Cars A To Z: K

 

In the book shown above how many makes whose name begins with the letter “K” are listed? The answer is none. The book jumps from Justcialista (a car built in Argentina from 1954 to 1956) to Lagonda.

“K” cars are rare. Of course, I am not referring to Chrysler’s K-car platform that was built in the 1980s and is given credit by many automotive historians for saving the company.

From post-World War II USA came the Kaiser-Frazer automobile company and the Kaiser make. From standard catalog of® of American Cars, 1946-1975:

 

“Shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser decided to make the automotive industry his port of call after the close of World War II. Teaming with Graham-Paige executive Joseph Frazer–in an association often shaken by personality conflicts–Kaiser moved quickly to beat the major makers into production of an all-new postwar car. The result was a novel-looking, straightsided design with definite appeal to buyers of the day.”

 

By beating the Big Three to the punch with a new car, Kaiser-Frazer did well at first, but after the big companies started to introduce new designs of their own, along with new engines like the modern Cadillac/Oldsmobile overhead-valve, oversquare V-8, Kaiser sales slumped. For model year 1947 (Kaiser was introduced in September, 1946), more than 70,000 Kaisers were sold along with an almost equal number of Frazers. By 1950 sales had slumped so much that Kaiser was re-coding leftover 1949 cars. Exact figures are not easy to interpret, but Kaiser probably only sold about 15,000 cars for model year 1950. (Production of Frazers ended after the 1951 model year.)

Two Kaiser cars stand out to me: the two-door coupe after the 1951 redesign and the Kaiser-Darrin. Here are pictures of both cars:

 

See the source image

See the source image

 

I don’t know who Dan Palatnik is, but there’s no © or ® mark on the photo and it’s the best picture of a 1951 Kaiser two-door club coupe I could find in my admittedly brief search. The picture of the Kaiser-Darrin is from Barrett-Jackson.

While Kaiser was among the first automobile companies to offer seat belts, an instrument panel dash pad and pop-out windshields, American consumers of the 1950s were, well, consumed by horsepower, by fins and chrome. Kaiser ceased American production in 1955 after losing about 100 million dollars. Edgar Kaiser, Henry’s son, is supposed to have said, “Slap a Buick nameplate on it and it would sell like hotcakes.” The wonderful Encyclopedia of American Cars by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide® remarked, “He was probably right.”

I think a 1951-55 Kaiser two-door coupe would make a great platform for a restomod. Of course, the odds of my pulling off that project are slim and none and slim got on the 3:45 flight to Kansas City. Oh well…

 

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