Dressed to Kill: The 1954 Kaiser Darrin


As we mentioned in part one of the Kaiser-Frazer story, both Henry Kaiser and co-founder Joe Frazer had been very interested in developing a compact car and each had done some initial work on such a model before they even met. For various practical reasons, the first Kaiser and Frazer cars were conventional, full-size models, but Henry Kaiser had remained keen on compacts.

In 1946, Kaiser-Frazer commissioned compact car proposals from the Los Angeles-based design firm E.H. Daniels, Inc. and the team of Brooks Stevens and Robert Paxton McCulloch (founder of McCulloch Motors and later Paxton Products), but neither got past the model stage.

Nonetheless, when Henry Kaiser went to the federal Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) for a major operating loan later that year, he once again promised that Kaiser-Frazer would launch a small, economical people’s car with a price tag of less than $1,200, undercutting every other new car on the American market. According to Kaiser-Frazer engineer Ralph Isbrandt, Kaiser’s people’s car idea greatly appealed to RFC officials, who made the introduction of such a car a condition of the $44 million loan. The RFC further specified that more than a quarter of the loan money be spent on the development of the compact, which Kaiser had optimistically declared could be on sale by mid-1950.

The Kaisers had reservations about this deal, in part because the RFC also demanded that they put up shares in their non-automotive businesses as collateral. However, the potential consequences of not getting the loan were even more severe. Overly optimistic or not, the Kaisers were now committed to the compact plan.

1951 Kaiser Henry J front © 2009 Mike's Car Pix (Mike Sawyer) (used with permission)
The Henry J was not technically a Kaiser; it was registered as a separate marque and the cars carried no Kaiser identification. Henry Js offered two engines, both supplied by Willys-Overland: a 134 cu. in. (2,200 cc) L-head four, rated at 68 hp (51 kW), and a 161 cu. in. (2,639 cc) L-head six, rated at 80 hp (60 kW). Both engines were also used in contemporary Jeeps, although Willys rated the flathead six at 75 hp (56 kW). All Henry Js had a three-speed manual transmission, but overdrive was a highly desirable option costing just under $100. (Photo: “1951 Kaiser henry J” © 2009 Mike’s Car Pix (Mike Sawyer); used with permission)

Around that time, Henry Kaiser was approached by Detroit investor Frederick C. Matthaei, then a principal shareholder of the automotive supplier American Metal Products (AMP). AMP and steel fabricator Haber Stump Harris had recently developed a prototype compact car that Matthaei had originally hoped would allow AMP to become a full-fledged automaker. However, AMP quickly realized that building a complete automobile was beyond its capabilities and Matthaei opted instead to sell the design to a larger company.

Kaiser had been approached by many inventors and entrepreneurs over the years and the AMP car was among the more down-to-earth of those proposals. Nonetheless, many of Kaiser-Frazer’s Detroit veterans immediately dismissed the AMP prototype as amateurish and unworkable. Dutch Darrin felt similarly, instead proposing a compact version of his 1951 full-size Kaiser design, riding a 105-inch (2,667mm) wheelbase but sharing much of the same tooling and many components.

Henry and Edgar Kaiser were already accustomed to resistance from the company’s Detroit contingent, whom the Kaisers had come to regard as hidebound naysayers hostile to any idea they hadn’t suggested themselves. The Kaisers decided to buy the AMP design anyway, taking the logical if ill-founded position that adapting an existing design would be cheaper than starting from scratch.

Darrin continued to lobby for his short-wheelbase Kaiser concept. Since it was bigger than the AMP design, the Kaisers thought it would cost more to build, but Darrin argued that the materials cost would be far outweighed by the savings in tooling. Edgar Kaiser remained skeptical and tried to placate Darrin by offering him a per-car royalty for helping the in-house stylists refine the AMP prototype for production. Darrin reluctantly accepted.

As the naysayers had warned, turning AMP’s crude prototype into a production-ready car was more complicated and more expensive than Henry and Edgar had anticipated. Among other things, the AMP car could not easily accommodate the Continental six used in K-F’s full-size models. Since the company lacked the resources for an all-new engine, Kaiser-Frazer ended up purchasing four- and six-cylinder engines from Willys-Overland. The AMP prototype’s tubular frame also proved unworkable and was discarded in favor of a new frame designed by Ralph Isbrandt, who, ironically, had previously spoken up against buying the AMP design.

