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Middleman Marketed Vagabond: 1949 Kaiser Vagabond

As earlier generations pass from this Earth, their survivors must deal with their estates.  The problem for many of the ones tasked with closing things out is that few of them are car people.  This is where a middleman comes in, and that appears to be exactly what is happening with the car you see here.  Take a close look at this 1949 Kaiser Vagabond sedan for sale on Craigslist in Middletown, Connecticut.  Being offered on multiple platforms by a broker, is this innovative but slightly rough Kaiser worth the $7,900 asking price?  Thanks to Tony P. for the tip!

The number of people in the old car hobby in the sixties, seventies, and eighties must have numbered in the hundreds of thousands.  For car enthusiasts, there was no better time to be alive.  Attrition hadn’t completely whittled down the available inventory of desirable vintage automobiles, new old stock parts were available, and restoration costs hadn’t become so onerous yet.  From hot rodding to Pebble Beach-level perfect restorations, the sky was the limit if you were in the hobby.

That was the top of the mountain for the hobby.  We are now careening down the valuation mountain in many of these vehicles.  Blue chip investments like top-tier classics, most open cars, and sports cars still have a long way to the bottom.  On the other hand, more pedestrian forms of transportation are suffering from too much supply chasing very little demand.  The situation is sort of similar to the stray dog problem.  Those of us who love them want to save every one of them.  If you try, you can’t make a dent in the population and soon are labeled a hoarder.  You can’t win some days.

While we would all love to have the resources to purchase a Bill Harrah-level collection, that is just not realistic.  So, while we lust for another car to adopt, sellers are turning to brokers to handle the sales of cars they don’t love nearly as much as we do.  This one is in the hands of someone named Dave at autoarcheologist.com.  Evidently, this outfit does the heavy lifting between the heirs finding out what they inherited until the car leaves in the hands of a new owner.  That is something that surely takes time and patience.  Many heirs simply don’t have the time for this.  Dave does, and the price for the service is around 10% of the sales price.

Would that be fair for this 1949 Kaiser?  At a $7,900 asking price, how could you say otherwise?  Handling the advertising, sales calls, and emails, and the labor to get the car to a presentable shape is certainly worth that.  It seems almost a labor of love for this car.  There are still some folks who are Kaiser fans out there.  However, many of the true lovers of this marque have passed on.  Kaiser Darrin sports cars are still bringing big money and Henry Js still punch outside of their weight class in terms of price.  The more pedestrian Frasier and Kaiser models, despite their styling and innovations, seem stuck in price below $10,000 for good, drivable examples.

While this one still looks presentable, there are a few rust and trim issues here and there if you scrutinize the pictures hard enough.  The car will also need some floor insulation and either mats or carpeting depending upon what they originally came with.  Perhaps one of our readers can tell us which one would be correct.  Other than that, I think all of us can say that we would drive the car in its present condition.  Being the more upscale Vagabond version of the open rear Traveler, complete with the interesting pass-through trunk area, it is a fairly rare car.  One could easily see a future as a sales prop for an outdoor company.

Originally a car from the Pacific Northwest, this car was brought back east and returned to running and driving condition by the middleman.  Having sat for decades, it received everything from soaking the cylinders in Marvel Mystery Oil to a full brake job and tires.  It is said to run and drive well at this point.  It even has overdrive as an option to make the car capable of handling present-day highway speeds.

If you were looking for a car to drive and enjoy, you would be hard-pressed to find a better candidate.  Not every car needs to be restored, but every car needs to be driven and enjoyed if possible.  Finding a home for this fascinating Kaiser is doing the Lord’s work in a way and buying it would put you in automotive heaven for a fairly small sum.  Hopefully, this Kaiser finds a good home soon.

Have you ever used a middleman to sell a classic car?  Would the presence of one slow you down from making an offer on a vehicle you saw in an ad?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. Avatar photo AutoArcheologist

    Hi everyone,
    I’m Dave — AutoArcheologist 😁
    Any questions or comments, please share. I’ll do my best to answer as quickly as possible.
    Thanks Jeff for this piece on the Vagabond and mention of AutoArcheologist.

    Like 20
    • Avatar photo Big_Fun Member

      Here’s a great video Dave posted on another site…really neat ride! I appreciate him doing videos. Gives more context on condition and operation, and that exhaust note is rhythmic!

      https://youtu.be/1I8o1gHm800

      Like 3
  2. Avatar photo Fred W

    I owned a ’51 Kaiser Deluxe a few years back and got to know some club members through shooting a documentary film about the manufacturer. They are still around and loving the marque. Prices are held down mainly because they made mainly 4 doors and 2 door cars with doors same size as 4 doors. A few Darrins and Frazer convertibles help drive prices up a bit. Mine was very happy on the backroads at 55, on the interstate, not so much (probably needed block flushed). This one looks like a great deal to me (at a glance) because some carpet, engine detailing and cleaning up the wood is going to work miracles. Traveler is a rare, desirable model and some K/F fan is going to be willing to “travel” for it.

