Hidden For 57 Years: Customized 1952 Henry J

In our continuing mission to bring you the weird, wild, and wonderful of the barn-found-automobile world, we present you with this extremely-customized piece of work. It’s been in hiding for a long time, but it’s out in the sunlight again and can be yours if you check out this listing on eBay out of Pleasant Ridge, Michigan. Wait ’til you get a look at this thing!

 

We have shown you a few standard-issue Henry J here on Barn Finds in the past. Rather than bore you with the story of how wealthy industrialists Henry J. Kaiser and Joseph W. Frazer teamed up after WWII to form a new car company, let’s look at the car line instead:  The Henry J. was produced from 1950 to 1954, and was created as an entry-level car which even lower-income people of the day could afford. To that end, Kaiser-Frazer cut development costs by using some existing components like Willys-Overland engines, and by eliminating some items on the base-models which were standard-fare on other autos of that time; things like glovebox or a trunk (boot) lids, roll-down rear windows, armrests, and passenger sun visor all cost extra, if available at all. One could, however, have a 68-horsepower 134ci four-cylinder that was similar to the CJ3A Jeep engine, or an 80hp 161ci six-cylinder, neither of which were known for their get-up-and-go.

Henry J were introduced at a time when there wasn’t a whole lot of market for a low-end econo-box that got around 25 mpg. Many factors were in play at the time, not least of which were the abundance of cheap gasoline and the fact that you could get a whole lot more car from Chevrolet for only a couple hundred dollars more. By 1952, rebadged Henry J were being sold through Sears & Roebuck (yes, the department store) as an “Allstate”, and regular Henry J were being produced in Japan as part of the rebuilding effort, but they still just weren’t selling as well as Kaiser-Frazer needed them to. The following year, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance opined that the Henry J was “in trouble … the closest thing to a “basic transportation” car on the road today, and as such, does not appeal to today’s car buyers … In trade-in value, it ranks among the lowest.” and Kaiser decided to pull the plug. In summary: The Henry J wasn’t necessarily a terrible per se, it was a car that not many Americans wanted at the time, and even fewer wanted to keep after buying.

With all that in mind, let’s look at this car. It’s obviously nowhere near what it was when it rolled off the Willow Run line, and if the stories of their cheapness are true, it might be better this way. The seller gives us some information, but not a complete picture, so we have to let the actual pictures do most of the talking. We’re told that it was modified sometime in the late ’50s, including some Corvette parts, and then parked from 1962 to today. We’re also told that it has no frame rust and that it doesn’t run quite yet, but that they’ve put a few new parts in, to no avail. We can see some Corvette interior parts and what looks like an original Corvette body, customized and laid over the Kaiser chassis with the four-cylinder engine. It’s missing a custom door panel and the seats are completely shot, but those seats look a bit like Corvette units, so that might not be so bad for restoration purposes. All in all, it’s probably the only one like it in existence, and that alone makes it sort of interesting.

I knew almost nothing about the Henry J before researching and presenting this car to you. The only things that I recalled were seeing them at shows sometimes, usually customized or made into Gassers. With everything that I have now learned, I probably wouldn’t have purchased one new if I were alive back then. Having never driven one,  though, I can’t say for certain. What I can say for sure is that this one is one-of-a-kind. Who knows, maybe there’s some hidden history or fascinating true story behind it? Sometimes, wild customs come with an even wilder backstory. What do YOU think of it? Let me know in the comments.

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Comments

  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    Yeah, because the Henry J wasn’t goofy enough!

    9
  2. George

    I don’t see any corvette influences in the body other than the use of fiberglass, windshield and convertible top. The seat shells look more like surplus fighter plane seats from WWII. I also think that the price is a bit over the top. Have an auction and start at $750… That’s about all that I would pay for its weirdness. I would drive it just to see people’s looks when they saw it!

    5
    • Charlie Strunk

      The door posts and the side windows and side window trim
      are Corvette as is the panel the back of the top touches.

      3
  3. Fred W

    Looks like it might have a ‘Vette windshield and steering wheel- that’s about all I see.

    3
  4. John B.

    Take all of the Corvette parts off of it, give the useable Henry J parts to a Henry J person then bury the rest for another 57 years or longer!

    1
  5. David Rhodes

    it should stay hidden

    6
  6. Lance

    This makes the Aztec look good.

    6
  7. JagManBill

    Now we know where the Nissan Figaro got its styling cues from

    9
  8. Richard Gugenberger

    I remember Sears and Roebuck selling Allstate cars right on the floor in the stores

    , even then I thought they were ugly

    2
  9. Zack

    why would you ruin a henry j for this

    2
  10. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Like……….

  11. Wayne

    Not Corvette seats, but many other C1Corvette parts here. Corvette doors (1956?), Corvette windshield and top. Corvette top cover door/lid and possible 1955 trunk lid. So my 2 cents worth says it started with a crashed 1956 Corvette, mounted it on a Henry J frame (not nessesarily a bad thing as the Henry J might have been a low option creation, but the frame and suspension were first class for the time) The owner got creative with some fiberglass and then added the 1955 Corvette trunk lid. When you are somewhat creative and you have a Henry J and a wrecked Corvette, this is what you get. Better than building Bama-Cruiser from Bronco and a Mustang!

    2
  12. Coventrycat

    I see something I can’t unsee now. Thanks.

    3
  13. Raymond J Lawson III

    There is a lever coming out of the center tunnel in front of the gear shift. Any guesses?

    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      Manual choke? That little rectangle NEXT to the gear shift lever is standard-issue GM ashtray of the period.

  14. Mike

    Oh come on, it’s not that bad. Someone with a good eye for design could tweek the front end into something interesting.

    1
  15. dogwater

    There has to be a lot of mud in that car by the looks of it.

    1
  16. TimM

    I think Mr. Sears and Mr. Roebuck would be turning in there grave if they saw what was done to one of the cars they sold!!!

    3
  17. Clay Bryant

    Anyone can make 2019 comments but 70 years ago this was “different” then 99.999 % of the cars on the road and commanded attention. Sitting beside a 53 Ford or Chevy, what one of the 3 do you think people would walk up to and look at. (Not your dad’s new Chevy or Ford ,trust me)

    3
  18. rustylink

    that heap makes my eyes sting…..

    1
  19. Gaspumpchas

    I agree with Clay and George, I like the fact that its different–really different. That said, once I could get over the ugliness, it sure would be a conversation piece, Some one will buy it for the ‘vette pieces. The smooth, round shape?? Shaped like a turd.
    Cheers
    GPC

    2
  20. Richard

    Not bad. Looks like a Nissan Figaro

  21. James Turner

    I don, t like to play a Ralph Nader but this monstrosity is a death trap at any speed. At least a Henry J. had front and rear bumpers and an all steel body/ frame.

    1
  22. Fletch

    I’d hide my face, too, if it looked like that.

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