it won both the Antique Automobile Club of America McKean Trophy and the Society of Automotive Historians Cugnot Award. It won, I think, because of the plethora of primary sources. They all were still alive! They had vivid memories, strong opinions, and scores of inside stories.

Kaiser-Frazer and the Making of Automotive History

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Related – Untouched 1953 Henry J

Moto Exotica – 1953 Kaiser Dragon – David Conwill @Hemmings

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THE ENCHANTING TRIM OF THIS 1953 KAISER DRAGON RECALLS THE MYSTERIOUS ISLANDS OF THE PACIFIC

Exposure to the exotic vistas of the Pacific stuck with a great number of World War Two veterans when they returned home in the mid-1940s. That affinity led to an explosion of interest in Polynesian culture and aesthetics that would lead to the rise of Tiki bars, Exotica music and the 1949 Broadway hit, South Pacific.

The Bambu-vinyl-and-Laguna-cloth interior is the star player in the Dragon, and it is well supported by lavish chrome trim and accessory lighting inside. That padded dash complements a pop-out windshield to add an extra bit of safety to all 1951-’55 Kaisers.

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Untouched 1953 Henry J

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Untouched 1953 Henry J.

Kaiser Motors introduced the Henry J in 1950 with the goal of building an affordable compact car that nearly every American could afford. The company went to great lengths to make sure the car could be sold cheaply, but the J never caught on and sales were dismal. Amazingly, the Henry J found its place when hot rodders began customizing the cheap little car. The combination of poor sales and customization means it’s difficult to find clean examples. This 1953 Henry J was found in a car port where it had been since 1975. This untouched project can be found here on eBay.

This one still retains its original four cylinder, but it looks to be in rough shape. Most of these cars had their original engines swapped out for V8s. They became very popular for drag racing because of how simple and light weight they are. This one is going to need some metal work before a bigger engine can be dropped into the engine bay.

The body is showing plenty of rust, but looks salvageable and actually has a great look to it. Restoring it could be a massive undertaking and it may prove more cost effective to turn it into a hot rod. It would be nice to see it kept original, but it appears that the underside is going to need work. What would you do with this Henry J?