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Barn-Parked Since 1976: 1951 Henry J


America wasn’t really ready for a sensible compact car that was reliable and got (for the day) good gas mileage. So goes the story of the Henry J and Allstate, basic small transportation that just didn’t catch on the boom days of the 1950’s (see Nash Metropolitan, Crosley, etc…) This one is for sale here on eBay, with a buy-it-now of $5,250 and bidding only just over $200 but under the reserve. The car is located in Monument, Oregon, and the barn storage seems to have left the car in pretty good condition overall. It doesn’t run, so a lot will need to be done before anyone could think of driving it. Interior-wise, the car looks worse for wear, but at least the body doesn’t look very rusty. I like the small rear fins along with the fastback, although I don’t find the front as attractive. So many of these were turned into hot rods that it’s always a surprise to me to find one this unmolested. What would you do with this barn find?



  1. Mike D

    I would like to see it made streetable, possibly a turbo 4 like what was in the late 80s T bird, or a turbo V6 something that wouldn’t have to carve up the car probably use a MOPAR early 70s wild color as for the interior? Recaro buckets front and back??? 4 or 5 speed manual trans as with all to make it safe for the road I can’t picture it being used for any long distance traveling , but, I could be wrong

  2. Darren

    It’s great to see an original, survivor, Henry J.
    I would love to see it restored and shared.
    The Henry J came about as part of an agreement Henry Kaiser made with the government when he borrowed money to create the Kaiser Frazer company. Joe Frazer brought his share of money, and more importantly the Graham Paige company. Kaiser had to produce and economical car that was “inexpensive” and affordable to the general public. Well… He did most of those things, but the retail price was too high for the cheap quality car… You could buy a base model Chevy for slightly more.
    Many people think the Henry J used the Continental engine, like the larger Kaisers did, but that is a mistake. The Henry J sourcesd engines from Willys (a foreshadow of the coming merge) and used the L- head four and l- head six with a Borg Warner 3 speed transmission. Overdrive was an option as well.

    As noted, many Henry Js found “new life” as hot rods, gassers, and the chassis’ were also popular choices for guys building sport specials. The 100″ wheelbase was perfect for many popular bodies (Glasspar, Woodhill, Almquist, Devin, etc.), and the independent front suspension and factory boxed frame were added benefits. I’m lucky enough to own a Cougar sport special, by William Papineau, that has a 51 Henry J chassis (never used, and still riding on the original/factory Goodyear Supercushion tired).

  3. fred

    I’m a member of the national Kaiser-Frazer club and last year at a meet met a gentleman who must have been 80 who drives his stock 6 cylinder Henry J all over the country and each year enters it in a vintage car hillclimbing contest!

    • Ed P

      From what I’ve heard, Kaiser built cars that were as tough as tanks. This Henry J needs to be saved and restored to as new condition.

  4. Miko

    I couldn’t possibly do any better than what my late brother Willy did to his ’53 Henry J back in 1959 in his senior year of HS. He fashioned a Ferrari Testarossa front end from two Crosley doors he had lying around. He wrote an article of his escapades with his ’53 in the October 1999 issue of “Victory Lane” magazine. It was titled “Ode to Joe Henry”, My brother was quite a character….. a great talented man. For you “Vilko”. Miss you every day…..

  5. Miko

    A before picture.

  6. Andrew Minney

    I love Henry Js and Allstates. I know many became hot rods or drag cars but it is nice to have a mint stock one. Ideal for Europe I’d like a 6 in either Henry J or Allstate form.

  7. Peter

    As much as I love these as “Gassers,” it would be a shame to carve this one up.

    Speaking of which, that engine compartment looks so tight with a four cylinder (I counted the dizzy wires, just to be sure) I can’t quite imagine how they squeezed an inline six in there–anyone got any pics of one?

