Of course, this is the 78th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the event that brought the United States into World War II. An almost unfathomable set of developments has happened in the world since then, much of which could not have been imagined at the time. Japan and the US are allies, for example. Still, we should remember this day to honor those who sacrificed so much that day and on subsequent days.
As a consequence of the US entry into World War II, American production of automobiles for civilian use ended early in 1942. Production would not resume until the second half of 1945. When production did restart virtually all US car companies offered warmed-over pre-war models. To be fair, the time, money and effort needed to develop new models and retool for production of same precluded automobile manufacturers from “hitting the ground running.”
The only exception was a company that did not exist before the war, Kaiser-Frazer. Formed from the leftovers of Graham-Paige, Kaiser-Frazer offered a new car because that was the only car it could offer. The car it produced was actually less revolutionary than it might have been. At first, Kaiser-Frazer considered building a car based on the K-85 prototype, a front-wheel drive car featuring four-wheel independent suspension through the use of longitudinal torsion bars. It proved to be too impractical and too costly to build, especially given the technology of the time.
A tangent: Studebaker devotees will argue that the company produced a “new” car at about the same time, maybe even slightly before, the first Kaiser-Frazer automobiles were sold. However, Studebaker’s first post-war car, named the Skyway Champion, was just a slightly modified version of the 1942 Champion models sold before the war. The Skyway Champion gave way to a new car, also called Champion, in May, 1946 as a 1947 model year car. Studebaker also added a “higher class” model, the Commander—also a resurrected name, for model year 1947.
From kfclub.com a picture of a 1947 Kaiser Special. The Kaiser and Frazer were the “…cars [that] had the first true postwar sheet metal with envelope bodies and fenderlines that ran from front to rear in an unbroken contour.” I am quoting standard catalog of® American Cars, 1946-1975 by John Gunnell.
Other than the styling, both the Kaiser and Frazer were conventional cars. The standard engine for both was a 226 cubic-inch, inline-six that produced 100 HP/180 LB-FT of torque. Both cars had three-speed manual transmissions with overdrive as an option.
At first, the cars were well-received reaching a combined sales mark of about 140,000 for both 1947 and 1948. As the Big Three introduced its all new postwar cars, that included innovations like an overhead-valve, oversquare, “high” compression V-8 engine in addition to more modern styling, Kaiser-Frazer (and all independents) struggled to maintain market share. Although a dramatic restyle for 1951 along with the dropping of the Frazer make led to a temporary boost in Kaiser sales for that year, sales plummeted thereafter and forced Kaiser to end US auto production and sales in 1955. As I have written before, although I’m not sure if it was company co-founder Henry or his son Edgar who said this, one of the Kaisers remarked, “Slap a Buick nameplate on it and it would have sold like hotcakes.” We’ll never know, of course.
If you like this blog please tell your friends and share the blog URL (https://disaffectedmusings.com). Thanks.