Deluxe Darrin Survivor: 1954 Kaiser Darrin

A lot of the cars we feature here on Barn Finds require some form of time, patience, elbow grease and likely some modest investment. But if you’re working to fill out your high-end car collection and you need to check off the box for a very nice, mostly original, low mileage 1954 Kaiser Darrin “survivor”, you might want to take a look at this car. This Darrin can be found here on eBay and it’s located in Belvidere, New Jersey. The prices that I saw online for several other Darrins ranged from about $140k to $200k. The Buy It Now price for this Darrin is $157k or you can make an offer.

The Kaiser Darrin was conceived as part of a movement in Detroit to compete head-to-head with European roadsters being imported and sold in the United States in the post-WWII period. The Kaiser Darrin was built for just one model year in 1954 and only 435 production Darrins and 6 prototypes were built. The Darrin was one of the final automotive design achievements for Howard “Dutch” Darrin who had great impacts with Packard Motor Cars and others. This Darrin is supposed to have just over 12k original miles, original interior and one repaint in the original white color. Included in the sale is a “massive” collection of rare Darrin parts.

The engine for the Darrin is a 161 cubic inch F-head in-line six rated at 90hp. The performance was pretty poor so a variety of the Darrins were eventually retrofitted with superchargers or multi-carburation. Six of the Darrins were re-engineered with Cadillac V8s and at least one of these was reported to have been raced in that configuration. This Darrin has the standard six-cylinder with a single carburetor and 3-speed manual transmission with overdrive. Looks to me like the engine is in nice running condition but could probably stand some maintenance and detailing.

I found it noted that the Kaiser Darrin was the first American car built with a fiberglass body, technically beating the Corvette to market by a matter of days. The style of the Darrin with its unique pocket doors that slide on tracks into the front fender wells was appealing to many and it’s a desirable collector car for some today. The Darrin has taken its place in automotive history as one of the first American luxury sports roadsters – I sure wouldn’t mind test driving one of those Cadillac V8 powered versions. You’ll find an interesting article on these Kaiser Darrins here in Hemmings. So are you ready to pop for that six-figure price? Tell us what you think of these Darrins.

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  1. OhU8one2

    If I could offer one suggestion, research,research,and research. The vast majority of viewers on this site know their @$!# . You will not be able to pull the wool over their eyes. We’re talking diehard motorheads. Just like some kids know every stat on their favorite baseball player, the Barnfind loyalist know the horsepower on a Iso Griffo, De Tomaso Mangusta,etc….. Chevrolet introduced the American public to the Corvette in 1953. And I believe the first production fiberglass bodies were manufactured by “Owens Corning “. Yes the same company that also made cookware among other thing’s. So next time don’t get yourself thrown to the wolves, the fanatic reader’s will eat you alive.

    Like 3
    • Andy

      Back in the 80s, I saw a Darrin driving on Sunrise Highway in Oakdale in Long Island. I was a teenager then and lucky to have a bunch of car books, so I could see it and say, “holy crap, that was a Kaiser Darrin!”

      Like 6
  2. Vintage1961

    Kaiser introduced the Darrin in 1952 BEFORE the Corvette Mr. Expert. Research, research, research.

    Like 7
  3. Darrun

    Here’s a link that backs up the claim of being built before the Corvette. Not actual production, but prototyped.

    The Kaiser-Darrin was called the “Sports Car The World Has Been Waiting For.” It was shown in prototype form in late 1952–shortly before America’s first major sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette, was unveiled as a fiberglass-body auto show car.

    Like 9
  4. Coventrycat

    Cool cars, and this is the first I’ve seen with the top up.

    Like 2
  5. Paul

    A local guy always brings his Darrin to cruise nights in the summer. I knew they were rare, but holy cow I had no idea they were selling for this much!

    Like 6
    • Doone

      Saw this car on the shore over the last couple of summers. It was driving, no smoke.

      Like 2
  6. Nick hockman Member

    I have been on the hunt for a non perfect and not high priced retail car for awhile. This is very high but with supply low you can ask whatever you want.

    Like 1
  7. Princie883

    Ned Bean from Wilmington, MA (family friend) had this exact car 60’s-70’s. So very cool to ride in. Wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same car.