    Not sure if this is the correct model (the “Standard”?) but according to (my interpretation of) Hagerty’s values, this one’s BIN of $$5,250. would be over-priced, as it is obviously (cosmetically) worse than a Hagerty Condition #4. Having said that, and knowing how popular these are, I suspect the ebay sale will get the BIN, despite it being in worse than Hagerty #4 condition, given how (generally) intact this one appears to be, and again, how popular they are.

    Hagerty’s 1951 Henry J “Standard”:

    Were it mine, I’d consider giving it the “Gas Monkey Garage” treatment (the comestic part–skip the airbag suspension, and other, predictable dreck) and “clear it,” to slow/stop the rust, do the interior, get an inline six with a 5 speed/overdrive, for the highway, and enjoy the ride. Ideally with some period-correct speed enhancements to the six.

    And maybe find a way to put front disc brakes on it, if not crazy-expensive?

    Sort of a “survivor/mild resto-mod” approach, I guess….

    But then, I’m *cough* “Scottish.” ;-)

  8. Howard A Member

    A boss of mine, had a Henry J in a garage back in the late 70’s. It was his 1st car, but by then, had been sitting many years ( along with a ton of other stuff). It looked very similar to this. I remember it was a bare bones car. No trunk opening, fixed rear windows and front vent windows, no glovebox, passenger sun visor, arm rests, ( and I believe, that heater was an add-on too) and only a 2 door was offered. For the 6 cyl., the fan shroud was shortened, and motor raised up, so a different air cleaner was needed. While I do love “gassers”, enough of these were sacrificed for that purpose, and I agree, this one should be saved.

  9. packrat

    One of these had survived into the late eighties in Nashville TN, in a slightly deeper color than this–an inexpensive looking repaint over a straightened body that had plenty of ripples in the sheet metal. To top it off, the driver bore a passing resemblance to Walter Matthau.

  10. Doug M. (West) Member

    Wow~ that is crazy! I never knew they did NOT have a trunk!… and it looks like there is plenty of space there to have made one!

  11. Peter

    Re: Doug M. (West)

    “Wow~ that is crazy! I never knew they did NOT have a trunk!… and it looks like there is plenty of space there to have made one!”

    I agree-no trunk (with SPACE for one, unlike the C-2 and C-3 Corvettes, which ALSO lacked trunks) seems CRAZY! LOL

    But the later Henry J’s DID have a trunk–I’m too busy right now to look it up, but it’s true.

    And I couldn’t agree more with the comments about what a “stripper” these cars were–is it me, or are there ZERO defrost vents? Yikes!


  12. blindmarc

    Sold for $4800.

  13. pontiactivist

    I remember my grandmother telling me stories of her and grandpa having a couple of these. I’ve always liked these gassed style but agree this one should be saved and not cut up. But flat black, straight axle, mags, big block, fenderwell headers and a tilt front end and I would drive this regularly.

  14. Bill Wilkman

    I had a friend who had moved to the USA from Israel. This would have been around 1962. He was surprised to see none of these cars here where they were made. He said they were a common sight in Israel. I guess that’s where many of the the unsold cars went.

  15. Chris A.

    I’ve always liked these. My in-laws had one until the family got too big and he sold it to his brother in law who used it until his family got too large and he sold it on. Same color as this one. The 4 was very basic, much like an early VW. I agree that the back end was better looking than the front. The fins with the big glass fastback remind me of the exotic Sunbeam Harrington series from Rootes.

  16. Jim

    I never like this awkward ugly car even when they first came out. They always had a out of proportion look to them to me.

  17. John B

    Its really nice to see some well thought out comments above. It’s gets quite tiring reading the usual comments about how a car is junk or how it’s a rip-off or how the owner is an idiot for one reason or another. -thank you for intersting facts as well

  18. bigdoc13

    I remember going to visit a friend that was going to school at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in 1964. Outside his barracks was a Henry J with a straight axle and jacked-up to look like a drag racer.It had a HUGE dump tube sticking down behind the front wheels. When I looked under the fender to see what it was running,I found that the tubes ended just above the wheels. It was a complete fake-out. Totally stock.

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