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HarleyEarl

Orphan Cars

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Kaiser made some cool $h!...

and NOT high on my list is that fiberglass monstrosity with sliding

doors and very poor build quality, futuristic and cool as it might

have been, either way Kaisers had the Art-deco look well into the

1950s, even though most other manufacturers abandoned it

somewhere between the early '30s and late '40s.

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Just about all indutrial design abandoned Art Deco by the '50s. Holding on to it (and it's much more so 'stuffiness' than Art Deco IMO)... whichever it was, was partially Kaiser's undoing.

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Just about all indutrial design abandoned Art Deco by the '50s. Holding on to it (and it's much more so 'stuffiness' than Art Deco IMO)... whichever it was, was partially Kaiser's undoing.

Agreed, but you of all people Balthy I woud think would respect

a manufacturere going against the grain... putting WILD designs

into production and taking risks, rather than staying safe & mild.

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Kaiser?! Eeeeeeeewwwwww!! I think a Kaiser Manhattan is about the only 1950's car I wouldn't feel guilty about driving through a New England winter..... maybe a few Edsels, too. There was an original, solid, complete running and driving one on craigslist around here for MONTHS with 40,000 original miles whose owner had incredible trouble selling for $1500/BO.

The only good thing I can say about Kaiser-Frazer is that it was cool that they were one of the few automobile manufacturers to offer a convertible sedan after the Second World War. Other than that, they have zero redeeming qualities.

And the Kaiser Darrin? I couldn't think of a more repulsive, botched abortion of a "sports car" if I had a thousand years to do so. I can't believe Howard Darrin would ever feel good about putting his name on such a cheap, ugly pile of $h! after twenty-five years of incredible work to his name with Thomas Hibbard in Paris and then on his own in Paris and Hollywood for the world's A-list on chassis by Duesenberg, Rolls-Royce, and the rest of the best, and then collaborating with companies like Packard and Studebaker to style some incredible machines. I guess even back in the 1950's there were some things that were being watered-down, cheapened, and repackaged as a feeble attempt to try and pass it off as the genuine article, but at least most people back then were smart enough to realize it: that's why only 435 of them were ever made, of which the last FIFTY(!) were bought by Howard Darrin himself and languished in front of his studio in Hollywood for a long, long time. It took the poor bastard FOUR YEARS to unload the last of these piles of $h!, and that's AFTER he had taken a bath on fitting them with incredibly improved power plants like Willys inline sixes and, in some rare cases, even 331 cubic inch Cadillac V8's.

Their value on the open market today, to me, represents the quintessential example of a name meaning literally everything. Face it: if Howard Darrin's name was not attached to the Kaiser Darrin, it would be just another cobbled together early 1950's low-budget home-built fiberglass kit car that got a blurb on page 40 of Popular Mechanics next to the small form you cut out and mail in with a dollar to get the blueprints for it, and would be bought and sold at prices that would reflect this. They're built on Henry J chassis, for Christ's sake! Y'know, the only car that was so blatantly for poor people that one re-badged as an "Allstate" could be ordered out of the f@#king Sears & Roebuck catalog? A car that was so cheap, cheesy, and spartan in original form that it was not even built with such automovive basics (by 1950's standards) as a trunk or a glovebox or anything even resembling a ventilation system (hope your buddy took a bath before you set out on that week-long road trip!) was to become the basis for Darrin's "masterpiece?!" Are you serious?! What a worthless pile of $h!!

And I do speak partly from experience on this: a friend of my father's is an unfortunate owner of a 1954 Kaiser Darrin, which I have seen many times and also ridden in, and they are infinitely more unimpressive in person.

Henry J. Kaiser should have stuck to building Liberty Ships.

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One of lots of pics I could share...

kaisert.jpg

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They definitely are in the 'dare to be different' category. The Frazer, though, was pretty bland looking, about as dull as the similarly shaped Chrysler Corp products of the late '40s - early '50s.

'50s cars are just too far before my time to really appeal to me, the '60s-70s are much more to my taste for old cars.

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68- >>"...you of all people Balthy I woud think would respect a manufacturere going against the grain... putting WILD designs into production and taking risks, rather than staying safe & mild."<<

And I would. Know of any Kaiser designs that fit that description that I don't?

XP-715- >>"The only good thing I can say about Kaiser-Frazer is that it was cool that they were one of the few automobile manufacturers to offer a convertible sedan after the Second World War. Other than that, they have zero redeeming qualities."<<

And there you have it.

All right...:

In a nutshell- Kaiser had the convertible sedan... But in an -oh-so-wrong twist of evil fate- the B-Pillar (and here- it was actually a pane of glass)..... was..... (hope you're sitting down).... FIXED !!!!! Door glass was framed, also. And you thought it was just a wacky coincidence that every single picture of one, including the factory ad art, showed the side glass always up.

That, and the overall design was doudy at best.

