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Overview

Henry J. Kaiser was a sand and gravel tycoon who turned his attention to building ships during WWII.

In 1942, he had been experimenting with cheap front wheel drive plastic cars and when he teamed up with Joseph Frazer in 1947 to make KAISER-FRAZER cars at Willow Run, Michigan, he wanted to continue with the front wheel drive theme.  But his prototpe, the KAISER K-85, based on the conventional FRAZER, had heavy steering and a noisy transmission, which resulted in the front wheel drive being excluded for production.

KAISER was to build a lower priced version of the FRAZER under his own badge, but using the same basic body.

1947   Model  Code and Type
K100  1005    Special 4 door sedan
K101  1015    Custom 4 door sedan

1948  Model  Code and Type
K481  4815   Special 4 door sedan
K482  4825   Custom 4 door sedan

The 1947-48 Custom models had colour coded plush interiors and were identified by a 'Custom' badge on each front wing.

1949-1950   Model Code and Type
K491   Special series
4911   4 door sedan
4915   Traveler Utility sedan
K492   Deluxe series
4921   4 door sedan
4922   Convertible sedan
4923   Virginian hardtop sedan
4924   Vagabond Utility 4 door sedan

The Traveler was introduced in 1949. It was a modified sedan (to cut tooling costs) similar to the FRAZER Manhattan Vagabond, with double rear hatch and fold down back seats.

All left-over 1949 cars were re-serialised for 1950, which saw the introduction of the Special Traveler and the better trimmed Vagabond Utility sedan, plus the Virginian with either a painted or padded vinyl top and the Convertible which was a cut-down sedan body with fixed side windows.

The 'Henry J' compact economy car was introduced in 1950.  See separate overviews for the Henry J and its derivatives, the ALLSTATE and the KAISER-DARRIN sportscar.

1951   Model Code and Type
K511   Special series
5110   Traveler Utility 2 door sedan
5111   4 door sedan
5113   Business coupe
5114   2 door sedan
5115   Traveler Utility 4 door sedan
5117   Club coupe
K512   Deluxe series
5120   Traveler Utility 2 door sedan
5121   4 door sedan
5124   2 door sedan
5125   Traveler Utility 4 door sedan
5127   Club coupe

The 1951 KAISER Deluxe was a completely re-styled sedan designed by Howard 'Dutch' Darrin, assisted by Duncan McRea with detail trim by Carleton Spencer.  The split windscreen had an 'eyebrow' shape unique to KAISER and became a safety feature in their brochure because it could be 'popped-out' if necessary using a force of  approximately 35 pounds to the inside.

A special version of the Deluxe 2 and 4 door versions with two-tone paintwork and embossed 'dragon' vinyl upholstery was created by KAISER-FRAZER's upholstery specialist Carleton Spencer.

They were initially called 'Golden Dragon's. A second series with padded tops and two-tone paintwork were called Golden, Silver, Emerald or Jade Dragon's depending on the colour. These had embossed 'dinosaur' vinyl upholstery.

In 1952, the split windscreen was altered to one piece, but the 'eyebrow' shape was retained.

1952   Model Code and Type
K521   Virginian Special series
5110   Traveler Utility 2 door sedan
5111   4 door sedan
5113   Business coupe
5114   2 door sedan
5115   Traveler Utility 4 door sedan
K522   Virginian Deluxe series
5120   Traveler Utility 2 door sedan
5121   4 door sedan
5124   2 door sedan
5125   Traveler Utility 2 door sedan
5126   Club coupe
K521   Deluxe series
5211   4 door sedan
5214   2 door sedan
5215   Traveler Utility 4 door sedan
5216   Club coupe
K522   Manhattan series
5221   4 door sedan
5224   2 door sedan
5227   Club coupe

1953   Model Code and Type
K531   Deluxe series
5311   4 door sedan
5314   2 door sedan
5315   Traveler Utility 4 door sedan
K532   Manhattan series
5321   4 door sedan
5324   2 door sedan
5325   Traveler Utility 4 door sedan
K538   Carolina series
5381   4 door sedan
5384   2 door sedan

1953 saw the 're-birth' of Carleton Spencer's hardtop 'Dragon' - Model Code K530. These were all type 5301 4 door sedans.  The Dragon had 14 carat gold-plated bonnet ornament and external script and the nameplate on the glovebox. Thick carpets were fitted inside and in the boot. Automatic transmission, radio and heater were fitted as standard equipment and later models also had power steering.

This was the most luxurious KAISER ever built and cost more than a Cadillac series sixty-two 4 door sedan.

1954   Model Code and Type
K542   Manhattan series (both early and late models)
5421   4 door sedan
5424   2 door sedan
K545   Special series
5421   4 door sedan
5424   2 door sedan

Note! The engines of the 1954 K542 series Manhattan's were fitted with a McCulloch centrifugal supercharger to increase the power to 140bhp.

The early K545 Special series were left-over 1953 Manhattan models,

1955     Model Code and Type
51363   Manhattan 4 door sedan (export)
51367   Manhattan 4 door sedan
51467   Manhattan 2 door sedan

The 3.6 litre 6 cylinder engine used for all KAISER's was derived from the Continental 'Red Seal' Industrial engine.

The last KAISER's were built in America in Spring 1955 and a contract to make similar KAISER's in Argentina under the name of 'Carabela' gave the car a few more years .

Source: Reg J. Prosser


Models produced by Kaiser

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