Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Automobile Rally: A Kaiser-Frazer Collection

Laurie’s sister Bonnie and her husband Bill visited us earlier this summer.  We decided to take them to the big flea market in Sweetwater Tennessee.  As we approached the Flea Market via TN Hwy 68 and Murray’s Chapel Road just west of I-75, I spotted a large group of interesting looking antique automobiles in the parking lot for the Magnuson Hotel… We had to have a look!

It turned out that the Dixie Region of the Kaiser-Frazer Owner’s Club was having a rally or meeting of some kind. (For more information on the club, go to The gathering was breaking up but we got a good look at some moderately unattractive but interesting looking autos as well as some absolutely spectacular old cars!  I must admit that one must be of a certain age to remember Kaiser-Frazer automobiles.  Even I was just barely a teenager when they went out of business…

The auto shown above is what I believe to be a 1955 Willys coupe.   Willys-Overland was purchased by Kaiser Motors in 1953.  The ‘new’ Willys Motor Company produced its last passenger car in the USA in 1955, although the Willys ‘Aero’ continued in production in Brazil until the 1970’s.  FYI…Willys built Jeeps for the military for decades…and the Willys name figured into auto history from 1908 until production ceased in Brazil.  Of course, the production of ‘Jeep’ vehicles continues today via the Chrysler Group LLC.

I believe that this sedan is a Frazer Deluxe…perhaps from 1948 or 1949.  It’s a big car compared to most of today’s vehicles.  It kind of reminds me of the Hudson Hornets that my stepfather used to favor…except that the windows on the Hornet seemed smaller and it looked a bit more like a tank than this car does.

On July 25, 1945, Henry Kaiser and Joseph Frazer announced that they were forming a company to build automobiles.  Kaiser was an established and very wealthy industrialist and Frazer was a top executive at the Packard Automobile Company.  They leased the Willow Run Michigan factory that had been used to build planes for the war and by 1946, they built 10,000 automobiles.  The Big 3 Automakers were scrambling to move from a war time footing to peacetime, while trying to design new autos for the post-war marketplace.  In 1947, Kaiser-Frazer built 100,000 cars.   But by the end of 1955, with Mr. Frazer having already departed, the Company built its last passenger car.

Unlike today, one can never say that all of these cars looked the same!  This Kaiser Manhattan came all the way down from Indiana for this rally.  The 1954 Manhattan was the first production model in the USA to offer a supercharged engine.  I think that this is a 1953 model…

Kaiser merged Kaiser Automotive and the Willys-Overland Company together in 1953.  The center of production had moved to Toledo Ohio after a huge fire knocked out the Willow Run facility in Michigan.  Production of the Kaiser continued for some time in Argentina…  Other operations were centered in the Netherlands.
Additional information regarding the company and its products can be found at

When we saw this stunning beauty…our mouths hit the pavement!  This is a 1954 Darrin-Kaiser-Frazer or ‘DKF’.  If you were wondering, it was named after the designer, not Bobby Darin, the singer.  This was the first production fiber glass sports car to make it to market in the USA, beating the Corvette by only 1 month.  Only 435 of these beautiful looking cars were ever built, but because of their rarity and appearance, over 300 of them still survive today.  The designer, Butch Darrin, put 304 bhp Cadillac V-8’s in the last 100 of them… Would that be fun to drive or what!!  

With its standard engine, the Darrin sold for $3,668, which was a lot of money for its time… With the V-8, the price tag reached $4,350 each.  A few of them were even outfitted with supercharged engines.

This is another Darrin/DFK.  One of the most unique features of this car was its sliding doors.  Butch Darrin patented the design.  He just hated the look of an open car door.  None of us had ever seen a Darrin-Kaiser-Fraser or DKF before…and, if you total them up, that’s over a lot of years!  For more on this car, just go to

Despite the beauty of the “Darrin”, this is the car that we all voted for as ‘Best in the Show’! (If there had been a vote that is…) This is a 1951 Frazer Manhattan Convertible Sedan.  This car would be the last American 4-door convertible on the market in the USA until the 1961 Lincoln Continental was introduced.

Henry Kaiser is a story unto himself.  He’s known as the father of modern American Shipbuilding, having established Kaiser Shipyards and being responsible for the war time construction of 2,710 Liberty Ships…which in turn enabled the USA to win WWII.  He also founded Kaiser Aluminum, Kaiser Steel and Kaiser Permanente Healthcare Systems.  For more on this true American success story, just go to

We really liked the lines of this elegant convertible which had been driven down from Wisconsin.  We agreed that we all miss the time when almost all the cars really looked different than each other.  Today, thanks to environmental requirements, cost and the price of gasoline, most cars and even SUV’s look too much alike to be visually exciting.  For much more on the Kaiser-Frazer-Willys automobiles and the organization(s) behind them, just click on

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by to have a look at some classic old American made automobiles!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

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