Uncommon Find: 1951 Kaiser Deluxe

Kaiser is famously known for their Jeep background, but when it comes to their automobiles, they typically fell short in the market, and have fallen into obscurity. This 1951 Deluxe is a decent survivor that runs, but needs some work to be a driver once again. With a lot of subtle styling cues, this Kaiser is a neat and classy machine, that there sadly aren’t many left of. Parked indoors since the 1980’s, this obscure machine is offered at $3,900. Find it here on craigslist out of Nashville, Georgia.

Beneath the hood is a 226 cubic inch flat head inline 6 engine with a manual transmission. The engine bay is dusty, and lightly sprinkled with some surface rust. The engine still wears some green paint, but is a lightly rusted as well.  Very stock, and simple, this engine does run, but with the aid of a small bottle supplying fuel to the carb. I am sure the fuel system needs a solid cleaning, and perhaps a fresh fuel line.

Having aged rather gracefully, there are some marks of age on this Kaiser. The steering wheel has some cracks, and the front seat has a few splits. Someone at some point took it upon themselves to recover the front door panels, and to add a custom carpeted interior.  I am not a fan of the leopard print, and I personally would have opted for a more subtle, and period correct, upholstery for this Kaiser. Ignoring those updates, the interior is very original. The dash, headliner, back seat, and rear door panels are all in reasonable condition considering their age.

I really find joy looking over this simple looking American sedan. If you have never seen one in person, then there are some features that can slip the eye in photographs. For instance, the windshield and rear glass come to a point in the center of the upper edge of the glass. Very subtle, yet, “Oh so classy”. I also really like the wrap around bumper look of this Deluxe. An interesting design that almost subliminally gives the idea of “safety”. I also find it interesting that Kaiser used exposed hinges on the trunk. But the hinges are rather fancy, despite their utilitarian duty. The paint on this old Kaiser is still surprisingly there, though I wouldn’t hold hope of it polishing up too much. Rust looks to only exist in the form of surface rust, leaving you with a solid body and chassis. The chrome and glass are in good shape, and even the “rare” components are there, and appear to be in good condition as well. I see this Kaiser being enjoyed in its current condition, as a restoration would go beyond this cars value. I personally would polish it up, make it a driver, ditch the terrible leopard print, and would enjoy it for a while. Are you a fan of the subtle design of this Kaiser Deluxe?

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Comments

  1. RayT Member

    While I prefer the later 1952-’53 Kaisers — updated with larger taillights and “hidden” trunk hinges — this one still appeals to me. It has overdrive (note the two T-handles under the dashboard: one is a hood release, one operates the o/d), which was not quite as nice as the four-speed Hydro, but still made for comfortable and relatively quiet cruising.

    Parts aren’t as difficult as you might think, as the Continental engine was shared with some Case tractors and the running gear is a mish-mash of Ford and GM bits. I would imagine by now the supply of trim parts from Argentina has dried up, though.

    I’d restore it, but that’s just nostalgia: it would only be worth doing for someone who has an attachment to these cars. They do make excellent DDs, though!

    And I’ll forgive whoever added the leopard-skin door panels. Maybe they were thinking of doing a tribute to the Kaiser built for Clyde Beatty!

    • Harvey

      RayT which Case tractors? I can only think of one, the VC and it was a 4 banger.

      • RayT Member

        Harvey, I couldn’t tell you, but when I rebuilt the engine in one of my Kaisers and went hunting for parts, an old-school auto parts guy directed me to a farm implement shop a few miles away and said “ask for Case tractor parts.” I did, and got the correct bearings and gaskets!

  2. Howard A Member

    This is another of those cars a younger person may ask, “What the heck is a Kaiser”? Great find, I suppose it would be better if it was a Traveler, ( one of the 1st hatchbacks) but a very significant car, for the time. I read, one of the 1st to offer a padded dash, and the engine was the 2nd most powerful 6 you could buy in ’51, behind the Hudson. I hope it remains somewhat intact, as these were such unusually styled cars, a motor update would be cool though.( and don’t go gonzo, a stock SBC and go cruise in the Kaiser) Great find, looks like the folks in Georgia are clearing out the classics. And it runs? Well worth the price. Very cool car.

    • jeff

      “I suppose it would be better if it was a Traveler”

      Well, as long as we’re dreaming, make it a Dragon. One of my dream cars with “dragon hide” upholstery and top covering.

    • Mark S

      Hi Howard there is an episode of Jay Leno’s garage that features one of thes that was customized by a young in his spare time he converted it into a two door and I have to say it is one of best custom cars I’ve ever seen. You would not be disappointed to take a look at it. He started with a car that he rescued from the crusher and turned it into something fantastic. Google Jay Leno custom Kaiser, in fact that’s where I’m going now to take another look.

      • Howard A Member

        Hi Mark, I apologize. I HAVE got to stop singling out young people as non-caring car folks. (apparently, I’ve become my father, get off my lawn, you punks,) When I took my ’50 Packard to shows years ago, there were many people, of all ages, up to a certain point, say mid-50’s, that did not know what a Packard was. I got Studebaker, Hudson, a lot, but when I said nicely, “no, it’s a Packard”, they had never heard of it. Here’s the beautiful car I think Mark is talking about. While it’s not my type of car, you can’t deny what a beautiful job Keith Charvonia did. Took him 8 years! This is on a Caprice chassis and engine. http://www.motorward.com/wp-content/images/2013/02/1951-Kaiser.jpg

      • Mark S

        Thanks Howard that is the car and what an amazing fabricator Kieth is, not to bad for a first attempt. Kieth is an inspiration to get off our a$$es and finish our hobby cars.

