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Ex-Museum Find: 1951 LaDawri Speedster

It’s not that uncommon for auto museums to raise money to complete projects by selling other projects or even completed cars. This 1951 LaDawri kit car (okay, specialty assembled vehicle) is just that, being offered by a private museum here on eBay. The museum is looking for the best offer but has also posted a buy it now price of $10,750. It’s located in Sunland Park, New Mexico.

We’ve covered more LaDawri cars than I expected (click here to see previous LaDawri posts) and if you’ve paid attention, you already know that the company started out in Canada but quickly moved to southern California. The bodies they produced could be fitting to a variety of chassis; we’re told this one is titled as a 1951 Ford, so I suspect that’s what’s underneath. Looking at the completion status of the car, I’m willing to bet this one spent some time on the road prior to being partially disassembled. Do you like that cool wraparound windshield? The seller tells us it is actually an inverted windshield from a GMC truck! Who knew? That’s some creative re-purposing!

There’s a set of front bumpers to match these rear ones located in the trunk of the car. I think the two-tone paint scheme really works with this car and is so, so 1950s.

Full matching instrumentation mounted nicely puts the original assembly of this car ahead of most of the older kits I’ve seen. There’s even a nice row of toggle switches underneath the dash, although I don’t see any labels for what they are for.

Now, this is different! Rather than the typical small block V8 that usually has found its way under the hood in a kit that’s been around this long (and yes I know they weren’t available yet in 1951), we have a cool-looking Kaiser inline six-cylinder flathead engine with a manual transmission (presumably a three-speed). I’m certainly surprised the builder chose this engine rather than a Ford or Chevy unit, but as long as you are willing to settle for somewhat mediocre performance I think it’s a neat choice. Some underhood cosmetic efforts could really make the engine pop when you raise the hood! I wasn’t able to pin the engine down further, but apparently Kaisers were fitted with one of three six-cylinder engines; a Continental, an in-house design, and a Willys-supplied engine. Can one of you sharp-eyed and knowledgable readers tell us which one this is? And could you find a home in your garage for this unusual fiberglass sports car?


  1. RayT Member

    Jamie, I think the engine was taken from a Henry J, not a “big” Kaiser. Intake and exhaust are on the “wrong” side, and the location of the distributor is different. At least it’s not the same as the unit in my three (!) Kaisers…. At least that’s what my memory tells me.

    In any case, it seems an odd choice to me. I would have expected a Ford “flattie” V8 or, at the very least, a Ford “six” in there. Or, as the car seems to have been a later build, a Y-block or GM OHV V8.

    I remember seeing exactly ONE LaDawri on the road back in the late 1950s. This would be a fun project, one that the new owner could personalize — for me, that steering wheel would have to go, along with the whitewalls — and end up with a neat period cruiser.

    Like 1
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Thanks, Ray! Agreed on the odd choice, but I do think it would be neat looking under the hood. Not that I’d turn my nose up at a flathead V8 either! Agreed on the steering wheel and whitewalls!

    • Poppapork

      I would love an inline 8 in there (and i know nothing of inline 8s)

      Like 1
  2. Darrun

    Does the Head not say Super Sonic on it? Or I’m I just seeing things. That should tell a little more about it.

    • RayT Member

      It does indeed say “Supersonic” on it, which was a Kaiser tradename for the Continental (then owned by K-F) flathead “six.” I believe the one used in that car was 161 cubic inches instead of the 226 used in full-size Kaisers.

  3. jerry z

    Buying a car like this would be difficult to keep it original. I would remove the flathead and put in an ohv V8 engine of the era, not a modern engine. Good looking car too.

    Like 1
  4. Sam61

    Very cool! I hope someone finishes it. Maybe a throaty Flowmaster exhaust. American Racing salt flat gray magnesium wheels, blackwalls and a top notch interior.

  5. Ryan Hilkemann

    A corvett?

  6. MorganW Morgan Winter

    Really strange engine choice, since this must have been constructed after 1956!

  7. Tom Member

    Please don’t hate me, I just have nothing good to say about this. MAYBE different wheels and tires would make a big difference ?

    Again, this type of car or kit is not what I prefer but this thing looks like a bad attempt at a C1 Corvette.

    Like 3
  8. bone

    If its got a Kaiser drivetrain, wouldn’t it make sense that this was built on a Kaiser chassis and not a 51 Ford ? I cant see someone buying this kit , getting a 51 Ford , stripping it down to the frame and then installing the Kaiser engine and trans when Fords were s plentiful

    Like 1
    • MorganW Morgan Winter

      That would make more sense, I know at least a couple of these were built on Henry J chassis. I think the suggested wheelbase for the is 100-104 inches, which would put it right in Henry J territory.

    • Dr. David Fields

      It was built on a Henry J frame with a Henry J motor. There is no serial number on the car, but the Kaiser has e ne number on the “Supersonic” brand engine. All Kaiser engines were made by Continental.

  9. Tom S.

    Consider one of those OHC inline 6 cylinder Pontiac engines to liven this car up a bit.

    Like 1
  10. Gary MacDonald

    What is with the dual fan belt set ups ? It almost looks as if a longer , larger motor was in and the pulleys and fan belt nearest the radiator were the original spot they were in ? Just guessing but a flathead ford v-8 , sbc , or a turbo Buick Gran nat motor would be some of my choices , only because I’ve got multiples of each ready to find a home .

    Like 1
  11. Lance Nord

    At first glimpse, it reminded me of a C1 Corvette. Perhaps the styling cues from this car were used in the C1 Corvette?

    Like 1
    • MorganW Morgan Winter

      These La Dawri body kits were first produced in 1957. So more likely, the other way around.

  12. Dr David Fields

    Regarding the engine, extra fan belt, etc the tachometer runs through cable connected directly to the crank shaft. The car sits very low on the Henry J Kaiser chassis. The fan ca not run on the waterpump because the hood is also very long. The radiator is moved quite forward of it’s original location on the chassis so the fan is functional. I am not convinced that the car was ever finished.

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