1951 Henry J two-door sedan front 3q © 2010 Randy von Liski/myoldpostcards on Flickr (used with permission)
The initial Henry J was 174.5 inches (4,432 mm) long on a 100-inch (2,540mm) wheelbase with a shipping weight of only 2,300 lb (1,043 kg). This car appears to be a base model, lacking chrome garnish moldings and a rear decklid. It has a hood ornament, opening vent windows, and cloth upholstery, all of which were optional (standard cars had fixed quarter windows and vinyl-coated plastic upholstery), but it lacks radio, heater, glove box, turn signals, backup lights, wheel trim rings, and whitewalls — a very basic car, even then. (Photo: “1951 Henry J Sedan (4 of 12)” © 2010 Randy von Liski (myoldpostcards); used with permission)

With the RFC-imposed deadline fast approaching, there was little that could be done with the prototype’s awkward proportions, but in-house stylist Herb Weissinger added a new grille (reminiscent of the 1951 Frazer) and stubby, Cadillac-like tail fins. Darrin’s most visible contribution was the body sides, which had a trace of Darrin’s trademark “Darrin dip.”

The finished car, dubbed “Henry J” — officially chosen in a write-in contest, although the Kaisers had apparently selected the name beforehand — went on sale on September 28, 1950. With a starting price of only $1,219 (soon raised to $1,299), the Henry J was the cheapest new car in America and one of the most economical. Unfortunately, the low price — another requirement of the RFC loan — had been achieved by stripping trim and features to an almost comically Spartan level; the base-model Henry J didn’t even have a glove box. Fit and finish of the early cars was also sub-par and owners soon complained of poor door seals, leaky windows, and an assortment of other minor maladies. Early sales were encouraging, but it didn’t take buyers long to conclude that a used Ford or Chevrolet was a more livable proposition.

Kaiser-Frazer sold about 75,000 Henry Js in the first year, but ended the model year with more than 7,000 unsold cars. Sales for 1952 amounted to fewer than 35,000 despite a deal with Sears, Roebuck to market a facelifted version of the Henry J under the Allstate brand name. Things got worse from there. The Henry J did well overseas despite the lack of a RHD version or suitable export suspension, but at home, early interest in the Kaiser compact was quickly fading.

1951 Henry J two-door sedan rear 3q © 2011 Ronnie Schreiber Cars in Depth (used with permission)
Notice anything missing from this early Henry J? It has no trunk lid. Standard Henry Js had no external luggage access, requiring baggage (or, less conveniently, the spare tire) to be wrestled in and out through the fold-down rear seat. Omitting the trunk lid was one of the measures that enabled Kaiser to advertise a rock-bottom list price for the basic four-cylinder sedan, although an exterior trunk lid was included on Deluxe models and later offered on the base cars as part of an optional Accessory Group. (Photo © 2011 Ronnie Schreiber; used with the permission of Cars in Depth)


Whatever its aesthetic and merchandising shortcomings, there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the Henry J’s sturdy boxed-section frame or dependable L-head Willys engines. Contemporary testers like Tom McCahill of Mechanix Illustrated and Popular Mechanics‘ Floyd Clymer chided the Henry J’s assembly quality, but praised the compact as a basically sound package. Aside from its obvious economy, it had an agreeable blend of ride comfort and maneuverability and with the six-cylinder engine it was sprightly, if not particularly fast. Some highly successful sports cars had been built on far less promising foundations, and enterprising builders and hot rodders were soon contemplating a racier Henry J.

Among them was designer Brooks Stevens. Although Stevens had nothing to do with the Henry J’s design, he had remained in contact with Kaiser-Frazer as a consultant. In 1951, he acquired several Henry J chassis, added minimalist roadster bodywork with aluminum body panels and simple cycle fenders, and pitched the concept to Kaiser-Frazer as a dual-purpose sports racer along the lines of the Anglo-American Nash Healey or the Allard J2. The Kaisers declined, but Stevens decided to build three of the cars at his own expense. Dubbed “Excalibur J,” the roadsters were intended primarily for competition in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Class D events.

The Excalibur Js traded the Henry J’s L-head six for the newer Willys “Hurricane” F-head engine, also used in the Willys Aero compact. In stock form, the 161 cu. in. (2,639 cc) Hurricane six made 10 to 15 horsepower (7.5 to 10 kW) more than its flathead counterpart; in racing tune, Stevens’ crew extracted a reliable 100+ hp (75 kW). With a dry weight of only 1,500 lb (680 lb) — nearly 900 lb (400 kg) lighter than the already-svelte six-cylinder Henry J — that was enough to give the Excalibur J strong acceleration and a top speed of around 120 mph (193 km/h).

