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 Kaiser Darrin photo

1954 Kaiser Darrin

The 1954 Kaiser Darrin is marked by low sweeping lines, a heart-shaped grille, a 'Darrin dip', split windshield, unique pocket doors that glide forward, and almost disappear inside the front fenders, and open two-seater coachwork. Its eye-catching design and sporty persona were well-aligned with the numerous European and British sports cars that were vying for ownership from American servicemen returning from overseas duty. Independent Kaiser Motors had enlisted industrial designer Howard 'Dutch' Darrin to produce the fiberglass-bodied sports car based on the company Henry J. economy car. The first prototype was introduced in 1953 at the New York Auto Show, just besting Chevrolet's Corvette to become America's first fiberglass production sports car.

The construction of the fiberglass bodies was outsourced to Glaspar of California. The styling was performed by Santa Monica-based Howard 'Dutch' Darrin, who had also designed for Packard and Studebaker. At the time, Darrin was working as a full-time consultant for Kaiser Motors Corporation. Darrin introduced a prototype to Henry Kaiser, who was outraged that Darrin had wasted valuable resources on the frivolous project since Kaiser Motors was not in the sports car business. Darrin believed in the project, having created it in his own time and using his own resources, told Kaiser that if they would not build it, he would build it himself. Around this time, Kaiser's new, younger wife proclaimed it to be the prettiest car she had ever seen and was certain other manufacturers would begin building similar sports cars. This convinced Kaiser to change his mind and ordered the production of the Kaiser Darrin.

Unusual for the time, the Kaiser-Darrin had a fiberglass body, a three-position Landau top, and sliding doors that disappeared into the front fenders when opened. Darrin had promoted sliding doors for decades, claiming they were a safe alternative since the doors did not open into traffic.

In 1954 (between January and August), the model's only year of production, a mere 435 cars were built in addition to an estimated six pre-production prototypes. These low production numbers were attributed to the nearly $4,000 sticker price, and increasing competition in the sports car market from domestic competitors, GM and Ford, and the numerous (and cheaper) European cars.

A 161 cubic-inch Hurricane F-head inline Willys six-cylinder engine proved the power, offering 90 horsepower and backed by a three-speed manual transmission.


by Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2008

Related Reading : Kaiser Darrin History

The Kaiser-Frazer Automobile Company introduced the stylish and attractive Darrin roadster in 1954. The company was attempting to revamp their model lineup, and the result was the exciting, image-leading Darrin. The concept of the Kaiser-Darrin roadster was envisioned by famous automotive designer Howard Dutch Darrin. The prototype of the vehicle was built in Santa Monica CA at Darrins shop at....
Continue Reading >>

1954 Vehicle Profiles

1954 Kaiser Darrin vehicle information

Sport Convertible

Chassis Num: 161001181

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 bein....[continue reading]

1954 Kaiser Darrin vehicle information

Sport Convertible

This Darrin was owned (pre-1970s) by Don Noska of California. It was sold to Lowell Johnson from Wisconsin, who sold the car to Victor Carbe, Jr., of Hazelton, PA. Carbe sold the car to George Domer, from Milton, PA. Someone repainted the Darrin m....[continue reading]

1954 Kaiser Darrin vehicle information

Sport Convertible

The First Fiberglass Car in the World!
Henry J. Kaiser, a United States industrialist, and Joseph W. Frazer, president of the Graham-Paige Corporation, started making automobiles with the brand names Kaiser and Frazer after World War II. K....[continue reading]

1954 Kaiser Darrin vehicle information

Sport Convertible

Chevrolet wasn't the only automaker putting fiberglass bodies on American sports cars in the 1950s. The Kaiser Darrin, shown here, is the 25th of 435 produced, and not only had fiberglass bodywork, but unique sliding doors.....[continue reading]

1954 Kaiser Darrin vehicle information

Sport Convertible

Chassis Num: 161001429

A mere 435 examples of the Kaiser Darrin were created, and all were produced in 1954. They beat the Corvette to market by only a few weeks with a few being painted in Corvette-like colors of white and red. (All 300 examples of the 1953 Corvettes were....[continue reading]

1954 Kaiser Darrin vehicle information

Sport Convertible

Chassis Num: 161001071
Engine Num: 3495116

This 1954 Kaiser Darrin Convertible is one of just two or three known special order Darrins and is believed to have been delivered to a VIP client or Kaiser family member. It wears special order paint code 999 and special order trim code 888. Both ....[continue reading]

1954 Kaiser Darrin vehicle information

Sport Convertible

Chassis Num: 161001322

This 1954 Kaiser Darrin Roadster was offered for sale at the 'Sports & Classics of Monterey' presented by RM Auctions where it had an estimated value of $100,000 - $125,000. It was sold for a high bid of $104,500 including buyer's premium.....[continue reading]

1954 Kaiser Darrin vehicle information

Sport Convertible

This car was bought by the current owner's father in 1962 from an English sports car driver. After the owner's father's death in 1964, the car was improperly stored and suffered severe damage. However, the owner spent over five years rebuilding the....[continue reading]