    Like 3
  8. local_sheriff

    Only seen a Darrin in one of my vintage car books, actually also with the top up.
    It’d be interesting how many of these are alive and running today…? With this one you’re at least not gonna see an identical at your next local cars’n’coffee!

    Like 1
  9. Howard A Member

    I believe Nash-Healey beat them all to the 2 seat sports car market in 1951, and the Crosley beat the Nash-Healey. I think the Darrin was a really cool concept, maybe a bit late, as Kaiser was going through a lot of changes. I read the doors were a problem, binding up or with body flex, they’d pop open, and it sorely needed a V8 and not some Cadillac V8 either, typical American, go nuts. A small V8 would have been sweet. Still, a pretty cool car.

    Like 3
    • Duaney Member

      The concept was more of rolling art, with the 6 cylinder Darrin and the 6 cylinder Corvette. Performance wasn’t considered at all.. Compare also with the performance of the Porsche, a 75 HP four cylinder. Or some of the many other English sports cars with 4 cylinder engines. The concept was a great looking, fun to drive car. The Darrin doors can’t “pop” open, because they slide forwards and back.

      Like 1
      • Howard A Member

        Ok, not “pop open” in the traditional sense,,became unlatched maybe. The doors tended to jam and even though it was a novel idea, the opening proved too small for some Americans.

        Like 1
  10. luke arnott Member

    I had ride in one 40 years ago.Performance nothing to speak of!

  11. RoughDiamond

    Might I suggest that as the Barn Finds Community, we not castrate the writers because they get a fact or two wrong here and there. I am just “reading” about all these vehicles on Barn Finds as most of you are as well. My hat is off to all the writers who are willing to do the research, select pictures, generate copy and provide links in order to post these cool vehicles for our enjoyment and in some cases to purchase.

    Like 28
    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      RoughDiamond, thank you!. As far as I know, none of us writers do this professionally or to make a living, and we certainly don’t know everything about every vehicle that comes through the door. We do it because we also love seeing and learning about a wide variety of vehicles. All of us, even the veterans (Jeff/Jamie, etc.), learn a thing or two when we research a particular vehicle for a post, even if we’ve shown the same model or maybe even the same exact vehicle in the past. If we were making six-figures a year (or even five) and were household names like magazine writers or whatever the current big-name web writers are these days, doing it as our only career, that would be a different deal.

      Thanks to all for understanding that we’re just regular folks with a passion for anything that burns gas and oil, not the be-all-end-all for encyclopedic doctoral research on every vehicle ever made.

      Like 16
  12. Wrong Way

    Oh no! Wrong Way loves this car!

    Like 1
  13. Mark Evans

    Saw one in the flesh for the first time in 2017 at a car show in St. Thomas Ontario. Stunning car & I too had no idea the production numbers were as I had seen so many pictures of this little stunner.

    Like 1
  14. tex cloud

    have a friend here in Oklahoma City drove it to high school still drives it cool car!!! Tex

  15. Brick

    I believe it was the Woodill Wildfire that was the first Fiberglass bodied American car. It beat the Vette to market by about a month.

  16. CPete

    These cars were built in Jackson Michigan, one hour west of Detroit. There are several hiding around here.

  17. plwindish

    I’m wondering if all produced were done in white as the 53 Vettes were also turned out. I’ve seen at least 5 Kaiser-Darrin’s over the the years with the last one being in Tacoma last Fall, all were done in white.

  18. Jerry

    Saw one of these in person at a car show here in Tucson. Beautiful car. I love the pocket door idea.

  19. Wrong Way

    You guys are going to make me buy it. With all these positive comments. I am gonna do some phone calls now! Maybe I will just buy this darn car.

    Like 3
  20. Little Cars

    K-F show was in Tennessee last year. They came in more colors than white, and I’m sure someone in the crowd could tell you EXACTLY how many are known to exist, or at least how many registered with the club. As far as the rumor about quality control on the doors, we read it here the last time a Darrin appeared on Barn Finds…they bind, they sag, they tear at the fiberglass. What’s not to love. Finally, I think the claim is that the Darrin beat the Corvette by being shown and orders taken before the Corvette debut. Woodhill Wildfire doesn’t count…it was not a production car. Crosley doesn’t count, it wasn’t a fiberglass car. Bye now.

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