Very Tempting: 1953 Kaiser Manhattan

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While it is largely original, this Kaiser Manhattan is believed to have undergone a repaint at some point in its life. Barn Finder Roger spotted this Kaiser for us, so I have to thank him for that. If you would like to get your hands on this lovely looking classic, you will find it situated in Parkdale, Oregon. Complete with a clean title, it is listed for sale here on Craigslist.

This Kaiser does present really well. The owner doesn’t mention any rust issues, and it certainly looks clean. The Manhattan featured some interesting and subtle design features. The dip in the top of the glass-line on the windshield and rear window was incorporated to increase the actual glass area of the car and to also add structural strength. The 1953 model also features those wide chrome strips along the sides of the car, along with the badges on both front fenders.

While the interior is generally quite nice, there are a few items that should probably be addressed in order to bring the interior up to the same standards as the exterior. New carpet would be a good idea, along with a new cover on the front seat. There are also a couple of cracks in the wheel rim. This may be able to be restored with a bit of luck, as this was a special wheel specifically for the Manhattan. The dash looks really nice, and the car has been fitted with the optional 8-tube radio. Some of the standard features on the Manhattan also included that nice looking instrument panel, a heater/defroster, and center armrests in both the front and back seats.

The 226.2ci side-valve straight-six engine is in place, and the owner says that the car runs and drives well. The Manhattan engine has a long and diverse history and has seen duty in tractors, forklifts, and even as Naval bilge pumps. This diversity means that even today, spare parts are readily available. The transmission in this Manhattan is the 3-speed manual transmission, which is fitted with the electric overdrive. Once again, the owner says that the transmission and overdrive both work well.

In recent times I have seen ’53 Manhattans selling anywhere from around $8,000 for slightly tired examples, through to $32,000 for immaculate ones. The owner of this Manhattan has priced it at $6,500 OBO. That makes it a very tempting proposition.

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  1. DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

    Can’t help thinking of the animated “Cars” franchise when I look at the windshield of this great ride….

    Like 4
  2. RayT

    Tempting, indeed! If this had the four-speed Hydro instead of three on the tree, it could be my old ’53 Manhattan. A wonderful car and a smooth, comfortable driver. Wish I could have kept it.

    This one looks to be in pretty fair shape, and some of the finicky details I would have worried about — like the “bambu” vinyl dash covering, appear to be okay. I’m pretty sure the same steering wheel was used in the less-expensive “Deluxe” model (I had one of those, too, as well as a ’52 Manhattan), but I’m sure it could be restored. The eight-tube radio was pretty nice for the time.

    If I weren’t so fixated on the automatic trans. — a four-speed unit that shifted beautifully and seemed just right for the Kaiser — I’d probably be calling the seller today. This is one of those cars on my short wish list!

    Like 6

    Beautiful car.

    Like 6
  4. Mike

    I hate it when you have read and re-read seller’s choppy, abbreviated sentences to get what they are saying:

    new price exellent car look at pictures ask ? found another car i would like to get.$6500.00 OBA CASH ONLY This car is oreg. cond no sign or damage . looks like had a repaint paint is very good. no chips. car runs and drives over drive trannie works good. radial tires . needs front seat insert repaired.

    Like 4
  5. 86 Vette Convertible

    Looks pretty nice to me.

    Like 2
  6. S Craig MacDonald

    Eastwood makes a product for repairing cracked steering wheels. I used it on a ’59 Chevy pickup. It’s a time consuming process, but if done carefully gives very good results. I’ve wondered why more people don’t know about it and use it. A cracked steering wheel is no big deal.
    And this is a very cool car!

    Like 3
  7. Vince H

    I always bought 2 door cars but I think these look better as a 4 door. The Continental six is good engine as long as you don’t run them hot.

    Like 1
  8. Eric_13cars Eric_10carsMember

    I may have commented in years past on this feature, but if you look at the rear door vent window treatment IN THE EARLY 50s, it is copied on almost every new car from the mid 90s Impalas and New Yorkers to the present day Lexus, MB, and others. It’s a beautiful line and as a design feature deserves to be imitated…and the present day imitations are really beautifully rendered. If all checks out, this is a great price for a very nice car. Similar to my Pop’s 1951 Traveler with the 3 speed manual, if you look to the left of the steering column you will see 2 thin handles. One of them is the overdrive (the other might be a vent). This engine/transmission combo was capable of 25 mpg with the OD.

    Like 2
    • dweezilaz

      Eric, that’s called the “Hofmeister Kink” and BMW always gets the credit for it, unfortunately.

      Not even a mention of Kaiser.

      Like 0
      • dweezilaz

        Correction, there is one photo of the Henry J in that link, yet years before Hofmeister became BMW’s head stylist

        Like 0
      • Eric_13cars Eric_10carsMember

        I did not know that Dweez. I followed the link and I think that it misses the mark slightly…more than not mentioning the Kaiser or Dutch Darrin. The kink is not the only thing that (I believe) Kaiser initiated…it was the line of the roof that came out of the ‘kink’ that has been emulated as much as the ‘kink’. Some of the shots of cars in the Wiki piece show very different roof lines than the Kaiser. It’s that beautiful flow that stands out to me and I will continue to give Dutch the credit in my mind (limited as it might be :-)). Thanks for the link.

        Like 0
  9. Bob

    Love the look of this car. Seems like a reasonable price. Perhaps I should just buy it tomorrow.

    Like 2
    • Beatnik Bedouin

      You should, Bob – you really should…

      You’ve got to love Kaiser’s exclusive ‘Sweetheart Dip’ windshield (yes, that’s what it really was called).

      That is a very nice looking car.

      Like 1
      • dweezilaz

        And for which designer “Dutch” Darrin received a royalty from every car.

        Like 0
  10. Coventrycat

    Love those Kaisers.

    Like 0
  11. stillrunners

    Nice ………..

    Like 0
  12. Kenneth Carney

    Makes me wanna get a basketcase and
    drop in a 350 Chevy V-8 and 700R4 tranny. Then we could see just how one
    of these would perform with V-8 power.
    Been wanting to do that for 35 years now.
    As for this car, leave it alone and enjoy
    as is. Hmmm. Wonder if Coldwar Motors would sell me one of his basket-

    Like 1
    • dweezilaz

      Money Kaiser should have used for a V8 [and was on the drawing board] was spent on the Henry J.

      From what I have read, it appears the designer of the V8 went to AMC and was the blueprint for the AMC 250 c.i. V8.

      Someone please confirm, but that story was in HCC IIRC.

      I love Cold War Motors videos too.

      Like 0
  13. W9BAG

    When I was about 10, my neighbor had one of these. He was BIG into barn finds, and this was an exceptional car. His was a ’54, and had a SUPERCHARGED engine. I can’t remember the make of the supercharger, but it’s moniker was a flying water fowl; either a duck or a goose. I believe it was a 226 straight 6. 2 tone green, with power steering and a 3 speed automatic with reverse valve body. He let me drive it several times (we lived in the country). It was a really nice car to drive, and to hear that wonderful supercharger was invigorating. He didn’t mind if I floored his barn finds. Lots of fond memories of that Manhattan.

    Like 0

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