The Vagabond / Traveller cars WERE unique and practical. I love these.... but...

the design was doudy at best.

The Darrin doesn't bother me in the least. It was no Corvette of course, but it was miles closer to the Corvette than the DeLuxe was to the Bel Air.

>>"What a worthless pile of &#036;h&#33;!"<<

Eh- it's not for me, but it certainly doesn't warrant that level of ire, IMO.

One of my most beloved '50s cars, the Hudson Italia, also was built on the econoturd chassis (Jet)- but that doesn't diminish the design one iota, IMO.

The '53 Dragon / redesign was pretty cool, was looking at one this spring. Greenhouse was still too tall, but it was pretty snarky otherwise. Now if only there had been some meat under the hood.

These are it for me for Kaiser- the Vagabond / Traveler, the Darrin, and the '53-54s. I don't find the convert anything to spent time thinking about because of the ultimate cost-cutting : framed glass & a B-Pillar.

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I can appreciate this particular footnote in 1950s automotive history, but I can

also take XP's word on his experience with these cars... he's not bluffing.

More often then not, when I visit his dad's shop there;s a car or two there that

would make a Kaiser Darin look pedestrian...

Like Chrysler-Ghias, Mopar 2-dr hardtop muscle cars and een more impressive:

pre-war Packards undergoing intensive ferrous surgery!

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All right...:

In a nutshell- Kaiser had the convertible sedan... But in an -oh-so-wrong twist of evil fate- the B-Pillar (and here- it was actually a pane of glass)..... was..... (hope you're sitting down).... FIXED !!!!! Door glass was framed, also. And you thought it was just a wacky coincidence that every single picture of one, including the factory ad art, showed the side glass always up.

That, and the overall design was doudy at best.

The Vagabond / Traveller cars WERE unique and practical. I love these.... but...

the design was doudy at best.

The Darrin doesn't bother me in the least. It was no Corvette of course, but it was miles closer to the Corvette than the DeLuxe was to the Bel Air.

>>"What a worthless pile of &#036;h&#33;!"<<

Eh- it's not for me, but it certainly doesn't warrant that level of ire, IMO.

One of my most beloved '50s cars, the Hudson Italia, also was built on the econoturd chassis (Jet)- but that doesn't diminish the design one iota, IMO.

The '53 Dragon / redesign was pretty cool, was looking at one this spring. Greenhouse was still too tall, but it was pretty snarky otherwise. Now if only there had been some meat under the hood.

These are it for me for Kaiser- the Vagabond / Traveler, the Darrin, and the '53-54s. I don't find the convert anything to spent time thinking about because of the ultimate cost-cutting : framed glass & a B-Pillar.

-Point taken on your assessment of the convertible sedan, but I still give props to Kaiser for being the ONLY American automobile manufacturer to offer one after the Second World War until Lincoln came out with one in 1961. As for the center posts, I knew that they were "fixed," but didn't realize that they were FIXED. In other words, I thought they were removable like the center posts of some pre-war convertible sedans, or maybe like the window frames of a pre-war body style known as a "four season" or "all-weather" roadster. I would imagine, then, that the sales literature and all photographs show the windows in the up position because that's what would be necessary at any type of speed to keep them from flopping back and forth and bending/breaking in the wind. The front and rear windows probably ride into a channel on this center piece of glass and the interlocking components hold each other rigid. Kinda sucks, but doesn't completely kill it for me (not that the car is even in my top 500, but still).

-Not really feeling the Vagabond/Traveler so much. It's the first American hatchback. Hatchbacks are trash. I can't even buy a new Suburban with barn doors anymore because this country's so goddamn fixated on hatchbacks. So if you like them, then more for you! I wouldn't be caught dead in one.

-I stick by my assessment of the Kaiser Darrin. It's garbage and that's all there is to it. Your Hudson Italia, as goofy as it may look, is still a hundred times better-looking and a million times better mechanically than a Kaiser Darrin could ever dream of being; I dunno how you could even compare the two. I bet a lot more than 25 would have sold if Hudson didn't come out with them when they were already bankrupt (they were already in talks to merge with Nash for 1954). So what if the Italia was built on the Jet chassis? The Jet might as well be a Cadillac compared to a Henry J. All of the Jets came with a very formidable 202 inline six; you could even get Twin-H Power on a Jet if you wanted. It was no Hornet, but it also wasn't even a tenth of the &#036;h&#33;box a Henry J was. The only Kaiser Darrins that ever saw a decent powerplant and mechanicals, as I mentioned before, were the ones that Howard Darrin bought and had retrofitted himself to save face after he realized he put his name on complete and utter crap. Add in the car's butt-ugly design; that stupid little grille, those retarded bulbous taillights, the useless sliding doors that anybody older than seven would have trouble fitting through, and the faggy little half-top with the queer miniature landau bars, and you've got yourself one incredible piece of &#036;h&#33;. I don't think I could ever be convinced otherwise.

