Hearty Project: 1953 Kaiser Deluxe

Andrew TannerBy Andrew Tanner

Kaiser Motors is one of those automobile manufacturers that tends to fall by the wayside when discussing post-WWII vehicles. This 1953 Kaiser Deluxe was produced in Kaiser Motors’ final year, before Kaiser merged with Willys-Overland. This car has unique styling that sets it apart from the more ‘common’ cars of the era, and is sure to make a few people confused at any event. If nothing else, the heart-shaped windshield frame is eye catching! This particular Kaiser is complete, but rough and in need of some love. It can be found here on Craigslist in Kansas with an asking price of $3,950. 

Being that this car is nearly 65 years old, the tattered upholstery and otherwise ratty interior is hardly a surprise. Most cars had cloth seats at this time, and if wear didn’t get to it first then time certainly did. Also visible here is a square floor patch panel that has been riveted in. The seller notes that the floorboards are rusted in several areas as can be seen in the photos. This car needs some love, but considering its age and location, it could be doing a lot worse!

This Kaiser still has its original engine and 3-speed overdrive manual transmission, and it runs. Not only does it run, but it drives! The seller states “I put a new 6 volt battery in the car along with some fresh high octane 0% ethanol gasoline to do the video.  The engine sounds good – no knocks or rattles and does not smoke.” Nothing helps make a project seem like less of an undertaking than being able to drive it onto the trailer.  It doesn’t run perfectly, and will need some tweaking, but the fact that it drives is definitely worth something.

The biggest downside to the engine bay area is that the hood hinges have broken loose, and thus the hood isn’t actually attached to the car. The hinges have been repaired, but they are not currently installed. Other than the hood damage caused by the hinges breaking, and the rust in the floor and rockers, this is a fairly solid and complete project car. You can be sure that you’re neighbor won’t have one like it! It’s a nice looking vehicle that is certain to be a conversation starter anywhere you take it. Would you take this project on?

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Comments

  1. Fred w.

    As much as I’d like to encourage someone to buy this and restore it, the reality is you can find (with a little patience) a beautifully restored one for around 8K. I know, I sold this one about a year ago for a bit less. It was frame on restored to a high standard.

    8+
    • Gary

      I suspect the two door would fetch a bit more than a four door. This would probably still be a labor of love.

      2+
  2. KEN TILLY

    Yes Fred, but it’s not a 2 door, and you know that makes it nearly worthless in US collectors minds. Not in mine however, as I love it.

    2+
    • Fred w.

      Ken, I literally didn’t notice it was a two door car. I don’t see it as a huge asset with the Kaisers, as they look so similar to the four doors. To me, the four door model is one of the best looking 4 door cars ever.

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      • Andrew Tanner Andrew Tanner Staff

        Fred, I also at first didn’t realize it was a two-door!

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      • carsofchaos

        I agree with you Fred. Having been a Kaiser fan since I was a kid, these are some of the few cars that look odd as 2 doors but just right as 4 doors. Now if only I could find a nice Jade Dragon…..

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  3. SAM61

    I think the styling of these Kaiser’s is on par with the Loewy Starlight coupe. Attached is a Manhattan from our father’s day car show.

    6+
  4. bassboy99

    Every vehicle contributes something to the history of the automobile.
    Please don’t read that 100 million contribute, but the makes, models, stying,
    mechanical improvements and innovations. The Kaiser was a nice looking vehicle to own. I hope someone could/would save this Kaiser.

    2+
  5. Fred w.

    For those interested, I produced a 30 minute documentary on the history of the company and put it on Youtube:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9n1_Py9xqws

    13+
    • RoKo

      I enjoyed your documentary very much. I’ve liked Kaisers since I was a teen.

      1+
    • PAPERBKWRITER

      Fred, I found the video very interesting and informative. IMO not offering a V8 killed the company. They had the world at their feet during the ’46-48 period of time. Thanks for posting.

      1+
    • bassboy99

      I watched the interesting video Fred. You must care about Kaisers a lot to make a nice historical story. I always thought the Henry J was a cute little car. My stepfather had one back in the late fifties. I don’t know what happened to the car, and I was much too you to appreciate anything. Thank you for sharing your work.