1954 Kaiser Darrin Hurricane engine © 2009 Murilee Martin (used with permission)
Willys-Overland’s “Hurricane” F-head (intake over exhaust) engines were a development of the company’s earlier L-head line and shared some of the same tooling. Moving the intake valves to the cylinder head allowed larger ports and better breathing while the long-stroke, undersquare dimensions provided good low-end torque — important in the Jeeps that were the main users of these engines. The four-cylinder Hurricane was introduced on Jeeps and Jeepsters in 1950, the six-cylinder version (seen here in a production Kaiser Darrin) in 1952. They remained in use in both the U.S. and Brazil into the 1970s. (Photo © 2009 Murilee Martin; used with permission)

The Willys-powered Excalibur J ran its first SCCA race in July 1952, taking second in class. According to Bill Brown, the Excalibur Js ran in some two dozen events in the 1952 and 1953 seasons, winning nine of them and regularly besting European and Anglo-American rivals costing far more.

Around the end of 1952, Stevens showed the Excalibur J to various automotive magazines, apparently hoping to find an automaker willing to put it into series production. Despite the Excalibur J’s racing exploits, he found no takers and only the three original cars were ever built; they continued to race with some success through at least 1957. Stevens subsequently applied the Excalibur name to a Lincoln-powered, rear-engine race car and then to his long-running retro-classic line, which was introduced in 1964.


In early 1952, a few months before the Excalibur J began its competition career, Dutch Darrin started work on a Henry J-based sports car of his own. It’s not clear if Darrin was aware of Stevens’ efforts or not; it’s certainly possible that Darrin heard about the Stevens proposal, but Darrin later told author Richard Langworth that his initial motivation was simply to assuage his lingering disappointment with the way production Henry J had turned out.

That spring, Darrin and his son Bob developed a clay model of a sleek, low-slung roadster featuring the “Darrin dip”; a peaked windshield reminiscent of (and perhaps borrowed from) the 1951 Kaiser; a manually retractable fiberglass hardtop; and unusual sliding doors. The doors were a new variation on a concept Darrin had conceived for his stillborn postwar car and subsequently refined for his ’51 Kaiser proposal, which had included electrically operated sliding doors front and rear as well as electric windows that would lower automatically as the doors opened. Kaiser-Frazer had rejected that idea, presumably on cost grounds, but Darrin had applied for a patent on it in June 1948, issued in early 1953. Unlike Darrin’s earlier proposals, the roadster’s doors retracted into the front fenders rather than over them and for the sake of simplicity had no windows, power-operated or otherwise.

1954 Kaiser Darrin rear 3q © 2007 George Camp (used with permission)
Darrin’s initial prototype incorporated a retractable fiberglass hardtop stowing beneath the rear decklid, like Peugeot’s late-thirties 402BL Éclipse Décapotable. However, the hideaway hardtop proved impractical and was eventually abandoned in favor of a “Deauville-style” three-position folding soft top, stored in a separate well behind the cabin. The decklid’s complex lift-and-tilt hinges were discarded and the empty space in the tail originally intended for hardtop storage became additional luggage space. (A fiberglass accessory hardtop was offered on production Darrins, but it was not retractable.) (Photo © 2007 George Camp; used with permission)

Like his abortive postwar car, Darrin decided to build the roadster out of glass-reinforced plastic (GRP, or fiberglass) rather than steel or aluminum. Fiberglass had several advantages for auto bodies, including light weight and corrosion resistance, but its biggest selling point was that plastic molds were far less expensive than the tooling for steel bodies — cheap enough to make fiberglass-bodied cars economically viable for small private manufacturers.

When the clay was completed, Darrin commissioned Costa Mesa, California-based Glasspar to create a body for an initial running prototype, using a stock Henry J chassis and drivetrain. Although Glasspar’s primary business was fiberglass boats, founder Bill Tritt was also at the forefront of an emerging cottage industry in plastic kit cars, including his own Glasspar G2 and the Willys-based Woodill Wildfire. By the time Darrin hired them in 1952, Tritt and the Glasspar staff knew as much as anyone about making automotive bodies out of glass-reinforced plastic; Glasspar would later serve as a consultant to GM and Volvo, among others.

