Barn Find Frazer: 1949 Frazer Manhattan

Henry J. Kaiser had a huge company building ships during WWII and being a forward-thinking businessman, he knew that once life returned to a reasonable state of normalcy after the war, people would need cars. Lots and lots of cars. One of the models he and his business partner offered was this 1949 Frazer Manhattan. It was a fancy car for the era, an upper-middle-class type of car. This patina-heavy example can be found here on Craigslist in the Kennewick, Washington area. The seller is asking $5,000 for this one and it would be fun to fly into the Tri-Cities and drive it home. Thanks to Roger for sending in another great tip!

These cars are so interesting. I think of them as sort of the Mercury or Oldsmobile of the Kaiser-Frazer line. Oddly, both of those mid-level brands are gone, too. H.J. Kaiser was a heck of a businessman but he wasn’t infallible. Their first two years, 1946 and 1947 were showing strong sales, mainly because people were so starved for a car to buy after the war was over. Once the big-three came out with their all-new models, sales dropped like a rock. Joe Frazer, Kaiser’s business partner, wanted to come out with a newly-designed line for 1950 but H.J. would have none of it. Instead, he upped production of their existing cars and there they sat, unsold, reportedly acres and acres of cars that nobody wanted.

The majority of you already know the Kaiser-Frazer story and know about the cars. Upon first glance, a person may think that the styling wasn’t exactly anything to write home about, but this is one of the first examples of the “modern” slab-sides on a production car and it was quite outside the box in its day. Give me this design any day over the gaudy, overly-creased-upward-swooping-line-and-angry-razor-grille cars of today, ugh. I can’t stand that look, but that’s just me and we’re not here to talk about new cars! Frazers were well-built and the Manhattan was the top of the line for Frazer in 1949. They say about this one: “Almost all original, room for the whole family. And a trunk full of extra parts.” Hagerty is at $10,900 for a #3 good condition Frazer Manhattan so there’s a bit of room to turn this into a really nice one. A really, really nice #2 car would be valued at $18,000 so if anyone is looking for one, it’s definitely worth checking this Manhattan out.

The interior looks pretty good from what we can tell but unfortunately, the seller of this survivor hasn’t included any engine photos. This Manhattan should have a 112-hp 226 cubic-inch inline-six. The seller says that it “runs and drives well, with new tires, fuel tank and lines, brakes, clutch, and much more, was just on a 150 mile trip.” I think this would be a great car to drive as it looks now, maybe wax it or somehow protect it. But, then again, a nice paint job would bring it back to its former mid-level glory. How would you use this Frazer Manhattan?


  1. canadainmarkseh

    Repaint in original colour with single stage gloss paint. The rest looks ready to go. Nice car. I like it even if it’s a more door.

    Like 6
  2. Coventrycat

    Love that gauge cluster and steering wheel. Looks as good as anything else sold then, except for a Packard maybe.

    Like 8
  3. Mark

    Looks like a checker Manhattan.

    Like 1
  4. Ikey Heyman

    Can’t believe this has been listed for 25 days and nobody has jumped on it! What’s wrong with people? I wish it were closer.

    Like 6
    • JP

      Because $5k is a lot of money for a car most people have never heard of. And it’s a 4 door. How much would a comparable ’49 Chevy or Plymouth bring?

      Like 2
      • Rick McKee

        Hard to believe that anyone who appreciates vintage cars and trucks never heard of a Kaiser of Frazer automobile. My father had a 49 just like this painted a Tan color, it was his very first new car that he ever purchased. With 3 kids in the back seat no one was crowded like we were in the old Ford he had before this car.

        Like 1
    • Ken

      This car has been listed on Craigslist for months. I submitted the tip two months ago, and even mentioned it in a comment section of a rusted-out Mopar that couldn’t possibly be restored in a million years. I said I wanted to see more cars like this one. I live less than twenty minutes from this car. I know exactly where it is, and if I had the money it would be sitting in my driveway right now. Why it took Barn Finds so long to get around to this car, and why its discovery was credited to someone else, I do not know.

      Like 3
      • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

        Hi Ken, as soon as it showed up on the tip line a couple of days ago I grabbed it. I’m not sure what happened before, I know that Nathan wrote about a Kaiser Traveler in a similar brown/rust look a couple of months ago?

        Like 2
  5. J Liu

    This is a fabulous car. I hope the new owner treats her to a fine new paint job. I personally despise the “patina-rust” look…sorry, but his grand dame survived 69 years and deserves to shine like new again.
    This is a gem.

    Like 5
  6. Will Fox

    Frazers were alot like Hudson was in `54; trying to pedal an ancient, outdated design as ‘new’ when everyone else DID have totally new cars. By `54, Hudson had trouble giving away their old `48 design that had only been tweaked in the years since. Frazers, being an independent, got hopelessly overshadowed by GM’s `49 designs, and Fords new car was selling like ice on a hot day.

    Like 1
    • JP

      Not sure I agree… this ’49 is as modern as any car of the time, save maybe Studebakers. And after Frazer left, they really got jiggy with their designs – the Darrin being the prime example. Later Manhattans were also much more stylistic than their Big 3 counterparts, imho.

      Like 3
      • Ed P

        Many think a ohv v8 would have helped KF sales.

        Like 2
      • JP

        Yeah, it’s weird that they just didn’t buy one from, say, Studebaker – assuming the Big 3 wouldn’t sell to them. Why spend all the money and effort developing your own when funds are short?

        Like 1
      • Ed P

        Studebaker refused to sell their automatic transmission to Ford. They probably wouldn’t sell v8s either. KF did development work on a v8 but they did not have the funds to bring it to production. Rumor has it that AMC picked up that work for their v8.

  7. Ken

    I sent you this tip two months ago, and you ignored it. I live in Pasco, across the river from Kennewick.

  8. John M

    Not a pretty car. Parts are hard to get. Priced too high. Don’t get me wrong. I know, cause I own one. Mine runs and drives well. It’s licensed and insured. But, these not for everyone and it will be hard to get that price without better paint job. Actually, even with good paint, few people are actually willing to buy one of these. That said, I hope someone buys it who will be careful to preserve it.

    Like 2
  9. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Neat-o….passed a Kaiser and a Fraizer side by side every day on my paper route down that long driveway with the other oldies….sad they were lost in a storage deal as the city clamped down on the old guy.

    Like 1
  10. Boothguy

    They tried to buy engines from Olds but were rebuffed because the Kaiser then was faster than the 88s since they were lighter. At least thats the lore in KF circles

    • JP

      Interesting… too bad, though. The later Manhattans were really great looking cars. Could have been contenders!

      Like 1
  11. Butchb

    My neighbor where I lived as a child had one of these in their backyard for decades. Rusty as all get out but he would not get rid of it. Maybe it had special memories for him idk. I’m sure it went to the crusher when they finally sold the place in the 90’s

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