Parked since 1955: 1951 Henry J 514 Deluxe

080916 Barn Finds - 1951 Henry J - 1

This all-original 1951 Henry J 514 Deluxe is in Chicago, Illinois and is listed on eBay. The bidding is up to just over $2,500 with three days left. I sure hope that this doesn’t get turned into the “gasser” that the seller has in their tag line!

080916 Barn Finds - 1951 Henry J - 2

The Henry J has one of the most iconic shapes of any car ever made, in my opinion. And, that they only made them from 1951 to 1954 blows my mind. How can such a great-looking car such as this only have had a four-year run? Henry J Kaiser, of Kaiser-Frazer Corporation, needed a “small” car in the lineup and he also wanted one that would be inexpensive enough that buyers who would previously only have had the money for a used car could purchase a brand new Kaiser-Frazer product. As a low-price leader, the Henry J didn’t have such things as operable rear windows or a trunk lid, but it did have a couple of design tweaks by none other than Howard “Dutch” Darrin, such as the famous dip in the rear window. One thing he wanted to make sure that everyone knew wasn’t his work were the rear fins, which were taller than even Cadillac had in the same period. I think that they just add to the iconic shape of this car.

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This all-original, blue satin car is so original that even the tires and battery are the ones that came with the car in 1951! It must not have been parked indoors since 1955 because there’s a fair amount of rust on it. The seller says that “it needs front floors, but they may be able to be patched. The inner rockers are bad, and has some rust on the tops of the rear quarters.” Also, the “door side windows are also cracked, but being flat glass that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. The seller is including “the original bill of sale from the dealership with the added options of the wide white wall tires which are still on it and undercoating plus the extra receipt for those.”

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The interior is pretty amazing, maybe not in condition so much as in materials, especially for a low price car such as a Henry J. This car, a model 514, retailed for around $1,350 in 1951. The seller says that they think that the model 514 is “rare”, but they actually made over 41,000 of the model 514 compared to only 37,000 of the model 513. Apparently, the previous owner’s child found a letter explaining why this car was parked in 1955: “In 1955 the seat back broke and it was put in the garage and never driven again.” In late-1951, the company worked a deal with Sears-Roebuck to sell these cars starting in 1952 rebadged as the Sears Allstate, the first car sold through Sears catalogs since 1912. The partnership only lasted for two years, but it was long enough to make these cars an even more important and unusual part of the American automotive scene.

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Kaiser-Frazer offered both a four and a six-cylinder in the Henry J. This engine is the 2.6L, 161 cubic-inch inline six with 80 hp, courtesy of Willys-Overland. The seller says that the “previous owner was going to convert it to 12 volt and get it running again, (25 years ago), so it’s missing the alternator and starter. The engine does turn over and has compression so with the starter and alternator I’d think it would fire up.”  I think this car would be a great candidate for a restoration. Or, better yet, just get everything working again, clean it up and leave it as original as possible. It may be the most original Henry J left on the planet. How would you redo this one: nut-and-bolt restoration, turn it into a gasser or restomod, or get the mechanicals working like new and keep everything as original as possible?

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Comments

  1. RayT Member

    I like these and, as a three-time owner of fullsize Kaisers, have wanted one for years! This looks like an ideal candidate for a full restoration…sadly, there aren’t all that many around.

    If it had the four-cylinder engine, I’d be tempted to restomod it, but with the “six” it has enough pull to get out of its own way. There’s really no need to go the 12-volt route either, so I’d be looking for a starter and generator.

    A little too much rust for me, though certainly repairable if the new owner has either the right skills or budget to follow through. The “Dragon Vinyl” is durable stuff, so getting the interior right won’t be that difficult.

    A fun project!

  2. geomechs geomechs Member

    When a vehicle as rare as this is as complete as this, it should be restored. Too many rare cars getting cut up to make something barely recogizeable. Hot rod beauty is only in the eyes of the builder. Three years down the road and it will be mostly forgotten…

    Like 1
    • Howard A Member

      Hi geomechs, I agree, as usual. ( I can finally get my comment in at 3:00 am) Sadly, there’s a 97% chance this will end up a gasser or resto-mod of some sort. When introduced, the Henry J ( and Allstate) were targeting a certain group of people. It kind of laid the ground work for all the “spartan” cars to follow. These were basic cars. No glove box, trunk, vent windows, etc. They weren’t very popular. This particular car looks pretty tired for only being driven for 4 years (unless I missed something) In the mid ’70’s, I worked for an asphalt co. in Waukesha, Wis. and the boss had a BUNCH of old cars and trucks, some from his fathers time, some from the ’30’s. ( I should have bought them all) and in a garage, was a Henry J. It was the bosses 1st car. For all I know, this could be it. I went back years later ( wishful thinking) hoping something was left, and it was all gone.

