40 Years Stored: 1954 Kaiser-Darrin

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With the famous “Darrin Dip” in the design, a “Clara Bow” grille, doors that slide into the front fenders and a body made of what at the time was that new-fangled fiberglass stuff, no one could say that the Kaiser-Darrin was a run of the mill automobile. This one has been stored indoors for more than 40 years, and is for sale in Parker, Colorado. You can find the listing here on eBay where it hasn’t met reserve as I write this.

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As you can see from this picture, the fiberglass body needs some reworking, especially in the front. You can see the distinctive grille shape in this shot as well. The grille, along with much if not all of the trim that has been removed, is included in the auction and is pictured in the listing. The seller says the car was driven into the garage originally and partially disassembled for restoration, and then other things took precedence.

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The seller appears to know what they are talking about, and I believe that’s a second Kaiser-Darrin in this picture, and possibly even a third? There’s also a 53-55 Corvette in some of the shots, so I’ll bet they know old fiberglass as well. You can see the doors in this picture; there are several pictures of removed components in the auction; the seller stresses you are buying them all with the car.

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Naturally, after 40 years of storage, the inside isn’t in great shape. However, enough remains of the upholstery that duplicates could certainly be made and installed. And if there’s another car there, it would at least allow you to take some reference pictures when you picked up this one.

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The Kaiser L-Head Willys F-Head 6-cylinder was tuned a little for this application, but it still only made 90 100 horsepower, and that was only enough to push fewer than 500 Kaiser-Darrins out of the showrooms. 1954 was the only model year, although the car’s designer, Howard “Dutch” Darrin purchased somewhere around 50 of the unsold cars from Kaiser and sold them from his location in California. This car looks relatively solid, and if the picture in the ad is correct, even included a brand new windshield. However, after 40 years I’m guessing some parts will have found their way elsewhere. I would really like to see how those doors work in real life! Do you think this find is worth restoring?

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Comments

  1. Fred

    Supposedly “Dutch” stuffed Caddy V-8’s in the ones he bought and resold- but this is an extemely hard rumor to verify. I don’t know if any of the 50 cars have been tracked down.

    Right now the price is in reasonable territory. The original green color, seen inside the doors, is gorgeous when new.

  2. DT

    Didnt these have flatheads.My dads Kaisers had a v8s.Looks like a 216 or a 235???

  3. joeinthousandoaks

    My dad sold one of these some 40 years ago…I wonder if it could be his.

  4. Rick

    The Darrin is cool for sure, have only ever seen 1 in real life. Wonder what’s up w/ the ’53-’55 Corvette parked next to it?

  5. DJ

    Neat find and I too would like to see the doors work in person.

  6. James

    Jamie,

    There’s a typo in the text. The “production” Kaiser Darrin engine, as shown in the eBay photo, is the Willys F-Head six with a displacement of 161 cu. in.

    Specs for the Kaiser Darrin and the “Darrin” per “kaiserbill,com” are listed below:

    http://kaiserbill.com/Web-PDF/Darrin-General-Specs.pdf

    The Willys F-Head six (rated at 100 hp) was also used in the original 1952 Excalibers (total of 3) created by Brooks Stevens. The aluminum bodied cars were real sports cars (road & competition) unlike the Excalibers that debuted in the mid ’60s also created by Stevens.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      James, I’ll make the correction — thanks!

  7. 64 bonneville

    looking closely at the photos, appears the seller has 2 other Darrins beside the 53-54? corvette, along with what appears to be a Kaiser Sedan. I believe that the doors were on a roller track, sort of like an upside down rolling shower door, as evidenced in the floor area of the drivers side. the cars are exceptionally well executed, after restoration, and the somewhat primitive fiber glass lay up is to a much high standard that what was produced for the original Corvette.

  8. D. King

    Stupid question time–is there any British connection whatsoever? We had 2 show up at a British car show a couple of years ago. Most of the cars present were the typical MGs, Triumphs, etc., but some of the cars shown had engines from the UK. Why would these two have been allowed to show there?

    • brakeservo

      Henry Kaiser built liberty ships. Liberty ships helped keep Winston Churchill from getting his butt kicked by Hitler. That’s the only possible connection I can think of – and pretty tenuous at that.

      • D. King

        Thanks, “brakes.” I’ll have to ask the British club why they were allowed. Perhaps re-engined?

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Nope…no British connection whatsoever.

  9. the skull

    Sorry DT, but Mr. Kaiser never had any production cars equipped with a V-8.

  10. Bruce E

    I am very familiar with these cars. My boss ( a small town car dealer) owned 4 of them in the 70’s. Me , being his one man body shop, got to take the best parts from all 4 cars & do a rotisserie restoration to make 1 great car. They were a fairly simple car to work on with the exception of adjusting the sliding “pocket doors”. They rolled on a track similar to a shower door. They did have a overhead valve engine, and if memory serves me correctly a 3 speed standard on the floor.( I almost remember it having a overdrive, but not positive) It was a standout at all the local car shows, as most people had never seen one. Only 435 were made and the prices today are pulling 6 figures for a “Barrett Jackson” quality car.

  11. rapple

    I have seen only one in recent years, a beautifully restored yellow one that appears at car shows here in New England. Although not classically handsome with its odd nose, it is a strikingly distinctive car in person. And the disappearing doors are VERY cool.

  12. Terry T

    The Darrin F-head pulls 90 HP.
    All transmissions were BorgWarner T96 3 speed w/overdrive driving a 4.55 Spicer rear axle.
    Dutch did put a Caddy V-8 in only one Darrin!

  13. Carguy

    I have met this seller. He has at least 3, maybe 4 Darrins. He also owns a couple of Fascinations and a Tucker. Very eccentric guy with an eclectic collection.
    There are two Darrins on display at museums in Nebraska. A beautiful yellow one at the Classic Car Collection (open to the public) in Kearney and a light green one at the Kuck Collection (private) in Lincoln. Both beautifully restored examples of the 435 built.

    • Jake

      One more at the smith collection..

  14. Ed P

    Definitely worth restoring. There is a whole lot of work to do on this one but it should be worth it. I always thought the “F Head” design was novel.

  15. justin

    Someone should use this car to make molds to build their own cars but give the option to have the Kaiser-Darrin front end or maybe with some type of a Jaguar front end styling to make it their own.

    • Jake

      One Darrin had a Jaguar Motor in it.. It was located in NE.. Not sure who owns it..

  16. George

    I had forgotten about the Fascination! Wild car!

  17. Peter V Tetley

    I noted these photos of the Darrin in Parker, CO. This looks like the one Fred Walker & I hauled backed from Pennsylvania back in the early or mid 1970’s. The rear axle & wheel assembled broke down on the highway & we had to get parts to cobble it together to drag it back to Colorado. I still have photos of this adventure. The damages to both appear to be the same. What memories of past travels. buffalopeteman.

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