1952 Woodill Woodfire front 3q Rex Gray 2008 CC BY 2.0 Generic
Developed by Downey, California, Willys-Overland dealer B. Robert “Woody” Woodill, the original Woodill Wildfire had a fiberglass body made by Glasspar and running gear borrowed from contemporary Willys models — including the same F-head F6-161 Hurricane six later used in the Kaiser Darrin. After Kaiser acquired Willys in 1953, Woodill adapted the Wildfire’s body to use a Ford chassis and powertrain. He continued to produce and sell Wildfire kits through at least 1956. (Photo: “1952 Woodill Wildfire – red – fvl2” © 2008 Rex Gray; used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)


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  1. Very informative article. I first saw a photo of this car in 1955, and couldn’t believe how silly the front end looked. Now that I have googled a photo of the prototype, with the lower grill and headlights, it makes much more sense.

    1. Yeah — the difference is subtle, but the original prototype didn’t give the vague feeling that it’s turning up its nose at you, where the production version feels a bit like a Gil Kane comic book character.

  2. “Packard: A History of the Motor Car and Company” (Kimes) has a photo of Darrin’s Packard proposal. The front end has a vague similarity to the Kaiser Darrin but looks much better with the addition of a traditional waterfall grille. Darrin was clearly more comfortable designing luxury cars.

    Like the senior Kaiser and Willys Aero, the Darrin might have plausibly survived the end of US production if it had a more viable design. Alas, the Darrin was more a styling exercise than a fully thought out production model.

    Part of the problem was that Darrin misjudged the market. In the long run a two seater needed to be easily drivable in all weather conditions. That necessitated features such as roll-down windows.

    In addition, unlike the Hudson Italia, the Darrin didn’t offer much in the way of engineering innovations. The sliding doors were unique but they didn’t solve a compelling problem (at least for two seaters) and weren’t particularly well executed.

    Most importantly, the Darrin’s styling was decidedly weird. The car’s narrow sliding doors resulted in an awkward toy car profile. The front end looked like an anteater due to the “third eye” grille. Even Darrin’s trademark dip backfired by necessitating a roofline that had the ponderousness of a baby carriage. Not the stuff of which cult followings are made.

    1. Ah, thanks for the tip on the book. I didn’t recall seeing it when I had that volume from the library; I didn’t have access to it when this was written.

      I think the production Darrin suffered in minor but perceptible ways that the prototype did not. The nose is one — the original prototype, with its lower grille and headlights, did not have the "anteater" look, although I can see how the grille would not be to every taste. The folding top is another compromise. The original hardtop was really quite sleek; it looks better than, say, the roof of a fixed-head MGA of a few years later. Whether it would have provided decent weather sealing or headroom I don’t know, but it did look a lot better, which I suspect was Darrin’s main priority.

      I agree that the Darrin probably would have had a stronger market if it had had better weather protection, but it’s hard to chide either Darrin or Kaiser Motors too much on that score, since very few sports cars of the time had much real weather protection, either. The Thunderbird didn’t arrive until after the Darrin was already on sale, the Corvette didn’t get roll-up windows until 1957, and a lot of the small British sports cars didn’t get them until well into the sixties. (I can’t say most of those rivals looked any better all buttoned up, either!) The Darrin offered no great advancements of the theme, but it wasn’t like they were selling Stanley Steamers, either.

  3. Great article as always Aaron, a real curiosity with the sliding doors, the only comparable set-up I can think of would be the BMW Z1.

    1. Yup, the 1988-1991 Z1 (never imported to the U.S., as far as I know) also had sliding doors. I’ve never seen one outside a museum, so I’m not that familiar with the mechanism.

      1. I’ve only seen one, they were never sold here being LHD for starters. I gather they were a toe in the water exercise to field-test some of the technologies. They had a high sill similar to a gullwing car, into which the door dropped down vertically, but still had a normal window. You could even drive the car with the doors retracted.

  4. The year was 1955, some time in May. My friends and I (all about 14 years of age)were standing outside our school one morning, waiting for the bell to ring. Seemingly out of nowhere an absolutely lovely little white two placer pulled up to the curb in front of us and left a very pretty classmate in our midst. We were stunned to see Carolyn slide the passenger door into the front fender. Carolyn’s father owned Bob Smith Kaiser Frazer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and after school we headed down there to get a closer look at the beauty we had seen that morning. That was our introduction to the Darrin, and I’ve been in love with the car ever since.

  5. Wow, the car looks beautiful. I’m a big fan of old cars, and I would love to see this in person. Great article with good supporting pictures. Thanks!

