Disclosure: This site may receive compensation when you click on some links and make purchases.

DIY Pickup: 1951 Kaiser “El Camino”

At first glance, this Kaiser looks like it may have once been a Manhattan sedan. But that nameplate didn’t move over from sister company Frazer until 1952. So, this 1951 Kaiser probably started life as a Special or Deluxe model that the original owner decided to convert into an El Camino-like vehicle a decade later. In storage for 16 years now and needing a thorough restoration, this interesting artifact can be found in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and is available here on Facebook Marketplace for $4,000 OBO. Our thanks go to Peter Rettig for this most unusual tip.

Considering that Kaiser-Frazer stopped producing automobiles in 1955, they had to be getting scarce by 1962. So, if the original owner had wanted a Chevy El Camino or Ford Ranchero, you must wonder why he/she just didn’t get one of them rather than creating this pickup from a sedan. But since it was just a used car back then, that may not have come under consideration. Today, a 1951 Kaiser or Frazer would be likely worth more than this DIY project.

We’re not privy to the process that was followed to bring this transformation to fruition. So, we don’t know how well it was done. Certainly, a lot of custom bodywork took place, but much of it is rusty or dented now after all these years. The seller has owned it for at least 16 years and has decided to let it go as he/she isn’t going to address what it needs.

This is a non-running vehicle, once powered by Kaiser’s 226 cubic-inch “Supersonic” inline-6 with a manual transmission and factory overdrive. Aside from the “El Camino” touches, the seller says it’s a complete and original Kaiser. While the upholstery could use some attention, we’re told the dashboard sports its original leather material (they did that in those days?). The exterior paint looks to be some version of baby blue, which may date to the day the vehicle left the assembly line. Bringing this machine back to its original state isn’t feasible, so the next owner is going to want to restore it as a “Kaiser Camino.”


  1. Avatar photo Ike Onick

    Kaiser El Kamino

    Like 1
  2. Avatar photo Erik de Mello

    I love it!!! This would be a great build to get on the road!!!

    Like 5
  3. Avatar photo Vince H

    Engine is a Continental. Kaiser did not make their own engines.

    Like 5
    • Avatar photo JustPassinThru

      Continental design. And it may be (I’d have to look it up) this was actually manufactured by Continental.

      But Kaiser (in various permutations) did buy the rights to the Continental design, and maybe the tooling (or had duplicate tooling ordered) to make it on-premises, at Willow Run at first, later at the Willys home-base in Toledo.

      Remember, the Jeep “Tornado” OHC engine was just a Continental flathead six with an OHC cam grafted on…engineered on, say the auto books, and with the claim that the engine work cost as much as the Wagoneer it was intended for…but it didn’t work out, not until sent to Argentina to a subsidiary company.

      But…it could have been an in-house Kaiser engine. Just as the Buick V6 became, for four short years, a Kaiser owned-and-manufactured engine (tooling sold back to GM by AMC, became the 3800 V6).

      Like 2
    • Avatar photo Duane

      Initially Kaiser Frazer purchased the engines from Continental, but they purchased all the rights and subsequently built all the engines in their own factories. Kaiser Jeep kept making this very same engine until 1962, and even later converted the engine to an overhead cam design.

      Like 0
  4. Avatar photo charlie Member

    Padded dash and pop out windshield, so in a crash your head did not go through the windshield with the result that your throat got cut, or get smashed on the dashboard. Given that race cars, and airplanes, had seat belts in 1950 it is a mark of how afraid of safety features we were, not to have them back then. Mercedes did. I put them in my ’56 Chevy in ’59, but still would have been impaled on the steering column if it had crashed.

    Like 1
  5. Avatar photo Ricky Member

    That has to be the ugliest thing I have ever seen.

    Like 5
  6. Avatar photo Lance

    Likely started out as a Kaiser Vagabond then the roof got cut, rear doors welded and modified. A cobbled mess.Too bad.

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member


      Not a Vagabond or Traveler, they had a rather ugly and large exposed hinge assembly for the tailgate, not on this car.

      Like 0
      • Avatar photo chrlsful

        those 2 U could sleep in? even more comfortable than the Hudson (sleeper car model)? I look for sketches, pic, images w/o luck on all of these (some 30’s – ’50s, eh?).

