Rare Beautiful Project: 1953 Kaiser Manhattan

We have seen a few Kaisers over the last year or two here, and Andrew showed a two-door 1953 model a couple of weeks ago. This 1953 Kaiser Manhattan two-door sedan is a reader classified on Barn Finds, and it’s also listed here on craigslist. It really looks like a great project! Here is the archived ad with a lot of good overall and detail photos. Other craigslist sellers take note! It’s located in the San Jose, California area and the seller is asking what seems like a reasonable $3,500 for this design masterpiece. Let’s check it out!

This is one of those cars that, even in this present condition, you would have so many people standing around it every time you went to the store or the gas station that you may have to get a bodyguard. For you “two doors too many” nay-sayers: here you go, no excuses! This car’s condition, according to the seller: “body and frame are very solid and well preserved and with just a bit of surface rust. Rust hole under driver floor pan (easily sealed). A bit of surface rust in several spots (treated with primer), glass is in good condition, some lamination on drivers vent window.” It sure looks fantastic to me from these photos.

Howard “Dutch” Darrin threw his design talents into this car, with arguably its most famous feature being the Eddie Munster windshield and rear window. These cars are pretty rare in any form and two-door sedans are certainly the most desirable for most buyers today. The seller says that this is a “Barn Find 1953 Kaiser Manhattan 2 Door Sedan. All original car, never restored. Matching serial numbers, original paint and interior.”

There will be some work to do inside, but it appears that the rare portions of the fancy interior fabrics are in good condition. This is one beautiful interior! The dash looks like it could be cleaned up nicely, and after replacing the seat fabric, fixing any possible floor rust issues, and replacing the carpet, you’d be in business.

The sole engine available for the 1953 Kaiser Manhattan was a 226 cubic-inch Supersonic Six with around 118 hp. The seller mentions that this car “runs, drives, brakes need service but stop when pumped. Car must be towed as it has been sitting idle. Garaged, serviced, original New Mexico car. New six volt positively grounded battery, tires need replacement, various bumper sections have been chromed, all hubcaps complete and original, all chrome trim present, including wheel skirts, chrome trim moulding all complete. Trunk is solid with no floor rust, spare tire wheel well is well preserved with no significant rust.” This looks like a really fun restoration project. Starting with a solid car is the best first step.


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  1. RayT Member

    Having owned three Kaisers in the past, it wouldn’t take much to sell me on this one! The price seems a little high, though (all current prices do, but maybe that’s just me), especially when the missing title (at least according to the CL ad) is taken into account.

    All three of mine had the four-speed Hydro, which I consider a real “plus” for this car. Mine were four-doors, and this is one of those designs where I like the “wrong number of doors” better. Wouldn’t stop me from buying. A cross-country trek to inspect/haul it home does.

    The Kaisers were perhaps the most trouble-free and low-maintenance cars I ever owned, as well as being attractive, solidly built and great long-distance cruisers. After typing this comment, I can’t figure out why I ever let the last one go!

    • Dave Mc

      I really like it too, but San Hose-A is just too far!

  2. Alan (Michigan) Member

    The center drop peak in the roof gives it a natural edge for a windshield sun cover which is in the style of the “Cars” animation features vehicles. Heh!

    An attractive style, with a hint of an egg-style roofline.

    I am curious about the appearance of what looks like a patch on the transmission tunnel. I wonder if at one time in it’s life, this car had a floor shifter installed?

  3. SAM61

    I always thought these were cool cars.

    I graduated from Portage, IN high school in 1979. There was a person that lived North of Rt. 6 on June Rd who had about 6 Kaisers of which a couple Manhattans. I know its a stretch if there are other readers out there from Portage, IN.

    Cool car to go through the mechanicals, freshen interior and enjoy.

    There’s probably a logical “back story” to why the doors aren’t longer on the two door (stampings, engineering)?

    If I had unlimited “stupid” money I would modify the side glass, lengthen the doors 8 inches, trim, etc. Install an early “60’s T-Bird interior…buckets, console, rear “lounge” seat. 440 cross-ram due to ultimate corporate lineage to Chrysler. Kelsey Hayes wires with red-line tires and a tri-tone paint job, keep all the chrome.

    Sorry, but’s its a dream or nightmare.

  4. Cy Galley

    The patch in the floor was to adjust the hydramatic transmission bands.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      That is excellent information, my friend. Thanks for sharing that. It’s great to have so much experience and knowledge of such a wide variety of vehicles among the Barn Finds family!

  5. Rodney

    You had me at “Widow’s Peak Windshield”…..

  6. howard maryles

    Too bad it’s not a four door!

    • alan leonard

      Four Doors Rock!!!!!!!

    • alan leonard

      Four Doors Rule says I……

  7. Maestro1

    I’m about four and a half hours from this car and it is an example of starting a project with a good solid car to begin with. Frankly, I’d jump on it and thank everybody but i have a space problem and am aggressively looking for more room.

  8. Andrew not amember

    There is never enough parking Maestro1 .

  9. RoKo

    2 Door Kaisers seem really sad, in that it looks like a 4 door with the rear door outline filled in and rear door handles removed. I’d prefer a 4 door of this model.

    It would look much better if the doors were longer, like a proper 2 door model.

    • MathieuB

      I was about to write the same comment as you. At first glance Ithought it was a 4 doors.

  10. TCOPPS Tyler Member

    Forgive my ignorance, but “positively grounded”?

    • 86 Vette Convertible

      Think of the exact opposite of current setups. Positive to frame and negative to instruments, engine etc. Simplest way I can think to describe it, though it’s not totally accurate, it’s close enough for government work.

      Grandparents had a Kaiser, though I remember little about it.

    • Vince H


      Most 6 volt cars were positive ground.

  11. Del

    Finally what I consider a true Barn Find.

    I love the fact its a two door. Much rarer than a 4 door.

    I have no idea what this car is worth restored but the asking price considering its wonderfull condition, is not out of line.

  12. MrF

    These Kaisers had/have great style and features. Please keep the spray can away from it!

  13. moosie Craig M. Bryda

    Locking bumpers?

  14. Mountainwoodie

    On a side note…the blue yellow plates date to 1970-1971,,,,I wonder where the car was before that, Plates should be yellow with black letters or maybe black with yellow letters if the cutoff to change to black plates was prior to 1953. I cant remember. Interesting car though I’d rather have a step down Hudson.

    • Tony

      I believe the ad said the car was originally in New Mexico.

  15. Brad

    When I was about 10 years old, around 1968, my next-door neighbor decided to become a collector. He had one of these, made in 1954. The tail lights extended on top of the fins, much like a Cadillac CTS. 2 tone green. Excellent condition. But this one was special. It was supercharged ! It had an emblem of a flying duck on top of the supercharger. He let me drive it. Even the factory radio worked ! Really well built car .

  16. Tony

    Nice car, and only a day’s drive away! But no money for this at the moment, spending it on my 55 President so she’ll look good for next year’s Rt. 66 Fun Run!

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