  6. Great article, thanks!

    Correction, AMP’s chief was Fred Matthaei, who donated the land upon which the University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens are located. (Worth visiting if you are near Ann Arbor.)

    1957 "University decides to relocate the Botanical Garden to 200 acres donated by Frederick C. and Mildred H. Matthaei"

    1. Robert,

      Thanks for the correction! I appear to have picked up that error from Richard Langworth’s book (I suspect it was the product of transcribing oral interviews). I’ve corrected the text.

  7. G’ma R. finally gave up on her marriage, and took a trip to San Francisco, CA, in 1954. She bot a “pine Green” [we all referred to it as “seafoam”] Kaiser Darrin–Cannot remember the exact number, but it was near the last one off the line, 400 and something. And she bot a Lilly Of France designer coat [still have that].
    Not long after that, she moved to Alaska, and left the car in the “safekeeping” of Mom. In those days, cars were shipped on open deck–some slipped overboard, and she didn’t want to risk that, nor having it in a climate not suitable for rag-top convertibles.
    Mom always had a tough time maintaining things, so eventually, she gave it to me. I started doing needed repairs and maintenance. But my DH was overseas, and living situation was dicey for keeping a car under repair status. It ended up getting taken from me by my covetous Uncle, who had the Gladstone Lincoln Mercury Dealership then.
    He used it as collateral for a loan, and lost it to someone near Portland, OR.
    That car had some toe-curling adventures–a definite “history”.
    I MISS that car, like no other!
    NOTHING came close to the signature sound of the Willy’s straight-6 engine, and the ride of a silk scarf floating on a breeze at any speed. The tranny was so well matched to the engine, the gears could be shifted without benefit of clutch, if the RPM’s were running right.
    Whoever has it, I hope they know the true Joy of it, not just the money value! If ever there was a car that shoulda kept being produced, THAT was one. It got about 20 mpg with a lead-foot, even back then. Great memories!

  8. Ha! Who knew? Our Kaiser Darrin might have been one of those Darrins rescued and reconditioned and resold in CA???
    It must have had a supercharger on it, because Mom had it doing over 110 along Hwy 10 out to Palm Springs. From the description above, only those with superchargers would have been able to do that…it was plenty responsive!

    1. If it was able to do an actual 110, it’s not unlikely that it had a supercharger or a different engine. However, speedometers in that era were not outstandingly accurate, particularly at higher speeds, so it also isn’t necessarily unlikely that an actual 95 or so might have been a much higher indicated speed.

  9. I had read somewhere that after Kaiser’s bankruptcy that the cars Darrin took on were no longer badged as Kaiser. Also my memory has in it a rear-three quarter photo of the post Kaiser car with a very attractive hardtop. The photo changed my impression of the car as I had previously only thought of Kaiser Darrins as ugly ducklings.

    Aaron, do you know if hardtops were routine in the post-Kaiser era? You mention “at least six” had Caddy V8……do you know the upper limit…..”.no more than ______ ” ?

    1. Yup, the leftover cars dropped their Kaiser insignia; whether they were registered as Kaisers is an interesting question and probably depended on the state. A fair number had the hardtop.

      As for V-8 totals, I couldn’t find a consistent number. Dick Langworth said at least one ended up with a Cadillac engine; Frederick Roth’s 2003 article in American Sports Cars says six; but Jack Mueller of KFOCI says “most” of the 50 non-Kaiser cars got Cadillac V-8s. You could try contacting him and asking if he has any more information, since if anyone has tracked those cars, it’s probably KFOCI. However, with conversions, pinning down numbers is especially tricky because some cars may have been converted by buyers after purchase. It would not at all surprise me with cars like that if at least a couple of owners heard about the V-8 cars through their racing use and decided to replicate the conversion.

      1. According to living family members, Dutch installed a Caddy V-8 in only one Darrin. The rest is urban legend, as well as the “50” that he bought,

        1. I’d easily believe that Darrin himself arranged/did only one of those conversions, but there’s no particular reason other owners couldn’t have done the same thing with their own cars either before or afterward. It wasn’t an uncommon swap at the time, since the Cadillac OHV V-8 had a good power-to-weight ratio. Since Cadillac-engined Darrins have some documented competition history, I think “urban legend” is likely overstating the point. Also, the original account of his purchasing some of the unsold cars came, so far as I can see, from a story Dutch told Dick Langworth, so if it was a fable, it was a Darrin original.