        Like 0
  7. Avatar photo Jack Quantrill

    These cars were ugly to begin with! This one is worse. Kaiser car designers were the same ones who designed Liberty ships in WWII.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo JustPassinThru

      I thought it was Dutch Darren who did the Kaiser cars. At least the second generation, with the higher roof…look at the door top edge.

      Like 1
  8. Avatar photo Patrick Melvin Anderson

    A Flower car?

    Like 3
  9. Avatar photo JagManBill

    Original color Caribbean Coral. Pull the engine/trans and put them on the shelf. Drop in a Ford or Chevy 300 6yl and appropriate automatic or stick, retro the brakes to modern and leave it just as it looks. OR… repaint to original color. Either way, A nice unique driver

    Like 3
  10. Avatar photo FasterAsteroid

    I’m with Erik, one of the coolest cars out there. I would drive this beautiful beast everywhere.

    Like 2
  11. Avatar photo scottymac

    Interesting fleet: Kaiser, 1958-9 Ford wagon, custom ’56 Dodge, and scads of motorcycles. Guy knew what he wanted, shipped the car from Minnesota to Rhode Island, thought the metal work was top notch. If it doesn’t sell this round, advertise as a split window, see how many Vette collectors call!

    Like 0
  12. Avatar photo Lowell Peterson

    Vagabond or flower car? Either way its dyin’ to be a street rod! Go for it!
    Unique street rod!

    Like 0
  13. Avatar photo geezerglide85

    I might be a little late to the party, but I want to get my 2cents in. If this was made in ’62 it was most likely a very cheap or even free used car. I remember 5 yr old Studebakers going for 200 bucks after they ceased production. Nobody wanted an orphan car, so in ’62 they probably couldn’t give this away. So why not cut it up and make a cool pickup.
    As a side note I believe the Continental six was originaly the Graham six but was made by Continental as Graham had no foundry. After Graham’s demise Continental bought the rights to it to sell to independants (Checker) ect. Joseph Frazer was at one time president of Graham and wanted to make cars after WWll, but the Grahams were done with the car business. He then teamed up with Henry J. Kaiser and the rest is history.

    Like 3
  14. Avatar photo BlondeUXB Member

    I’m sure the windshield roofline looked better on paper than life.
    That said, the Eddie Munster forehead here just screams out to be hauling something like a Honda Dream out back…

    Like 1
  15. Avatar photo Mikey P


    Like 0
  16. Avatar photo wcshook

    Decide if you want to bring this engine back to life or not. If not, update it with a newer power plant. Take care of other needed repairs. Do a bit of body work, new paint job, and it really wouldn’t look all that bad, IMO.

    Like 1
  17. Avatar photo Howard A Member

    “A hey, paw, I just got this here fancy new sawzall, what say we try it out on that old wreck out back?” I mean no disrespect to the fine folks of Minnesota, where this undoubtedly came from. You know what they say, give a Yooper, a Cheesehead, or a,,,can’t find a slang for Minnesotians, a welder, torch, sawzall and a free weekend and possibly some sort of “motivation”, and this is the result. I think it’s pretty cool too, although Kaiser nuts will faint on the spot, I’m sure.

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo Kim in Lanark

      You’re pretty accurate there Howard. Back in the day I lived on the rez in the Wisconsin North Woods and this was not unknown, usually start with a station wagon and cut everything off back of the B pillar, and fill in behind the front seat with a plywood sheet and a plexiglass window.This looks like a fairly professional job considering the donor car was probably traded for an old canvas canoe or a bag of rice.

      Like 0
  18. Avatar photo George Birth

    Neat old truck? Whatever it was it’s kinda cute, wish I had the funds to buy something like this to finish and drive. Looks unusual to say the least.

    Like 1
  19. Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

    Jagmanbill is correct, original color was Caribbean Coral. The ID plate shows the body is 1, that’s a 4-door sedan. Not a Traveler or Vagabond. It began life as a Kaiser Special sedan.

    Like 3
  20. Avatar photo gregory kina

    wouldn’t the back glass look better perpendicular to the frame???

    Like 0

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Get new comment updates via email. Or subscribe without commenting.