-Agreed that the '53 facelift made the cars look a million times better, but they were still nothing to write home about. There's so much better out there as far as independents go (obviously YOU know this; that's a general statement).

Edited by XP715
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>>"-Not really feeling the Vagabond/Traveler so much. It's the first American hatchback. Hatchbacks are trash. ...if you like them, then more for you! I wouldn't be caught dead in one."<<

Oh- I didn't say I wished to own one, either, but if you ever have the chance to inspect one, to open the rear panels and see that large, flat, wooden cargo bed with raised contrasting strips & the fold-down rear seat hiding inside... not even thinking about the fact that this is the first of the type, a sort of truck inside a car, it's still really quite a striking bit of thinking & engineering overall. The one I was eyeballing was on death's doorstep (since been crushed), but it must be even more impressive restored. The outside is still B.O.R.I.N.G.

Again- I'm struggling here to fit Kaiser to 68's description of a 'wild-product' manufacturer.

>>"-I stick by my assessment of the Kaiser Darrin. It's garbage and that's all there is to it. Your Hudson Italia, as goofy as it may look, is still a hundred times better-looking and a million times better mechanically than a Kaiser Darrin could ever dream of being; I dunno how you could even compare the two. I bet a lot more than 25 would have sold if Hudson didn't come out with them when they were already bankrupt (they were already in talks to merge with Nash for 1954). So what if the Italia was built on the Jet chassis? The Jet might as well be a Cadillac compared to a Henry J. All of the Jets came with a very formidable 202 inline six; you could even get Twin-H Power on a Jet if you wanted. It was no Hornet, but it also wasn't even a tenth of the &#036;h&#33;box a Henry J was. The only Kaiser Darrins that ever saw a decent powerplant and mechanicals, as I mentioned before, were the ones that Howard Darrin bought and had retrofitted himself to save face after he realized he put his name on complete and utter crap. Add in the car's butt-ugly design; that stupid little grille, those retarded bulbous taillights, the useless sliding doors that anybody older than seven would have trouble fitting through, and the faggy little half-top with the queer miniature landau bars, and you've got yourself one incredible piece of &#036;h&#33;. I don't think I could ever be convinced otherwise."<<

And I'm not trying to do so. The Darrin isn't a beautiful design, but it doesn't get a great quantity of allocades, either; I feel it fits in history's rearview mirror pretty well as it does, if you get me.

I cannot vouch for nor contest your assessment of the K-D - I've yet to inspect one up close, nevermind ride in one.

But you must not be as familiar with the Jet- it fits most of the tone of your description for the K-D- generally wretched. Giving credit to the Jet's Twin-H Power is like giving credit to a 305 CI Chevy "SS".

The Italia was a beautiful design IMO, full of funky details and really radical thinking.

I only compared the Italia to the K-D because the similarities are impossible to ignore : same-era last-gasp sports cars on econoturd chassis's from independants... that flopped.

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And I'm not trying to do so. The Darrin isn't a beautiful design, but it doesn't get a great quantity of allocades, either; I feel it fits in history's rearview mirror pretty well as it does, if you get me.

I cannot vouch for nor contest your assessment of the K-D - I've yet to inspect one up close, nevermind ride in one.

But you must not be as familiar with the Jet- it fits most of the tone of your description for the K-D- generally wretched. Giving credit to the Jet's Twin-H Power is like giving credit to a 305 CI Chevy "SS".

The Italia was a beautiful design IMO, full of funky details and really radical thinking.

I only compared the Italia to the K-D because the similarities are impossible to ignore : same-era last-gasp sports cars on econoturd chassis's from independants... that flopped.

-I know you weren't trying to convince me; I just don't see one good thing in it at all. Read again what I said about Howard Darrin's name being attached to it meaning literally everything for the car; I absolutely believe every word of it. Like, I feel like there are so many wannabe car snobs and "sophisticates" out there that that feel like they're required to sing its praises without really meaning it because of whose name is on it. As if the Hibbard & Darrin and Darrin of Hollywood days somehow afford him a free pass on this piece of junk. It's like, just admit it: the old man got a little sloppy as time went on. Like all of the people who say they like British and Italian cars but couldn't give you a self-generated reason why and instead talk in whatever generalizations and cliches they've been reading in Motor Trend for the last twenty years. I wonder how many people really truly genuinely like the car. I bet not many.

-What I know about the Hudson Jet lineup I could write on a business card. But if you're telling me that a Twin-H Power 202 is like a "High Output" 305, I'd still rock it all day long over the Henry J's powerplant which might as well be an Iron Duke.

-I agree with you that the Italia was a neat-looking car; I only think it's "goofy" when you put it up against a "conventional" 1953 whatever.

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I hear you about Darrin- tho I have not studied his work much. There definately was some measruable grace lacking in the K-D. And I too, could never get past that grille- so unnatural.

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