19-20 January 2012
1954 Kaiser-Darrin Roadster
- Chassis no. 16101434
Sold for $99,000
• Landmark early American fiberglass-bodied sports car design
• Very desirable as car number 434 out of 435 built
• An excellent restoration; well maintained and carefully freshened
The distinctive Kaiser-Darrin, conceived by renowned designer Howard “Dutch” Darrin, remains an undisputed American icon today that was recently commemorated by a specially issued stamp by the US Postal Service. Aimed at the same young and affluent market as Chevrolet’s Corvette, the Kaiser-Darrin used such mechanical components as the compact Henry J chassis and the F-head “Hurricane” six-cylinder engine from Willys, which Kaiser bought in 1953.
At $3,668, the Kaiser-Darrin was costlier than a Series 62 Cadillac or a Lincoln Capri but offered plenty of standard equipment including a tinted windshield with washers and comprehensive instrumentation including a tachometer. Production began in January 1954, but when Henry Kaiser changed his business focus from automobiles to healthcare by purchasing an interest in the Permanente hospital chain in California, production halted with 435 Kaiser-Darrins built. The 50 unsold cars remaining were parked in the Willys storage lot. Darrin was incensed and acquired the lot of them, which he eventually completed with various upgrades over the next few years.
Finished in the original Champagne White with a red interior, this example is one of the last of the 435 Kaiser-Darrins produced and bears chassis number 434. It spent many years in the Hollywood, California area under the ownership of a movie producer, and several years ago it received a professional, body-off restoration to original specifications with virtually no expense spared. The next owner, a resident of Denver, Colorado, drove the car less than 500 miles prior to its acquisition by the meticulous current owner, a confirmed Kaiser-Darrin enthusiast. During 2011, the restoration was freshened with a complete exterior refinish and new brightwork, resulting in a nearly flawless visual presentation with an equally impressive underside. Beautifully and correctly presented, very rare and refreshingly comfortable, more so than the early Corvettes and Jaguar XKs of the era, this Kaiser-Darrin roadster marks a significant opportunity for collectors of American sports cars.
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