1954 Kaiser Darrin Image
Image Credit: Darin Schnabel Courtesy of RM Auctions
1954 Kaiser Darrin information
Chassis: 161001181
Event : Automobiles of Arizona by RM Auctions
1954 Kaiser Darrin1954 Kaiser Darrin1954 Kaiser Darrin1954 Kaiser Darrin1954 Kaiser Darrin1954 Kaiser Darrin
1954 Kaiser Darrin
Sport Convertible
Chassis Num: 161001181
Sold for $165,000 at 2009 Gooding & Company.
Sold for $121,000 at 2011 RM Auctions.
Sold for $176,000 at 2015 RM Auctions.
A woman's 'intuition' can be a powerful thing. It can sense danger, but it can also determine what would sell cars. It is also important to have a woman in one's corner for support. In the case of 'Dutch' Darrin, the woman in his corner ended up being the wife of Henry Kaiser.

Darrin and Kaiser, though they worked together at times, had also been at odds and didn't particularly see eye-to-eye most of the time. When Darrin designed his roadster in 1954, Kaiser wasn't all that interested. Henry's wife, however, thought it was one of the most beautiful designs she had ever seen. The weight of his wife's impression led Kaiser to decide in favor of Darrin's roadster and production began.

A noted designer starting in the 1940s, Darrin's cars all had signature, or, 'hallmark' designs. One easily recognizable Darrin design is the 'dip'. Darrin's designs had a fender line that swept back along the car, gently descending until it reached the rear fender. The descending line of the front fender made a 'dip' at the front edge of the rear fender. This design feature would make Darrin well-known and recognizable.

Because of the strained relationship with Kaiser, Darrin used his own time and money to build what had come to his mind. Darrin had also heard about a new body construction material, which would become known as fiberglass. Darrin set out in 1952 and started building the new design. Darrin's new roadster retained this easily recognizable design feature, but it also included something new. Darrin's new roadster had doors unlike any other car, even today. With a twist of the handle, the door didn't open forward, backward or upward, but in. The door disappeared into the bodywork extending back from the fender.

When the car was finished, and after Henry's wife had to step in, Kaiser put his name on the car, and production began. As it headed to production using a fiberglass body, the Darrin roadster earned the distinction of being the first American sports car to use fiberglass. It had even beaten Chevy's Corvette in this category.

Despite being a beautifully designed car, sales were low. One of the major contributors to the slow sales of the car was the fact it was not a cheap car. In fact, the small sports car was more expensive than some of the luxury cars of the day. The price was offset, somewhat, by what the Darrin offered. The car came with such extras as a tachometer, three-positioned Landau top and a tinted windshield.

Although the car was truly unique in design and offered a number of features, the Darrin roadster was cancelled at the end of the 1954. Some remaining, unfinished cars were set to be scrapped. However, Darrin would have none of that and ended up purchasing 50 of the remaining cars and set out to try and regenerate interest in the car. The most notable of the 50 that Darrin retrofitted in order to generate interest were six that had been fitted with bigger engines. Unfortunately, the idea didn't work and Darrin's Roadster slipped into automotive history.

Chassis number 161001181 is one of the 1964 built Kaiser-Darrin Roadsters. It had gone through an extensive restoration a few years back, beginning with its original owners compiling an extensive binder full of information and reference material from which they drew for the project. Paint, trim, chrome and upholstery have all been detailed and every effort for authenticity has been made.

Finished inside and out in a lovely cream color, the car was the recipient of an AACA first prize award. Besides its original owners, this restored Kaiser-Darrin has been sold a couple of times and has been part of a private collection. It is from this collection the car was offered. Percentage wise, the Kaiser-Darrin's existence is strong, but when compared to the number produced, the actual number is very small. Therefore, every Kaiser-Darrin is a rare breed of machine.

The example offered at the 2011 RM Auction sale in Arizona was expected to earn between $125,000 and $175,000. The expected price clearly represents the quality of the example. The Darrin Roadster comes with an F-head inline six-cylinder engine producing 90 bhp and has a three-speed manual transmission with overdrive.

As there are only a few number of Kaiser-Darrins still in existence, each one is a rare car to behold. And the one offered this year beautifully keeps the memory of the Kaiser-Darrin Roadster alive.

'Buy: View Lots (Lot 241: 1954 Kaiser-Darrin Roadster)', (http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=AZ11&CarID=r169&fc=0). RM Auction Arizona. http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=AZ11&CarID=r169&fc=0. Retrieved 12 January 2011.

'Kaiser Darrin', (http://www.americansportscars.com/darrin.html). Kaiser Darrin. http://www.americansportscars.com/darrin.html. Retrieved 12 January 2011.

Wikipedia contributors, 'Kaiser Motors', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 November 2010, 07:12 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Kaiser_Motors&oldid=397823528 accessed 12 January 2011

By Jeremy McMullen