Monday, February 6, 2017

Restyled 1951 Kaiser

A fine, but sadly largely overlooked 1950s American design was that of the 1951 Kaiser and its following two minor facelifts.  Some background on Kaiser is here and more details are here.

Kaiser reached production for the 1947 model year and ceased being sold in the USA after the 1954 model year.  There was only one redesign, that for 1951.  But that redesign was outstanding.  The man generally credited with it was Howard A. "Dutch" Darrin, who designed custom car bodies in Paris following the Great War. However, Kaiser-Frazer had some outstanding stylists on staff, and they helped refine Darrin's concept to its production reality.

Here is an example of a 1948 Kaiser (Autotour blog image).  Darrin had a hand in this design as well, but the final result was heavy looking.  Nevertheless, it sold well at first due to the postwar demand for almost any kind of new car.

A page from Richard M. Langworth's 1975 book "The Last Onslaught on Detroit," a history of Kaiser-Frazer.  The upper image is of Darrin's design before it was refined for production.  Retained were the low hood and trunk lines, the "Darrin Dip" of the fender line and the tall, carved greenhouse profile.  Eliminating the Nash-like covered front wheels was a smart change, and the dog-leg rear door opening was another improvement.

This is the first of three Leake Auction Company photos of a 1951 Kaiser DeLuxe four-door sedan.  The greenhouse is proportionally tall, the main body is low by 1951 American standards.  The large windshield taxed glass-forming technology, so came in two pieces for that model year.

Side view.  The subtle trace of a rear fender gives the car an even lighter appearance.  That heavy chrome band along the lower part of the body offers some door protection while helping to further visually lower the car.  All this helps counteract all that sheet metal in the C-pillar zone.

Rear view showing how delicate the Kaiser's styling was.  The trunk was probably too small for some potential buyers.

Kaiser's 1952 facelift included a one-piece windshield and a bolder grille.  The V on the prow is deceptive, because Kaisers never had V-8 motors, a possible factor in the brand's demise.

1953 saw even more grille chrome, but still tastefully done.  Another change is the addition of little "wings" on the headlight housings.  This helped to subtly lower and widen the frontal appearance.  The thin chrome strip along the side marks this as an entry-level model -- top-of-the-line Kaisers retained the broad chrome band.

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