  3. Fred W.

    Sold mine about two years ago for $7500, frame on restored to a fairly high level. Great for country roads but not quite up to the interstate.

  4. SunbeamerStu

    I like the widow’s peak, the odd dog-leg rear door/window, and, well… the leopard print. Just funky enough. Make it road worthy and drive as is.

    Neat find.

  5. Eric 10Cars

    What an interesting car. I’ve previously written about our 51 Traveler. It was more basic than this Deluxe and didn’t have the chrome belt above the rockers. I like that touch on this car. The present owner got it from an estate up north, so I would have some concern that there were no pictures of the undercarriage. However, it does look good.

    I wanted to point out something. Look at the door lines of this Kaiser…that beautiful arching flow with the return curve in the rear vent window…a Dutch Darrin design feature in all of the 50s Kaisers. That very design feature is seen on almost every new full-size car, and began with the 90s Impalas and Chryslers. Check out the new Lexus or Porsche 4 door or BMW or M-B. Look at those police-cruiser Impalas of 20 years ago or that ‘cab forward’ Chrysler of that era. They’re all imitating this Kaiser feature…because it’s really beautiful!

    BTW, this 6 cylinder with O/D will get over 25 mpg on the highway. I’m really tempted….but nooooo. Too many other projects right now.

  6. Marty Member

    For sure, this is one of the more attractive four door sedans of the early 50s. Great original look to it. Full restoration unnecessary. Make it roadworthy and drive it.

  7. Puhnto

    Look how much sleeker this Kaiser looks compared to anything else made in 1951. Really neat cars.

  8. Ed P

    Nice car. K-F had done development work for a v8 but did not have the means to put it into production. That would have made this car much more interesting to potential customers.

  9. charlie Member

    Not only was the dash padded but the windshield would “pop out” in a collision so your head would not go through and cut your throat. Seat belts were a simpler and cheaper solution to the problem. Then air bags since dummies (human alive ones) would not use shoulder belts.

  10. Rick McKee

    My dad bought a 53 Kaiser Manhattan new and I loved that car. It was his first new car and we used to get a lot of compliments on it. It was a great road car in its day.

  11. Jim Mc

    On the photo from the left rear quarter you can see the building in the background says “BARN FIND”. Looks like there’s an equal vintage green Plymouth or Dodge behind the Kaiser to the right and far in the background, a ’58 Buick?

    I dig this Kaiser. Agreed, make it roadworthy and drive it in nice weather.

  12. Mark S

    Man is that a cool car if I had the money and a place to put it I would be bidding. Why can’t all four doors be this sleek.

  13. Allen Member

    I share the passion for these early ’50s Kaisers. Thanks to Eric 10cars (above) for pointing out exactly why I see these cars as so far ahead of their time design-wise. Also note the silhouette: low trunk, hood, and belt-line, with comfortably high roof line. The side glass accounts for close to half of the car’s height. Nothing else like it in the ’50s. In fact, where else to you see that in any car before the ’90s. I also prefer the ’52 and ’53 models, not just because of the larger tail lamps, but due to the more substantial reiteration of the same grill. These cars were not just far ahead of their early ’50s counterparts, they still stand up to contemporary designs. One could build a new one, perhaps scaled down slightly, but retaining the same proportions, and it would stand well by current design standards. But alas, a flat-head six could not survive in the V8-dominated industry of the mid ’50s. Recall that in a dying effort to compete, Kaiser did offer a supercharger in ’54. Too little, too late.

    For those youngsters who wonder what a Kaiser was, how about a Fraser! I remember them well. And then, of course, there was the Henry J.

    FWIW…

    Another attractive car from this era was the Willys Aero Lark.

  14. Rustytech Member

    This deserves to be saved just because it still exists. Kaiser built a great car, it was just near impossible for the independents to compete with the big 3 in the 50’s. During the production wars. Kaiser had many advance features, especially safety features. This looks to be in reasonable condition, so restoration shouldn’t be a blood bath. If it running I’d leave the original engine right where it is. I can just hear the questions at the local car meets “WHAT’S THAT?”

  15. Woodie Man

    What a beautiful car. At least the seller recognizes this and seeks a buyer to restore it. A welcome change from most ads! I hope someone buys it and takes care of it.

  16. chad

    a split windshield up into the 50s?
    that & the oem motor makes it a sale 4 me
    to Drive As Is.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi chad, I read, the last car with a split windshield, was the ’54 Henry J ( also a Kaiser), Willys wagons until 1960(?) last non-commercial truck, ’70 Dodge A series vans, and I think some commercial trucks still have them. ( Peterbilt, Mack, most RV’s, etc)

      • Ed P

        I cannot help but wonder about the cost of replacement for Kaiser’s “anatomical” one piece windshield. These must have been tricky to install without breaking.

  17. Allen Member

    The big three cars all had split windshields in 1951. Ford went to one-piece in ’52. Others followed in ’53. Independents had the lead on this: Studebaker had one-piece in ’47; Nash by ’49, Packard by ’51. Hudson lagged in this respect – waiting until ’54.

  18. Charlie Member

    The ’34 Chrysler Imperial Airflow had a one piece windshield with a curve, very few were sold, the depression plus ugly, so replacement if you find one, is in the unobtainium category of parts. The regular Chrysler Airflow had two flat panes.

    • Ed P

      The ‘regular’ Chrysler was called Airstream.

  19. Bob C.

    That 226 engine was also used in checker cabs until 1964, before they switched to chevy power. It also saw use in jeeps, known as the super hurricane. Shouldn’t be too hard to get parts for.

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