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The Automotive Chronicles

Monthly newsletter published by McLellan's Automotive History. Dedicated to literature collectors, restorers, museums, publishers, manufacturers and investors who collect and preserve automotive literature
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July 2007 Issue
 
ARTICLE
 
Kaiser-Frazer
By Robert McLellan
 

Kaiser: The Man

General George MacArthur is a well known World War II hero, but it takes more than the military to win a war. Without another WWII hero, Henry J. Kaiser, a prominent American industrialist known as the "father of modern shipbuilding", our troops would have had nothing to fight with. Kaiser launched more ships than any other builder during the war. Involved in many aspects of converting peacetime industry into a fully integrated weapons and supply complex, Kaiser accomplished what would seem nearly impossible today.

At the end of the war, Kaiser recognized the need to quickly convert the military industrial back to private industry. Ford, Chrysler, GM and other companies had to convert from weapons, airplanes and tanks to cars, with their best efforts providing essentially the same cars they were building in 1942. Kaiser took a short cut and built an all new car. With the decline in the number of automakers during the Great Depression, this was a significant event.

Kaiser combined the Kaiser company and Kaiser Industries with the automotive experience of former Graham-Paige Motor Company Chief Executive Oficer, Joseph W. Frazer. Using the remaining assets of the Graham-Paige Company, the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation was founded on July 25, 1945. Kaiser was the Chairman of the Board and Frazer was President and General Manager.

Frazer Automobiles

Frazer entered the market in June of 1946. Initial designs for both the Frazer and Kaiser were created by Howard "Dutch" Darrin and were based on almost identical bodies. These distinctively modern and clean designs had straight through fenderless lines devoid of the current industry styling of separate fender sculptures.

Joseph Frazer left the company during the 1951 Frazer model year and, thus, 1951 was the last year for Frazer automobiles. Sales had slowed and competition for new designs by other automakers had taken their toll on Frazer.

Frazer
 

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Kaiser Automobiles

The Kaiser was first produced in August of 1946. In 1952 Kaiser-Frazer Corporation was renamed Kaiser Motors Corporation and continued to build passenger cars in the United States through the 1955 model year. In 1953 the company acquired Willys-Overland and merged the companies to form Willys Motors. For the 1956 model year the Kaiser model was discontinued and only utility vehicles (Jeeps) for domestic and export use were built.

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1949 Dealer Databook

1949 Dealer Databook
   

1950 Owner's Manual

1954 Dealer Databook
   

Kaiser was constantly thinking about future products as can be seen by the innovative features and designs of his cars. Stepping in that direction again, this time with the introduction of a low-priced, compact sized, economy car, the Henry J. It was exactly what customers said they wanted. Unfortunately, they were not ready to buy them.

 

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The Kaiser-Darrin sports car had been "Dutch" Darrin's promised "bonus" for joining Kaiser-Frazer and it was finally announced on September 26, 1952, with prototypes shown the following February. On January 6, 1954 sales of the fiberglass-bodied two-seater began. An innovate feature of this futuristic design was the sliding doors which opened into the front fenders - and the convertible top could be locked in three positions.

 

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The Automotive Chronicles, July 2007
 
 
 
 
 
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