1951 Kaiser Deluxe Coupe Barn Find

This 1951 Kaiser Deluxe two-door sedan, known as a Club Coupe, is the first Kaiser-Frazer product that I have covered for Barn Finds, they just don’t surface that often so I’m thrilled to come across a rather intact example. This one has been off the road since 1965 so let’s see what’s been going on for the last 56 years. Located in Somerset, Pennsylvania, this Kaiser is available, here on eBay for an opening bid of $1,250; there is a BIN price of $3,850 available too.

Kaiser-Frazer was a rather short-lived manufacturer, operating between 1945 and 1953. Created by the merger of Kaiser and Graham-Paige, the company produced Kaiser and Frazer branded automobiles. Within a few years, Joseph Frazer left his presidency role at Kaiser-Frazer, and in 1951, Kaiser-Frazer continued on with simply the Kaiser marque. In late 1953, the now known as Kaiser Motors merged with Willys-Overland to create Willys Motors and in 1955, the last true Kaiser automobile was built, leaving the Willys Jeep as the sole remainder. Kaiser moved its tooling and dies to Argentina in where it continued to build the “Manhattan” under the name “Carabela” as well as various Jeeps models and Kaiser’s Argentinian operation continued into the ’70s. Today’s Stellantis owned Jeep brand is the successor by virtue of the Willys association. Total Kaiser-Frazer production between 1946 and 1955 was about three-quarters of a million units.

Known as the “Pride of Willow Run“, Kaiser-Frazer had a pretty complete line-up in ’51 including the four-door Kaiser Sedan, the Manhattan four-door convertible and sedan, The Vagabond (what a name!) four-door sedan, a Deluxe and Special two-door sedan (coupe), Deluxe and Special four-door sedans and the new for ’51, compact Henry J. The wide strip of stainless steel along the lower edge of our subject car leads me to believe that it is described correctly as a Deluxe trim level. It’s inside now but based on those significantly sized rust holes, and the surface rust bleed-through, it’s a safe bet that this Kaiser has seen a whole lot of outside time, though it is claimed to have been indoors for the last twenty years. And then again, that twenty years could have been under a leaky roof. The seller adds that he has owned this car for five years but there was a long-term owner who was in possession from 1953 until 1965. The 1965 Ohio license plate probably dates this Kaiser’s last motoring adventure. This car appears to be pretty much intact, and in reasonably decent condition, other than the swiss cheese quarter panel problem.

When running, a 115 HP, 226 CI, in-line, six-cylinder engine puts power through a three-speed manual transmission and channels it to the rear wheels. The seller mentions that the previous owner had it running but he doesn’t state how long ago that was. Minus the battery, the engine looks like it’s all there but probably hasn’t turned a revolution since 1965. The mileage recording is 49K miles but there is no documentation attesting to that reading with the possible exception of a 48K mile recording on an oil change door jamb sticker, dated 3(?)-2-63. Perhaps the reading is genuine!

The interior looks like a typical old car, barn find interior – it’s drab, worn and dusty – probably odiferous too. The front bench seat, amazingly, isn’t in tatters and the instrument panel components look to be present and accounted for. Unfortunately, there are no good images of the floor.

Finding a defunct brand automobile is always exciting, especially when you consider the steep price of entry to get into the car business in the first place. Undoubtedly, things, obstacles, in particular, have increased exponentially over the last 70 years. While it’s generally true that only the strong survive, the strong that continually make one bone-headed decision after another, fail right along with undercapitalized small players, it just takes more time. Well enough editorializing, I hope this Fraser Deluxe coupe gets a new lease on life, and soon.

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Comments

  1. Donald J. Rouse

    Jim: Minor correction on the model name: this is a 1951 Kaiser Deluxe 2-Door Sedan. The Club Coupe had a shortened roof with extended deck area. The Sedan had rear flip out quarter windows where the Club Coupe had smaller rear glasses. This car also had Overdrive Transmission (the electronic relay is visible on the face of cowl and the lock-out cable is visible just to the left of the steering column) on the dash picture. These Kaisers suffered serious rust in the rockers and floors in Michigan road salt. Cars from southern states were typically fine. The Club Coupe body was also used to produce at least one prototype convertible by the factory.

