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Supercharged 1 of 44? 1955 Kaiser Manhattan


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I think this is pretty cool.

 

https://barnfinds.com/supercharged-1-of-44-1955-kaiser-manhattan/

 

The 1955 model year would be the last for Kaiser automobiles made in the U.S. (they would continue building Willys Jeeps here). The Manhattan was their top-of-the-line car and it had a supercharger as standard equipment by 1954. This 2-door “club coupe” is said to have been built in very low numbers and looks to have been idle outdoors for quite some time. With the same ownership for 60 years, the auto is in San Jose, California, and available here on craigslist for $5,500 firm. Kudos to Roger for bringing this tip our way!

 

Nash-Hudson and Kaiser-Frazer were independent automakers who felt the same competitive pressures from GM, Ford, and Chrysler after World War II. The former merged to form American Motors and lived on for another 30 or so years. Kaiser-Frazer had purchased Willys-Overland in the early 1950s and by the middle of the decade focused on Jeep production and not cars. From 1951-55, the Manhattan was the most opulent model they offered, first badged as a Frazer, then as a Kaiser. The addition of a McCulloch supercharger to the Manhattan’s 226 cubic-inch inline-6 increased output from 115 to 140 hp.

 

We can’t find online documentation that details down to the seller’s claim of 44 2-door club coupes being built in 1955, the Manhattan and Kaiser last year’s in the car business in the U.S. A total of 1,231 Manhattans in all body styles were produced that year, with the bulk being shipped to Argentina. The tooling followed and the Manhattans continued to be made in South America as the Carabella until 1962.

 

This car may be even rarer as the seller and the serial number suggest it’s also the first one built that way in 1955. It has stayed with the same owners since 1962 who have no doubt finally decided to part with the non-running car. The machine’s biggest selling point is the supercharger, which unfortunately has been removed and its whereabouts are unknown although the seller believes it can be found. Other than that, and one hub cap, the car is said to be complete and ready for restoration. The seller will not sell it in pieces, although a trade of some sort may be possible (but for what?). Some extra parts are photographed and may come with the car or sold separately as that point isn’t clear.

 

1-48.jpg

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This car reminds me of the lipstick on a pig saying. With this car, if you put a supercharger on a butt ugly car, it's still butt ugly. 

Maybe since the "super"charger increased the hp by 25, it should only be called a medium or regular charger.

It may be a rare car, but rare does NOT by any stretch of the imagination = desirable.

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George,  we will disagree on the styling.  I like it.   Also,  although the blower was only good for a 21% power boost it is "cool".  There aren't really any 1950s cars except for a few that had real performance anyways.   That came in the 60s.

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I've been wowed by the '55 Manhattans I've seen in person when they're in very nice condition. Rather spectacular, IMO. They are different looking, but that's in step with the 1950's. Obviously, the buying public back then didn't share my opinion (if poor sales are any indication), but not that many Avanti's, '54 Vettes or Continental Mark II's were sold either, and they were all spectacular cars.

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The Standard Catalogue of Independents list the 44 1955 two door club coupe and 226 four door sedans as "Retitled 1954 Series'.   While retitling leftover last model year cars was still legal then, Kaiser-Willys did take the time to change the one detail that denotes a 1955: the simulated hood scoop has the taller center fins and two wind-split 'bumps' flanking on each sides.  That was enough styling change to meet the requirement then to identify a new model year car.  Beyond the 270 retitled leftover 1954 cars, the following is noted:

"Note 1: Available statistics indicate 210 units made in 1955 for U.S. sale."

"Note 2: Available statistics indicate 1,021 units made in 1955 for sale in Argentina."

 

Although few Kaiser-Frazer-Willys cars are undergoing restoration now, one hopes this one does.

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I never really cared to much for the Kaisers. I saw one in person at a local show a couple of years and fell in love with it. Looking closely at all of the details, its much more stylish than the run of the mill tri fives that are everywhere. Not that I would go out and buy one but none the less they are pretty cool looking. 

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1 hour ago, alsancle said:

I like things that you don't see every day.   Kasiers fall in to that category and I would be happy with a nice Darrin, 2 door blown Dragon, or one of the Manhattan four door convertibles.

 

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Those I like, the 1955, not so much.

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I currently own a 54 Kaiser Manhattan and aside from the hood ornament it's the same car. While its looks can be debated, there's no denying that you won't soon see another at your typical show full of 57 Chevys and Mustangs. Parts are not difficult to find - including the supercharger - and there's plenty of support for those new to Kaiser-Frazer. I will admit the asking price is a bit stiff but if the body is as solid as it looks, I'd be tempted to get it running and drive it as is, but at a dollar figure somewhere just north of half the asking price. 

 

Oh, and to correct some mistakes in the Barn Finds article, this car is a two door sedan. The last Club Coupe manufactured by K-F was offered in the 1952 model year. All 1955 Kaisers were reserialed 1954s with the upper half of the hood ornament swapped for one with a larger center sail. K-F had essentially given up on the passenger car market in the US by 1955, deciding instead to concentrate on the profitable Jeep market having purchased Willys Overland in 1953. The Willys Aero, by 1955 renamed the Bermuda and Custom, were phased out as well. K-F did assemble 1021 additional cars using whatever parts were still in the bins, but they were for export to Argentina in a bid to entice Juan Peron into getting into the automobile manufacturing business. Juan took the bait and Kaiser, in a joint venture, built a derivative of the 1955 Kaiser in Argentina, calling it the Carabela. They were manufactured from 1958 thru 1962 with somewhere around 10,000 built.

