One-Off Roadster! 1958 Carston Sports Car

The Volvo P1800 was an exercise by the Swedish company to prove that the engines equipped in their family cars could power an exotic sports car. Today’s 1958 Carston was created in a similar vein, although not by the company who provided the donor car. This is a small sports car based on the chassis of a Kaiser Henry J, a basic compact economy car that was not exactly popular in the mid-twentieth century but has since gained a small following for the mere novelty of its subsequent rarity. You can find this automotive curiosity and not-quite-Henry J here on the Seattle craigslist. Thank you, MattR for letting us know about it!

I wasn’t able to find much information on the coachbuilder, but it looks exceptionally well done for a one-off. It has good fit and finish, and the design of the car shows a good understanding of proportion and harkens back to both tiny European sports cars and open-wheel racers. Mechanically, you’ll find a Kaiser flathead inline-six with a single carburetor installed, but a dual carburetor intake included in the sale. I’m fairly certain, if this is indeed the stock engine from a Henry J, it was supplied by Willys-Overland, so you can draw a relation to the Jeeps of yore. The 80 horsepower goes through a three-speed manual to the rear wheels.

Underneath, you can find little if any rust, a basic box frame with independent front suspension and a live rear axle, with stopping power handled by drums at all four corners. Honestly, it looks ready for a sporting life. Sure the paint is a little rough, and I wouldn’t trust drum brakes more than six decades old, but do a disc conversion at least in the front and 80 horsepower is all you really need in a car this small and presumably lightweight.

Inside, there’s a basic interior with a go-fast handle for the passenger, two seats, no seatbelts, no airbags, no radio, no HVAC, a speedometer, and basic gauges for oil, water, voltage, and fuel. Riding around in this would surely be an open-air experience, and an open-air experience that can seldom be replicated. The combination of a view through that oversized banjo steering wheel, over the long hood, and seeing each of the two front wheels bobbing about over all the bumps in the road is an experience few cars can match.


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  1. James Miller

    Prove me wrong, but I thought that the Henry J had a straight axel in front, and was a 4 cylinder.

    • RayT Member

      Never had a straight front axle, and the “upscale” Henry J did indeed have a “six,” developing 80bhp. Like the “four,” it was an L-head unit, but smaller than the Continental engine used in fullsize Kaisers.

      Like 2
    • LotusS777

      It may just be that most all Henry Js we remember seeing had straight axles, and a blown V8 of some sort!

      Like 9
  2. Gerard Frederick

    Great looking roadster, but the Volvo P1800 comparison is REALLY a stretch, I think the rubber band broke! Aside from that, if I were younger, I´d really be tempted. Just imagine hitting the back roads of northern California´s wine country, with the pretty little lady by ones side — ah, the heady days of youth.

    Like 3
  3. old beach guy

    That’s just plain cool. This old beach guy could get fired up over that.

    Like 5
  4. Howie Mueler

    A bit rough but very cool. Is that Bondo on the back deck?

  5. chrlsful

    big fan of any i6 esp if x-flow, not so much flatheads. Glad the body is steel not glass, easier for this one to wrk on (tho I did make a 65ft motor sailer for uncle). Thought it interesting whichever orphan made the frame had it notched so wheels could turn. Up frnt the vehicle may not need that for separate-fendered (“free-fendered”?) wheels, cant C well in these pic.

    Extra garage space? may B but probably shine it on for a mid-last century Italian sportier vehicle (sedan, coupe, spyder).

  6. Scott Marquis

    This is way too close for comfort.

    Like 1
  7. Jwaltb

    I was really hoping the hood was up in that first picture. Not sure even a mother could love that face.

  8. Rick

    The headlights crammed into the grille remind me of that guy in the upper left corner of the Exile On Main Street album cover.

    Like 3
  9. t-bone BOB

    Located in Snohomish, WA

  10. Wayne

    Very cool! I like it! Packard tail lamps?
    Spent a lot of my early (4 to15 years) looking at a Henry J chassis. And this is it! (very stiff and well engineered)
    I think the price is a little stiff. But if the circumstance were different (time and cost) I would own it. Very well done.

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