    Like 5
  2. Gary Rhodes

    Wow. I knew where a 57 Chevy two door hardtop, black, white top, silver and black interior was that looked worse than that and was sunk in the dirt to the rocker panels. Less than 15k on it I believe. It was by my great aunt’s house back in the boonies and when I was a kid visiting my grandparents we would go see them and I looked at that car everytime. My granny called about it from time to time for her car addled 10 year old grandson and was told it’s still tied up in court. The owner died in 59 and it sat there until 77 when they settled the estate. Big two story farmhouse full of antiques fell in, the 56 F1 with less than 9k on the odo (we played in it)was in the barn with a new Farmall tractor and survived. the car disappeared my granny said. I never opened the hood but I still swear that it had crossed flags on the fenders.

    Like 6
  3. David E Sinclair

    Jim, just had to comment on the name of the corporation, its Kaiser-Frazer, with a Z, that was Joseph W Frazer’s proper spelling of his name! So many folks take for gospel what is posted on line, hate to see this name of the company misspelled.

    Like 5
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      I got it right initially and then lapsed into slopiness – fixed now.

      Thx,

      JO

      Like 2
  4. Dragonman6

    My Dad had tales of the nights he spent working at Willow Run, stamping roofs for Henry J’s, then going straight to class at EMU in Ypsilanti, still dirty from work. One of his profs was not amused…

    Like 6
  5. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Jim I didn’t know you knew me. I’m the king of bone head mistakes. I remember these cars quite well, had an Uncle by marriage that drove Kaiser’s and was always bragging about the Continental engine being so reliable and efficient. Now I don’t know about all that as I was just a little fella back then. I always thought it was weird how the windshield had that dip in the middle.
    God bless America

    Like 2
  6. MOTRV8D

    No pics of the floor, no care.

  7. Rick

    This hidden gem is the kind that Cold War Motors in Alberta would have on display with Frankers riding regally in the back seat.

    Like 5
  8. Eric_13cars Eric_13cars Member

    My dad bought a 1951 Kaiser TRAVELER new in 51. I’m not sure what the ‘Vagabond’ was, but our Traveler was, along with the late 40s Kaiser-Frazers the first hatchbacks. The rear seats folded the way standard station wagon seats did, and the back end of the car was split horizontally so that the rear window could be raised and the lower section opened, similar again to station wagons. The approach essentially turned what looked like a 4-door sedan into a 4-door station wagon. Riding back from the swimming hole in our wet bathing suits, my 2 brothers and I would sit in the way back with the window up riding the 2 miles on the back country roads to home. On the highway with the OD it would get 20 mpg. Pop commuted to NYC with it every day until in December of 1953 he had Ma go and buy a new 1954 Chrysler Windsor 4 door (plush car). Pop always had a heavy foot on the clutch, especially in rush hour, and I still remember him yelling at our mechanic, Lou Pasello, because the car needed yet another clutch (as if poor Lou was to blame for Pop’s size 12s riding it). The Windsor thankfully had a 2 speed automatic.

    Like 2
    • Steve Bush Member

      Eric; your post about your dad riding the clutch reminded me of my mom yelling at my dad for riding the clutch and driving too fast in our white 1969 Plymouth Satellite Wagon. It had the rear facing 3rd seat (there were four of us kids) and a roof rack but otherwise only a 318 with no power anything. It went through a ton of clutches before our mechanic put in a truck clutch which seemingly lasted longer. Like most Mopars of that era it rusted badly. Then got somewhat repaired and repainted a Earl Scheib light green, before it was junked in 1978.

      • Eric_13cars Eric_13cars Member

        Going further off topic, Steve, you’ve reminded of those Chrysler wagons. I was working as a counselor in a camp for special kids in 1966. The owner had a 65 or 66 Dodge wagon with the 3rd rear-facing seat. For some reason, a number of we counselors had to ride into town with her. It was hot as blazes that New Jersey summer and I was stuck in that rear seat. She had the A/C turned on low and it must have been 120 under the glass in the back. I begged her to turn up the A/C, but it didn’t help much. I thought I was going to literally expire. Her son was a baseball player and was in the show for a few years, not that it has anything to do with it.

        Like 1
  9. Steve Clinton

    “Enjoy the original patina of a Seventy-year-old car!”
    Patina? Looks more like cancer.

    Like 4
  10. theGasHole

    I miss seeing K-F cars come up for sale. Used to be you’d see a Dragon or Manhattan crop up every now and then but those times seem to be gone. Having owned an “orphan make” a few years back (a 1946 Hudson Commodore 8) I can say you need to have the patience of a saint to restore something like this. You can literally chase a particular part for years & never find it. If you’re in it for the money you’d better stop before you start. But damn it’s cool to have an orphan car once you’re able to get it out and about and take it to shows.