          1. Something to consider…the cars that Dutch modified were sold as DARRIN SPORTS CARS. Since then, I do not believe that even one has been sighted. One would think that if 50 such cars were made, one would rear its grill sometime/somewhere. Of the 435 originally built, at least 270 are still around. Hard to believe that all 50 are still in barns or destroyed. I could be wrong–that would be first time today!

          2. I want to draw attention here to what the text of the article actually says: that there had been “100 or so” leftovers that Darrin had found languishing and that he had bought “about half” of those (which is what he told Langworth), several of which were subsequently modified with superchargers or Cadillac engines. The text does not say 50, nor does it assert that all of those got engine modifications or that all the engine modifications were necessarily performed by Darrin before resale; that hedging was very deliberate. Car collectors and speculators being what they are, I assume that if someone had a surviving car that they could somehow document had been sold directly by Darrin post-Kaiser, they would have made a bigger deal about it!

            I refrained from inserting my own speculation or theories into the text, but I have doubts that Darrin would have been able to sell a few dozen of the cars. Even established dealers of the time probably would have found it challenging (as the contemporary six-cylinder Corvette made clear), and in this case there were the added handicaps that the car was associated with Kaiser (whose passenger car business was imploding contemporaneously) and had very recently been offered by Kaiser dealers at fire-sale discounts.

            My own speculation — which, I hasten to emphasize, is a guess, in the absence of more definitive information — goes something like this: Darrin likely did find a batch of basically abandoned leftovers and arranged to buy some of them, as he said. Of however many he bought, some probably proved unsalvageable after their harsh winter while others may have been cannibalized for parts. As for the badging, my guess (and this is REALLY a guess) is that Darrin may have explored the possibility of re-registering the cars to sell them under his own name rather than as Kaisers, or at least told Henry and Edgar that he would, but eventually abandoned the idea as too much hassle and ended up selling however many salvaged cars he was able to move under their original registration and serials. Furthermore, he may have at some point ended up scrapping his remaining leftovers to avoid tax headaches or other legal complications of the kind Briggs Cunningham ran into.

            Again, all that is guesswork and verifying it would require going through Darrin’s business records from that period, which may well have been destroyed decades ago. If you have some kind of insight in that regard (conversations with family members who ended up with Dutch’s papers) and can put together some kind of documented account, I’d suggest pitching it as an article for Hemmings or some other collector car publication.

  10. Aaron, a small correction in an excellent article. The Nash Healey shared its body with the Alvis Healey, not the Healey Silverstone(which was a cigar tube type body with cycle wings)

    1. That’s true (although the Alvis-powered car was called the Sports Convertible), but I’m not sure where you’re seeing the implication that the Nash-Healey shared the Silverstone body. There is a reference to the Silverstone chassis being modified to take the Nash powertrain to create the initial prototype, which to the best of my knowledge is correct. However, that was the chassis, not the body, which was obviously quite a bit different than the Silverstone. Since there are photos of both in the article (and one of an Alvis-powered car), I hadn’t figured that would be confusing. Are you seeing a reference I’m not? (I wrote this article more than five years ago, so the text is no longer foremost in my memory.)

  11. Yep, page 3 under the photo of the Nash Healey

    1. Doh! I was looking at the text of the actual Nash-Healey article rather than the Kaiser-Darrin one. (This is what comes of doing edits in the middle of the night.) I see what you’re talking about and I’ve amended the text. Thanks and sorry for the confusion!

  12. I’ve just been scrolling through the internet for stories of the Kaiser Darrin because it is a car that my father has told me about my whole life. His father was the manager of the Walker production facility in Jackson MI, and, as my father tells it, had the only set of keys to the plant (seems implausible, but he insists). In 1955 when my father was 13 and his brother Jack was 17, my grandfather took them both to the facility on a Saturday so they could see the car they had heard so much about up close. Then my grandfather told them that the cars at the facility had been ordered to be destroyed, and that all but a few were all slated to be dismantled that week. My dad said it was over 100 cars. My Uncle Jack was completely distraught by this news and got down on his knees and begged my grandfather to intervene. My grandfather said he didn’t have anything to do with decisions like that. “What’s done is done,” he said. “It’s a good car, but nobody needs it.”

    I’ve been looking for something that backs up this version of events but have found nothing!

    1. Kaiser had a bunch of unsold cars left over in 1955 (exactly how many is unclear), and I would assume many of those were written off and destroyed, so it seems at least broadly plausible. That it was more than 100 cars I’m more skeptical about, although that’s an area where one might be uncertain or where memory might exaggerate.

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