 

Only 44 two door, along with 226 four door models, were sold in the US as 1955 Kaisers.

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13 hours ago, jimkf said:

"... All 1955 Kaisers were reserialed 1954s with the upper half of the hood ornament swapped for one with a larger center sail. K-F had essentially given up on the passenger car market in the US by 1955, deciding instead to concentrate on the profitable Jeep market having purchased Willys Overland in 1953. The Willys Aero, by 1955 renamed the Bermuda and Custom, were phased out as well. K-F did assemble 1021 additional cars using whatever parts were still in the bins, but they were for export to Argentina in a bid to entice Juan Peron into getting into the automobile manufacturing business. Juan took the bait and Kaiser, in a joint venture, built a derivative of the 1955 Kaiser in Argentina, calling it the Carabela. They were manufactured from 1958 thru 1962 with somewhere around 10,000 built.

 

Only 44 two door, along with 226 four door models, were sold in the US as 1955 Kaisers.

""Note 1: Available statistics indicate 210 units made in 1955 for U.S. sale."

 

Is this note in The Standard Catalogue of Independents, edited by Ron Kowalke in error?

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I'm late to comment on this car.  I was in the KFOCI as was Jim Lape who comments above.  Jim was a past President.  Like some other commenters, I have always looked outside the 55-57 Chevy, Mustang and Camaro crowds for the unusual.  I owned a Polar Grey 1949 Kaiser Virginian.  

 

The 1955 car is question if I am not mistaken has been advertised before in KF circles.  Let's look at it another way - if this was a rare car in a more common make - would $5,500 firm be reasonable.  It would be SOLD by now.  

 

The KFOCI - the Kaiser Frazer Club - is one of the cheapest groups I have ever encountered in my years in the hobby.  A unique crowd, many that started gathering KF's in the 1960's when the orphan populated used car lots for $50 or so.  

 

But when the collector world rocked into the 2000's, and rare KF cars popped up for - say - $5500, it was crickets in terms of the old timer KF collectors buying these cars, and saving them.  

 

A neat concept about collecting strictly KF cars from 1947 to 1955 are the many opportunities at a unique collection.   This car being one of them.   KF's were made in basically 2 iterations, not including Henry J's and Darrins - 1947 to 1950 (1951) and 1951 to 1955.  

 

At one time, I wanted to collect 2 of each era and call it good.  The interesting choices abound.  Very early Frazers were neat cars, plain by GM standards, but had a scratch built feel to them.  Frazers from 1948 to 1949 were nicely styled slab siders.  Many could be had with unique SO fabrics.  

 

Many of the outliers were saved, many ended up with the collectors in the club.  One friend offered me a 1948 Frazer project car with special ordered leather interior, almost unheard of in KF.  I hemmed and hawed and never bought it. 

 

1949 brought a strong restyle to the front ends, with Frazers benefitting from the Cadillac egg crate grille.  Always wanted a 49 Frazer.  

 

Virginians and convertibles are neat, rarely seen slab siders. I spent a lot of time just looking after the interesting Virginian I owned. 

 

In 1951 KF restyled their cars into an arguably nicer modern look which sustained until the end.  I always wanted a 52 Manhattan.  These shared some of the simple details of the 1951 cars, of which I believe there were no Manhattans, and the more garish 1953's.  Want to collect a rare car with crisp early 1950's American styling?  1952 Manhattan.  

 

1953 brought the Dragons.  I had an opportunity to buy a couple of Dragons (keep in mind I was only looking for projects) for $1,200 each.  While not exactly the convertible show cars like the Eldorado, Buick Skylark, Olds Fiesta or Packard Caribbean etc - these were factory prepped halo cars in limited production.  

 

1954-1955 cars borrowed from the 1954 Buick front end styling - in my opinion - in a cartoonish manner.  So I am not necessarily a fan of adding these details to the body.  As mentioned, I much prefer the 1952 Manhattans.   But, as I was always wanting the unusual KF car, there was a lead, an ad for a 1955 Manhattan especially built for Henry Kaiser's son Edgar.  This appeared in the KFOCI forum 2 years ago.  

 

I was essentially out of the hobby but it really spoke to me. Wow!  It had coral trimmed leather and special paint, and would have been one of the last 225 cars ever built for KF, and owned by the President.  Imagine getting a 1955 Cadillac that could be verified owned by the President of GM at that time.   Price was negotiable and I never found out what that price was, but there was no real interest in that car.  

 

I always wanted a 56 Packard, did not matter if it was a 400 or a Patrician.  I read the book on the Rise and Fall of the Packard Motorcar. In there, the author noted accounts of workers who were in their last days on the job, who had been Packard workers for 40 + years in some cases, knowing the end was near. 

 

Workers were walking around confused, some of them crying, with little direction on what to do with half built cars stalled on the assembly lines. Those workers laid their hands on 1956 Packards.  I have sat in a few and see a few, all very rare and similar to 1955 Kaisers.   

 

When you own a 1956 Packard, or a 1955 Kaiser, you own automotive history plain and simple.  You are a steward of automotive history.  The factory and the passions of the designers, assemblymen, and others breathes through that metal.  

 

So $5,500 for the 1st 1955 Kaiser made of an already small amount would have been a nice coda to a 4 car KF collection.  Yet there it sits, because it is not a 1955 Chevy 2 door hardtop, which in similar condition - is worth $12,000 or so.  

Edited by B Jake Moran (see edit history)
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