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  6. bassboy99

    Thank you very much Fred. I’ll check it out. Thanks for sharing your work.

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  7. Will Owen

    Fred’s car appears to be a ’52, right? With the smaller taillights and a bit less chrome? That is my favorite version. Darrin made it easy to add ornamentation, which I suppose made the bean-counters happy, but to me it WAS a lot like the original Studebaker Starlight, or the ’60 Ford Falcon for that matter: The designer got it dead right the first time, then proceeded to mess it up.

    YMMV …

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  8. Doug

    Take a close look at the roofline – Chevy copied it on the 1991 Caprice, but screwed up the C pillar….which they finally fixed on the Impala version in about 1995… The local police referred to the cars as SCUDs – they weren’t happy that the nearby police departments had the Crown Vic,and they were stuck with the Caprice…..

    2+
  9. Ken Carney

    wow! Been awhile since I’ve seen one these. I’ve always wondered how
    these cars might’ve performed with a V8 engine under the hood. sure, the
    supercharged version of the six gave them adequate, if not comparable
    accelaration times with most V8s of the day, but it leaves you to wonder
    just what might have happened if Kaiser had been able to source such an
    engine. I’ve also read that these cars were blessed with great handling as
    well. As the story goes, a Chrysler engineer who sampled one said that
    it rode better than an Imperial and handled great. As for this car, I would
    not alter it in order to find out how it would run with V8 power. Rather, I would use a rusted out roller for this purpose and restore this one to driver
    status.

    1+
  10. Allen

    2-dr vs 4-dr… It depends on the car. IMHO this Kaiser does not look right in the 2-dr version at all! OTOH, the Loewy Studebakers did not look right with 4 doors.

    In 4-dr trim, these Kaisers were always beautiful, and they have stood the test of time incredibly well. They were WAY ahead of their time. Were it not for size, I could mistake one of these for modern production.

    How many of us are old enough to remember the designation: “club coupe”? I would guess that it was the club coupe that evolved into the hardtop convertible. Before the hardtop era, club coupes were regarded as very handsome and very sporty. I loved and continue to love them all, but two-door sedans do nothing for me. This is something I’ve never understood about the collector car market. Club coupes: YES! Two door sedans? I don’t think so. If a car can’t be a club coupe, a convertible, or a woody 4-door station wagon, let it be a proper four-door sedan. The two 4-dr Kaisers shown in these comments get a huge thumbs-up from me. The car for sale is a two-door, and I’m a lot less attracted. FWIW…

    1+
    • carsofchaos

      Totally agree with you Allen. In the early 50’s the Club Coupe design was one of the best in my opinion. I’ve had a couple, a 51 Chevy “Sport Coupe” and a 52 Olds “2 Door Sedan”.

      1+
  11. Loco Mikado

    About 40 years ago I worked with a guy in his early 50’s that had a whole barn full of Kaisers, Frazers and Allstates. There was well over 40 of them which he had gotten most of them for free. I often wondered what happened to them as most of the ran or could be made to run at the time. Of course this was in Portland, Oregon which had a Kaiser assembly plant.

    1+
    • Brakeservo

      I never knew there was a Kaiser Frazier factory in Portland but right across the river in Vancouver the prototype, the very first Kaiser was hand built at a Kaiser shipyard. I wonder if the factory was affected by the great Vanport flood or if it was closer to the old Ford factory down on Division Street in another part of town? I too knew an old Oregonian with a whole barn full of Kaisers, Fraziers and Henry J’s – a crusty old guy who liked to talk about conspiracies in the auto industry right after WWII. Considering the Tucker and Davis maybe he was on to something.

      1+
      • Loco Mikado

        The Kaiser plant was near where Columbia Blvd & Portland Hwy intersect near Parkrose.

        0
  12. Brakeservo

    What’s with the spring and snap connector on top of the engine? Looks like one end is connected to the top hose outlet/thermostat housing but I can’t figure out what it’s there for.

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  13. Brakeservo

    He Loco Mikado – thanks. I used to live near there. Had no idea of the Kaiser history.

    0
  14. Loco Mikado

    It looks to me like a throttle return spring, but I am not familiar with how the throttle linkage is routed on these cars.

    0

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