      Like 1
  3. nessy

    Another original car that would look so much better with a good cleaning and the bidding would climb as well. That dull paint will come up, you can tell. Lazyness, or, some sellers think a car looks better covered in filth. OK, show a few before photos if you must, then clean the thing up and post the after photos in the auction. I never understood this kind of thinking. It would drive me crazy not to wash the car. Early versions of the Henry J, along with the Sears Allstate, did not have a trunk, a back seat or a glovebox. Neat little car.

    • Larry K

      I agree but,I’d also take pleasure in bringing out the shine myself. Nice car.

  4. David Montanbeau

    My grandson getting ready for the drags in a 51 J.
    https://www.facebook.com/811469312206797/videos/857471657606562/

  5. JW454

    I’d have to go with an original restoration. You just don’t see these on the road like they came from the factory. I recall seeing a black one many years ago that was restored with the four cylinder. The owner also had a completely stock 1933 Willys coupe. It was the first time I ever saw either one of these cars in perfect running order.

  6. Joe Haska

    I have seen a restored Sears Allstate, and if I could have owned it, I would still have it. I don’t know what it was, its not even close to anything I would generally like! It was just so cool and you could order it from a catalog

  7. Joe Muzy

    I haven’t seen a Henry J that hasn’t been turned into a gasser in a long while. I’d restore it to the original condition because you rarely in see one in a car show.

    Like 1
  8. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    nice….

  9. Jesper

    Wery nice. I love rare car’s.
    Its so much more fun, to come to a show, as the only one, with such a car. Also fun when people never have seen such a car before. It give so many good coments,
    I dont want a Mustang, or a corvette, every body knows them, and you can stay between 5-8 other at a show.

  10. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    Austin A-40, 33 or 41 Willys and the Henry J–all too often destroyed for the sake of the drag strip. Take some clay bars to this paint and fix the seat back. Let’s see how this one cleans up!!!!

    Like 1
  11. Peter

    Are the twin horns original? If it was made to the lowest price, I would expect only one horn.

  12. Joe Howell

    Love Henry Js, always made the coolest Gassers, but this one should be saved. I’ve seen an Allstate that was really sweet. Everything under the hood was branded Allstate, a rolling advertisement for Sears parts.

  13. Rich

    I wouldn’t even wash it. Rust repairs, blend the paint in, mechanical overhaul and drive it.

  14. starsailing

    Had a summer back in about 62 that was a hoot involving Step Gpa’s friend and his identical blue 51 Henry J. Mom had volunteered my 12-13 yr old brother Bill and me to paint Grandpa’s cabin yellow. 120 miles to cabin from home. Started at about 5 A.M. . Trunk was filled with cases of beer, as well as the back seat,, making it so we had to kinda lay on top of them which were covered with towels. Instead of heading north out of Mpls they went east to Hulda’s house…60 some yr old Swedish woman…who made breakfast for us, while inbetween going into bedroom with Gpa Sven and Ol Jack. Rolling out of there after a few hrs, they started for up North…stopping for coffee several times in St Paul…til first bar on the way opened in morning. They would top in each bar while we would sit in front seat waiting for them. Bill was ornary for that age…would start honking the horn until the geezers would come out and head for next bar. They kept buying us pop at each bar but no food. Mom had given Sven money to buy food for me and Bill. We got up to a bar 2 miles from cabin about 10 p.m. where they bought drinks with our food money…in exchange for free chicken eggs trade. Laying on top of those beer cases all day and night….bar closed, got to cabin. Next morning we had to go a mile or so away…go in chicken coup and grab eggs. Bill would pull out the coil wire when the two old farts got drunk..(Bill looked like Ralphie from Christmas Story Movie)..Jack would wobble home through the woods, next day come back and try to start the car. Coil wire back in place it would pop right off. We did it all week long and Jack didn’t drive anywhere as they would start getting drunk again. After eating eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we stole Gpa’s bike with front wheel spring suspension, pink tires with wide whites, his tackle and tool box, and rode it up to main highway 47 and sold them up at bar/gas station/ grocery store. We had our stash of Twinkies, cupcakes, candy bars, candy, gum along with our eggs for several weeks while they only had beer and eggs for each meal. While painting the cabin yellow, the old farts criticized Bill for missing a spot. As they walked away Bill dipped the paint brush into yellow paint and shook it at the back of Gpa as he walked away….Jack later laughed at Gpa and told him he had a yellow streak down his back…Gpa thinking Jack was calling him a coward, they began to put up their dukes and fight…Like watching the two old muppets up in balcony fighting. Bill got paint on the car which he removed later…Rode home same way as up…only the beer cases were full of empty bottles. Jack kicked off about two years later…and the mint Henry J sat in the garage til mid 80s. I tried buying it a few times, I was promised it would be mine from the daughter when she could let go. Well she told my mom to have me come and get it…mom the jerk, thought I had enough old cars and never told me. Finally the daughter sold it. It was MINT last I saw it, and I was waiting for years to gasserize it…..I can laugh at the geezers now….but not at the time. RIP!

    Like 1

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