$8,900 Bargain? 1948 Kaiser Special

Believe it or not, at least for the late-1940s, Kaiser cars featured a low center of gravity. Today, most of us can’t imagine a car like this as being modern or as having breakthrough features like that, especially given its sedate, almost design-less body. This fantastic 1948 Kaiser Special is posted on Craigslist in Ida Grove, Iowa with an asking price of $8,900! Thanks to Howard for the tip on this one!

The Kaiser Special was the first offering for the newly-formed Kaiser-Frazer Company in 1947. The company offered a slightly-upgraded version, the Custom, which included such things as “defroster and heater, radio, radio antenna, stainless steel wheel trim rings, tailpipe extension, full wheel discs, outside rear view mirror, external sun visor, traffic light viewer, spot lights, fog lamps, plastic white sidewall discs, front and rear bumper guards, and white sidewall tires.”

This car has, according to the seller, a mere 19,251 miles on it and it sure looks like a low-mileage car. It’s all original other than having new tires, and thankfully they’re not wide white walls. This car looks perfect, in my opinion, with these black wall tires and black steel rims. The Kaiser sure had a unique grille compared to the sister/brother car, the Frazer. That big trunk has some staining, hopefully not from a leaky trunk seal, but there is surface rust in there. You can see that portions of the lower body are starting to look suspect, but hopefully any rust can be knocked back into submission. The underside looks solid with, again, surface rust, but that’s to be expected for a Midwest car of this vintage.

Things look equally great on the interior, nice and clean, not ripped or badly stained; even the windlace is in nice condition. Look at the legroom in the back seat! There is some surface rust on some interior metal parts, like the heater, and hopefully the next owner can nip that in the bud. The headliner looks good – not perfect, but very good for being 69 years old.

This engine is a Continental L-head 226 cubic-inch inline-six with 100 hp and 180 ft-lb of torque. For a 3,500-pound car that’s not a lot of oomph, but in 1948 Kaiser-Frazer sold a little over 90,000 Kaiser Specials – Americans were starved for transportation in the years right after WWII. What do you think about this Kaiser? NADA lists an “average retail” price of $14,300 so this has the potential to be a heck of a buy! But, finding an interested buyer is another story.

Fast Finds


  1. Howard A Member

    Going through the myriad of ads, certain cars jump out. This Kaiser was one of them. Wouldn’t you just LOVE to know the story on this car? Kaiser wasn’t a fancy car ( although you could get fancy Kaisers) this was your basic car. Guy comes home from the war, get’s married, has a so-so job, maybe kids someday, they frugally buy a new bottom of the line Kaiser, couple years in, something happens, guy dies maybe, widow can’t drive the car, and it sits. Price seems a bit steep, to me, but this car is so rare, and it’s ready to go, and if you want to enjoy the old car hobby, and make no mistake, you WILL enjoy it with this car, you can’t go wrong here. The conversations this car will generate will be priceless, if any attendees of the show still remember a Kaiser, that is.

    • Woodie Man

      One of the most , I dont know, aesthetically boring cars, as if it was sketched on a napkin by a second grader. That said you can’t beat original as built…not restored. Must have been a farmers going to church on Sunday car!. I’d rather the stepdown Hudson in the background although for years as a kid before I bought my ’50 Packard Ultramatic, a ’46 Packard was parked at a local garage along with a thirties Ford Brewster Limo. So thats also attractive to me. This guy has it going one! I might have to move to Iowa!

  2. Andy

    A very neat piece of history, certainly. If I were shopping, I might think that was a good price for a second-gen Kaiser, but I have to say, this one bores me to tears. The ’51 and up had gorgeous lines; this one has integrated fenders, very modern, but not enough to make me reach for my wallet. Still, I hope it finds a home. It’s very historic in its way and getting rarer by the year. Meanwhile, what’s the story on that Packard in the background?

    • Fred W.

      Several years back I I decided to get a Kaiser and chose this ’51. Enjoyed it for a while, then one morning went to get a fast food breakfast and was surrounded by older gents like I was Elvis or something. Two hours later it was sold. My wife laughs about it because I kept saying, “I Didn’t REALLY want to sell it”.

      • Dave Wright

        Another nice looking car…….