    Like 3
  11. HC

    Replacement body panels for this kind of model will be difficult,if not impossible. Its drive train looks sound. But sourcing out those replacement panels will be a huge headache, and they’re so rotted will be hard to reweld or repatriate. Damn.

    Like 2
  12. Bill-W

    Graham-Paige never merged with Kaiser-Frazer. In 1948 K-F purchased all the K-F auto assets held by G-P and continued on. G-P sold its assembly plant on West Warren Avenue to Chrysler, who used the plant to built DeSoto bodies (1950-1957) and DeSoto V8 engines (1952-1957), and Imperial cars (1959-1961).

    Graham-Paige would carry on as a manufacturer of small farm equipment and then into real estate after WW II. In 1962 Graham-Paige Corporation became Madison Square Garden Corp. And with that the Graham-Paige name disappeared.

    In 1953 Kaiser Motors purchased Willys Motors and production of Kaiser and Willys cars continued into 1955. The Kaiser name was dropped in 1955, and the Willys name in 1963. Only Jeep survives.

    Like 2
  13. john vangorder

    Please forgive the shameless plug and delete if not allowed but…https://nowandthenfineautomobiles.com/inventory/40547/view/1109/Greenwood-AR/1951-Kaiser-Deluxe

    Like 2
  14. Wayne from Oz

    John Vangorder, that link looks a far better option. With regards to the name Vagabond, in Australia we had Vauxhall Vagabond, which was a 6cyl convertible, from memory around 1956, a very stylish looking car of the slab sided shoebox style.

  15. JimL

    Wow…never expected one of my finds to make an appearance on this site. The car’s mileage is genuine and the rusted quarter is from a leaky roof when in storage prior to an acquaintance finding it in the 1990’s. I’ve heard the engine run, but that was long ago and aside from the bad quarter panel, (replacements aren’t hard to find), the rest of the car is solid. The seller, a friend of mine, has had the car in dry storage so what you see is what was found. Two door Kaisers are rare which is why this one was saved.

    Like 1
  16. Jack

    I don’t remember the models, I was 5 when my father bought the 1st of 2 Kaisers; a ’47 which had mechanical problems on a trip from Florida to New Jersey and was traded in on a ’53 Kaiser, Continental rear tire kit included. On another trip in Florida a few years later, the Continental with the chrome surround was stolen off the car at a “tourist cabin” stopover. Kaiser was eventually traded for a new ’57 Dodge Coronet 4 door with the push button automatic.

  17. Lance

    Sadly a Kaiser with a stick overdrive won’t find much love these days. Too bad too.

    Like 2
  18. sammy swint

    I have 1948 kaiser 4 door 4 cylinder needs some floor pan repaired have some pics will try to post cant rite now later sam

  19. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    I hate to anxiously walk up to (or approach reading about) a barn find that hasn’t been tagged in over 50 years, only to find the tops of the fenders and floors completely obliterated from cancer. As we now know, even though a car is in dry storage in 2021 doesn’t mean it suffered from the dubious honor of being stuffed into an leaky shed or lean to for 40 of those 50 years. Someone with badass metalworking skills could probably recreate the subtle shape of that right rear fender….maybe. The drive wheel always throws up more road salt and grime than the other. And US cars have road debris on the right shoulder that can affect the passenger side of a vehicle more than the driver’s side.

  20. HC

    Even if you have a very skilled welder, it would be nearly impossible to reproduce the compound curves on this Kaiser or whatever. It will also be very hard to find a complete qtr from a donor car that will work. What a shame. Its drive train looks sound so maybe if you’re lucky find another 2 door hardtop

    • JimL

      Check the eBay ad. A complete NOS quarter panel is included.

      Like 1
  21. HC

    I did not go to ebay to read the full ad. But even if it comes with a replacement quarter, its major surgery and requires a talented welder to remove and graft the other one on the car. But for the bin price maybe thats fine for someone willing to tackle that project. Not for me.

  22. Jenkins Leon

    An uncle had a 4 dr. “some thing ” name KF. Very fancy. Probable in 1950. He clamed the windshield and rear glass were designed to “pop our” if some one was rammed into them in and accident. He claimed one was being Jacked up by a floor jack and racking the body the windshield popped out and laid on the Hood. I think he also said some thing about the steering wheel being made safer in case of a collision.

    • JimL

      It is true that the windshield will pop out with impact. They were designed to do so with 35 lbs of force. The 54 Kaiser uses a rubber insulator between the steering box and shaft, giving some protection in the event of an accident.

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