Kaiser Reviews and Road Tests

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Kaiser Car Company


Kaiser started operations in 1945, then known as the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation, being founded by Henry J. Kaiser, an industrialist, and Joseph W Frazer, president of the Graham-Paige Corporation. Both recognized that, following the end of World War 2, there would be a huge increase in the demand for automobiles. The cars were originally sold under the brand names Kaiser and Frazer, however by 1948 Kaiser and Frazer were at loggerheads, the difficulties of starting up a new automotive company being all too apparent. In 1948 Joseph Frazer resigned as president, with Henry Kaisers eldest son Edgar assuming the role the following year. The Frazer marque was discontinued after the 1951 models. Mr. Frazer remained as a sales consultant and Vice-Chairman of the Kaiser-Frazer Board of Directors until 1953.

Arguably the best known of Kaiser of the early 1950’s was the Henry J, a small 2 door car named naturally enough after Henry Kaiser. This model would also be sold under the Allstate brand name by selected Sears Auto Centers from 1952 to 1953 (although never as a catalogue item). It was at the 1953 annual stockholders meeting that a vote would see the Corporation's name changed from Kaiser-Frazer Corporation to Kaiser Motors Corporation. Shortly before the stockholder meeting, Kaiser-Frazer's Kaiser Manufacturing Corporation division worked out a deal to purchase certain assets (and assume certain liabilities) of the Willys-Overland Corporation, makers of Willys cars and Jeep vehicles. Kaiser Manufacturing Corporation changed its name after completing the Willys acquisition to Willys Motors, Incorporated.

During late 1953 and 1954, Kaiser Motors operations at Willow Run Michigan were closed down and moved to the Willys facility in Toledo, Ohio. Kaiser car production in the USA ended during 1955. The management team of the Henry J. Kaiser Company used Kaiser Motors Corporation to create a new holding company encompassing the various Kaiser industrial activities. Kaiser Motors' name was changed to Kaiser Industries Corporation, and functioned as a holding company for various Kaiser business holdings including Willys Motors, Incorporated.

Kaiser continued automobile production in Argentina under the Industrias Kaiser Argentina (IKA) name and Willys passenger cars moved to Brazil under the Willys-Overland do Brasil name, using the dies formerly employed in the U.S. well into the 1960s. The company changed its name to Kaiser-Jeep in 1963. By 1969, Kaiser Industries decided to leave the auto business, which was sold to American Motors in 1970.

As part of the transaction, Kaiser acquired a 22% interest in AMC, which it later divested. Included in the sale was the General Products Division, which Kaiser had purchased from Studebaker in 1964 as it prepared to leave the auto business itself. AMC renamed the division AM General , which still operates today, and is best known as the manufacturer of the original Hummer, now called the H1, and also manufactures the Hummer H2.

Also see: The Story of Kaiser - Taking On The Big Three (USA Edition)
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Kaiser Traveler  

Kaiser Traveler

1949 - 1953
The original idea for a hatchback design was not European, but American, and like so many other innovations in automobile design, it came from one of the smaller post World War II manufacturers. More>>
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Kaiser Henry-J  

Kaiser Henry-J.

1950 - 1954
Referred to by Frank Zappa as the “ironing board from hell” (after experiencing the back seat while doing a cross-country tour) the Henry-J was naturally enough the brainchild of Henry J Kaiser, chairman of Kaiser-Frazer Corporation, who thought that by adding a car that could be built inexpensively he would be able to emulate the success that Henry Ford had with the Model-T. More>>
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Kaiser DKF X-161 Darrin

Kaiser DKF X-161 Darrin

1953 - 1954
Kaiser needed a hero car, something to raise the profile and show it could compete with the best that Ford or GM could produce. It was a huge jump from the more humble Henry-J to this wonderful streamlined 2 door convertible, and had it made serious production it would no doubt have garnered a huge following for the marque. More>>
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