  3. Steve R

    Something about the upholstery doesn’t sit right.

    Steve R

    Like 1
    • Howard A Member

      Hi Steve, you’re a funny guy, “sit right” with the “upholstery”. :) It does look pretty spiffy for that old of a car. I think the pattern and type look correct, tho.

      Like 1
  4. Racingpro56

    Something about the lines…the dimensions of this old beauty remind of an old British sedan. Bentley or Jag maybe. Of course this is nowhere near in the same class, but still very visually appealing. In any case looks like a good deal for the price!

    • Racingpro56

      Excuse me…saloon not sedan

    • Racingpro56

      Got it..London taxi (Austin) with a longer bonnet

    • Ross W. Lovell

      Greetings All,

      Racingpro56, you are not the only one. It reminded me of my MKIX Jaguar or an older big Mercedes, sort of a 3/4 Adenauer, also reminiscent of a Bristol or a BMW sedan from the 50’s but this has to be bigger.

      I’m used to seeing Kaisers of the other body style, but this one is distinctive.

      I think the color chosen has a lot to do with it, it looks good in black.

    • Ian

      …or the big Riley of the slightly later time ! (prob pinched the idea)

  5. Dave Wright

    Condition looks good but a poor example of the Kaiser brand. My great aunts father bought a brand new Manhattan when he retired from the rail road in about 1953. It was quite a car with bamboo trimmed interior, lots of chrome, I think it still had a mohair interior. It was the last car he ever bought, when his wife died in the late 70’s it was still in his garage with something like 40,000 miles on it. I helped find a suitable Kaiser collector that wanted it. The collector went to Spokane and drove it home to Utah. It shined like a new penny…..it was quite upscale and not boring at all. My dad maintained it for him in the later years in our shop (that my brother still owns) the condition of this one might make it worthwhile but it is boring.

    • Racingpro56

      Boring? No. Elegantly understated maybe. IMHO.

  6. Dave Wright

    1953 Manhattan

    • Racingpro56

      Wow. Just Wow. Beautiful.

    • Howard A Member

      The feature car shown was no “Manhattan”.( although, it did share some mechanical features) I’d say the cheapie was far more representative of what the average Joe bought. After the war, many makes had a shot at it. They all pretty much offered the same thing, with cars like that, basic transportation for the masses. It’s surprising who eventually won out, as the Kaiser was every bit as good a car as a Ford or Chevy, I thought.

    • Ed P

      I love the color combo. This car pops!

  7. JBP

    That 1953 Manhattan look so much better. It look a bit like this English Morris Isis 1955 borring saloon.

  8. Scott

    The best book on K/F is The Last Assault on Detroit which looked at the whole history of Kaiser Fraser. I don’t remember the author however. My copy was lost in a fire. Fascinating reading.

    • Vince Habel

      Richard Langworth wrote it. He did other books that are worth reading. He was force that started KF Owners Club and CORSA the Corvair club.

      • Joe Nose

        My fave book of his is Studebaker: The postwar years.

  9. Scott

    Sorry, that book is Last Onslaught on Detroit by Richard Langworth. Got the title wrong in first comment.

  10. Howard A Member

    This “Allpar” site, which usually is my “go to site” for Mopar’s, has a good article on these cars. They sold quite a few of these. They had features, not many other cars offered, until later. Stuff like, automatic dome light, sun visors, fresh air heater, and even an automatic choke.

  11. JDJones

    I’d love to have that Hudson next to it.

  12. jefray

    I really love it. I have always loved the “bottom of the line” cars, the best. It is the designer’s purist form, and Its what most people drove. Simple is good. I have too many cars right now, so reluctantly will pass.

  13. Wayne

    Looks very much like the pommy Singer Hunter or mopar of that era.

  14. Fred W.

    Back when I had my ’51 and was heavily into Kaisers, I produced a documentary on the company. I’ve sold a lot of DVD’s to club members, but you can also watch it free on Youtube. It’s 30 minutes.