    Like 12
    • Avatar photo Duaney

      The 2 door doors on the 1951-55 Kaisers are inches longer than their 4 door counterparts. Just the same as any other manufacturer.

      Like 6
  3. Avatar photo Steve

    My dad bought a Kaiser-Frazer after WWII because it was the only new car available. He always said it was the worst car he ever owned.

    Like 5
    • Avatar photo duaney

      Happy you should mention an unhappy customer. I’ve been working on our 51 Buick Super, purchased brand new, still in good condition. I’ve also owned several 1951-54 Kaisers for many years. As far as actually driving the vehicles, the Kaiser steers, handles, rides, way better than the Buick. This is from a life time of owning these cars. Of course the Buick has better acceleration due to the 8 cylinder. Buicks were the number 3 best seller in those days, but the Kaiser was number 1 of the independents for the 1951 model year. I doubt that there were many Buick customers who went out of their way to test drive the Kaiser.

      Like 9
      • Avatar photo Steve

        I wasn’t born when he owned it and he never told me why he hated it.

        Like 2
  4. Avatar photo Terry T Brinson

    The spare tire is missing. It should be bolted to the inside of the left rear door, which should be bolted permanently shut.

    Like 8
  5. Avatar photo Dennis Bailey

    I just bought a 1953 Kaiser Manhattan. I was looking for: a car of my birth year, flathead 6, three speed manual with OD, power nothing, and not a Ford or GM. Original paint would have been cool, but a respray at some point in its life makes it look more like a new car. I couldn’t believe its driveability. It would be my daily driver except I have a scooter that gets over 50 mpg. I am very impressed by what Kaiser-Frazer created. She’s a beauty!

    Like 15
  6. Avatar photo Bub

    I liked that write up, Jeff. Good job.

    Like 10
  7. Avatar photo Big C

    My Dad said he’d bought a Kaiser, to surprise her. A Frazer, to amaze her. And a Tucker, to…I forgot the rest.

    Like 15
  8. Avatar photo Bob19116

    Interesting prior comment that Kaiser was #1 independent in that year, so that means more Kaisers were sold than Nash or Packard or Hudson. Somehow Studebaker-Packard survived to mid 1960’s with bankruptcy/ liquidation and Nash-Hudson joined as AMC, later bought Jeep and survived to 1988 before being purchased by Chrysler. What was last year for Kaiser vehicles? Did they also own Jeep at some point before AMC bought it in the 1960’s? Did Kaiser Corp. liquidate or did they have other divisions that continued after they shut down vehicle production?

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Mike F.

      My Dad worked for Kaiser Engineers for 35 years, retiring in 1970. Kaiser had a number of divisions and operations…Engineers, Kaiser Aluminum, started Kaiser Permanente Healthcare, had iron mines and a steel mill in Fontana CA during and after ww2, others. The car operation was just one of many. They did buy Willys Jeep and owned it for awhile. Kaiser Motors did well right after the war but was underfunded, and made a mistake by developing the Henry J compact when they should have used the money to develop a V8. Big 3 competition ’53 and ’54 killed them.
      We had a number of Kaisers. My high school car was a ’51 bright green 2 door and despite all the laughs from the ’40 Ford and ’49 Merc guys I loved it and actually got dates!

      Like 4
      • Avatar photo duaney

        If Kaiser did not built the Henry J, they wouldn’t have received a huge government loan that they needed for survival. The Henry J was part of the deal, the government felt that Americans needed a lower cost new car. Kaiser purchased Willys Overland and owned it continually until they sold Kaiser Jeep to AMC. Since Jeeps are still manufactured today, in that way, some of Kaiser is still in business.

        Like 3
    • Avatar photo duaney

      The last Kaiser in the United States were the 1955’s. However Kaisers were built in Argentina for many years after that.

      Like 3
      • Avatar photo Bob19116

        I do remember reading about Kaiser Argentina and that factory was building Renaults, Jeeps and (AMC) Ramblers i believe into the 1970’s. I don’t know if Kaiser still owned it but they made modified 1964 Rambler Americans that were called Renault Torinos through the 1960’s.

        Like 2
  9. Avatar photo Dale L

    My dad owned a black four door ’38 Chevy for 10 years. In 1948 he ordered a Tucker. After that fell through he purchased a baby blue ’49 Kaiser. When he drove it out of the dealership, after signing the papers, the car broke down before he got home. I want to personally thank the ‘Big 3’ automakers for that situation. l wasn’t even one year old at the time. I drive Mazda’s now. As a side note; dad traded it in for a ’51 Pontiac.

    Like 1

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