1954 Kaiser Special Club Coupe: Coming To The End Of The Line

As you have seen this week right here on Riverside Green, I’ve been on a Kaiser kick. I’ve always found them pretty cool. You simply don’t see them very often. I thought I was fairly well-versed in the Kaiser-Frazer lineup. But as it turns out, one model had escaped my attention, until I met someone who owned one: The two-door 1954 Kaiser Special club coupe.

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1954 Kaiser-Darrin: Henry J’s Sports Car

Finding any Kaiser-Frazer automobile is not easy these days, sixty-three years after the last U.S. made motorcar was sold to its new owner. But the rarest of all is likely the Kaiser-Darrin sports car. A fiberglass two-seater meant to draw folks into K-F showrooms to ooh and aah over, and maybe drive out in a Manhattan or Special sedan. But it was too little, too late. By the time of its debut, the writing was already on the wall for K-F.

1954 Kaiser Darrin Folder-01 (800x618)

Henry J. Kaiser may have been a shipbuilding maven, but when it came to selling cars to retail customers, he was a babe in the woods. He complicated things by binding the hands of the one person who actually knew the car business, Joseph Frazer, largely because Henry J’s ego got in the way. “The Kaisers NEVER retrench!” as he was fond of saying, despite the evidence of lackluster sales in 1949-1950. Amid this drama of Frazer’s exit, crashing sales and hundreds of unsold cars sitting around the massive Willow Run factory, came the Kaiser-Darrin!

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1953 Henry J Corsair de Luxe: Kaiser’s Baby

Note: It has come to my attention via my network of loyal spies (they have a fleet of Lincoln Town Cars and Cadillac Broughams) that a certain aging, angry blogger likes to give the impression that I continue to write for his questionable, increasingly histrionic site by re-running stuff of mine that I wrote years ago. I do not. I have, in fact, had nothing to do with a certain website since the end of The Year Of Our Lord 2014. Yet he persists, probably due to laziness and apathy. So I believe I will be revising and posting some of those right here on Riverside Green. Let’s begin! -TK

Henry J 3

1951 was the year Kaiser-Frazer should have made it. A thoroughly restyled–and beautiful–Kaiser, a facelifted swan-song Frazer, and the all-new compact Henry J meant that Kaiser had spent ample time and money in rejuvenating their lineup. Never again would the company have such a modern and diverse lineup. Unfortunately, Henry Kaiser’s ego – “The Kaisers NEVER retrench!” – was a favorite saying of Mr. Kaiser’s, the lack of a V8 option when V8s were all the rage, and other myriad factors made 1951 the beginning of the end for K-F in the U.S.

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