  15. jtnc

    The Kaiser-Frazer story, as told in the Langworth book, is interesting, and this car may have an interesting history, but as a car it is stupefyingly boring, at least to me. Most early postwar American cars are dull as dishwater, with a few exceptions like the bulletnose Studebakers, some Cadillacs and Hudsons, and the second series Kaisers which came out in, I believe, late 1950 (some pictured above). Look at a 1947 Ford, or a 1952 Plymouth, or even a 1953 Chevy, and you see we were really in a drab and dull era of design then.

    A couple of commenters have mentioned they would like to have the “Hudson” in the background, but all I see is a c.1946 Packard as referenced in the ad.

    • MikeH

      In the Craig’s list ad, there is one pic with the Kaiser, a Packard and a stepdown Hudson.

    • Larry

      The car was not boring in its day. It was the first car to not have running boards and “hang-on” fenders. Instead it has a straight -through fender line which many car buyers found stylish. In 1948 Kaiser-Frazer was the number 4 US car manufacturer behind the big 3. That says a lot. Of course today, it does look boring!

  16. Smitty

    When I was a kid my dad had a 49 Frasier Same car really, we were traveling back to Tampa from Miami on the Tami-Ami trail, ( rattlesnake Alley) when a new 53 Cadillac past us. Well dad was having no part of that, it must have taken 2 or 3 miles to catch the Caddy, we were wide open with a clear road ahead, my dad eased over in the left lane and we creeped by the Caddy. Boy was we happy. We loved that old Frasier even more after that.

  17. Mike Williams

    Very plain looking car, but great murdered out look.

  18. Rodney

    This was the type of car the local priest or minister drove. Basic, no nonsense transportation. Most likely called “Cassock Black” in the brochures. In rural America, when you saw this car parked in front of your neighbor’s house you knew it was not good news…

    • Howard A Member

      HA! Good one. I didn’t know too many parson’s that drove, more like a doctor’s car,( remember “house calls”?) which, if parked in front of your house, was still bad news.

    • Racingpro56

      A plain jane car like this would also be common in an Amish or Mennonite community where such luxuries would be permitted. Likely here since the car is in Iowa?

  19. tugdoc

    My dad had a ’49 Frazer the only thing cool about it was the inside push button door openers. Comparing this Kaiser to Jags and other English cars is folly as they had leather, walnut, elm other woods, dohc, built good enough to still be around today and not at all frumpy.

    • Ross W. Lovell

      Greetings All,

      I was just commenting on the styling.

      Jaguar didn’t introduce their DOHC until 1948 I believe.

      They did however replace their Flathead with the new to them, pushrod OHV design, derived from the Flathead block.

  20. David Wilk Member

    Some may call this car boring but look at all the great comments and stories it generated. Not to mention Fred’s documentary and the great Richard Langworth too. Nice post Scotty, nice find Howard. Thanks all for an entertaining conversation.

  21. Cliff

    My experience with the Continental engines has not been very good. They do not oil the front main very well and therefore require good maintaining. The carburation leaves something to be desired. However the MPG is favorable.

    • Larry

      And the number 3 and 4 exhaust valves are right next to each other with no water jacket between them. If you own a Kaiser, plan on doing valve jobs as they burn often in them. Also, get used to dealing with vapor-lock.

  22. That Guy

    99% sure that upholstery isn’t original. It’s not just the fabric, but the workmanship that gives it away – it looks like an el cheapo job to get the car saleable. Factory upholstery would have much neater seams, and a generally tighter look. Having said that, though, it looks close enough for a driver-level car. I like the conservative, almost British lines. A fedora (or trilby) and pipe are required accessories.

  23. Rodney

    Perhaps an Amish doctor/priest….

    • Racingpro56

      Ha. Well played sir.

  24. Larry

    As with most things KF, there are mistakes in the description on this. Yes, there was an upscale model Kaiser in 1947/48 called the “Custom” but radio, heater, defroster etc. were not standard on the Custom either. The big difference was the Custom had Frazer upholstery (The Frazer was the fancier car of the two) and trim. Radio, heater (called Air Conditioner in those days) were still optional and had to be ordered extra. In 1948, the Custom could also be ordered with a two barrel carb, higher compression head and overdrive transmission. All things which were not available on the Special. It’s a nice looking car in black if you ask me. The upholstery is not original on this car.

  25. Alex W

    Did this car sell?

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