1954 Kaiser Darrin vehicle information

Sport Convertible

Essentially the brainchild of famed American Designer Howard 'Dutch' Darrin, this unique vehicle was released on January 6, 1954. The cars were basically hand assembled in Kaiser's Jackson, Michigan warehouse. The unique sliding door arrangement caus....[continue reading]

1954 Kaiser Darrin vehicle information

Sport Convertible

Kaiser-Frazer set up shop as an independent automatic in 1946 in Ford's former Willow Run, Michigan B-17 factory. The Kaiser-Darrin was a boldly styled sports car introduced by the automaker in 1954 and based on the compact Henry J chassis. It was gi....[continue reading]

1954 Kaiser Darrin vehicle information

Sport Convertible

Chassis Num: 161001072

The rich and colorful history of the auto industry is filled with stories of vast fortunes made by daring entrepreneurs and swaggering industrialists. The decades are also littered with tales of crushed dreams; of hotshot executives long on hubris bu....[continue reading]

1954 Kaiser Darrin vehicle information

Sport Convertible

Chassis Num: 1611007

This Kaiser-Darrin is the 7th built of the 435 car series. It was given a two year restoration that was completed in May of 2013 with over $140,000 invested. It is finished in Champagne White with a Red interior distinctive only by the first 50 made.....[continue reading]

1954 Kaiser Darrin vehicle information

Sport Convertible

Chassis Num: 161001033

This Kaiser-Darrin is the 33rd built and one of the first fifty Kaiser-Darrins to be painted Champagne with a unique and special interior. It was in the care of the same owner from 1956 until 2012 and is the recipient of a nut-and-bolt restoration. C....[continue reading]

1954 Kaiser Darrin vehicle information

Sport Convertible

Chassis Num: 161-001023
Engine Num: 161-1023

The Kaiser-Darrin was designed by Howard 'Dutch' Darrin and was America's first production fiberglass sports car. Its prototype was built before the Corvette, although production did not begin until 1952. Power was from Willys six-cylinder engine. De....[continue reading]

1954 Kaiser Darrin vehicle information

Sport Convertible

Chassis Num: 161001253

This Kaiser Darrin Roadster is finished in its original Radiant Red with an Ivory leather interior, and a white folding top. The 161CID 6-cylinder engine has 2-barrel carburetors and offers 90 horsepower. There is a three-speed manual transmission, f....[continue reading]

1954 Kaiser Darrin vehicle information

Sport Convertible

Chassis Num: 161-001188

This Kaiser Darrin Sport Convertible is number 188 out of the 435 produced. It was finished new in the popular color scheme of Champagne Lacquer (white) over Scarlet Pincrush vinyl with a matching red three-position top. It was given a restoration se....[continue reading]

1954 Kaiser Darrin vehicle information

Sport Convertible

Based on a modified Kaiser Darrin Roadster, this is the only documented Darrin Sports Car known to exist. Its 161 cubic-inch inline six-cylinder engine was upgraded by Darrin with his installation of a McCulloch supercharger (Darrin option number one....[continue reading]

Sport Convertible
Chassis #: 161001181 
Sport Convertible
 
Sport Convertible
 
Sport Convertible
 
Sport Convertible
Chassis #: 161001429 
Sport Convertible
Chassis #: 161001071 
Sport Convertible
Chassis #: 161001322 
Sport Convertible
 
Sport Convertible
 
Sport Convertible
 
Sport Convertible
Chassis #: 161001072 
Sport Convertible
Chassis #: 1611007 
Sport Convertible
Chassis #: 161001033 
Sport Convertible
Chassis #: 161-001023 
Sport Convertible
Chassis #: 161001253 
Sport Convertible
Chassis #: 161-001188 
Sport Convertible
 


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Performance and Specification Comparison

Price Comparison

1954 Darrin
$3,653-$18,050
1954 Kaiser Darrin Base Price : $3,653

$2,400 - $2,450

Model Year Production

#1#2#3Kaiser
1959Chevrolet (1,462,140)Ford (1,450,953)Volkswagen (575,407)
1958Chevrolet (1,142,460)Ford (987,945)Volkswagen (451,526)
1957Ford (1,676,449)Chevrolet (1,505,910)Plymouth (726,009)
1956Chevrolet (1,567,117)Ford (1,408,478)Buick (572,024)
1955Chevrolet (1,704,667)Ford (1,451,157)Buick (738,814)1,291
1954Ford (1,165,942)Chevrolet (1,143,561)Plymouth (463,148)8,539
1953Chevrolet (1,346,475)Ford (1,247,542)Plymouth (650,451)31,272
1952Chevrolet (818,142)Ford (671,733)Plymouth (396,000)32,131
1951Chevrolet (1,229,986)Ford (1,013,381)Plymouth (611,000)145,031
1950Chevrolet (1,498,590)Ford (1,208,912)Plymouth (610,954)95,175
1949Ford (1,118,308)Chevrolet (1,010,013)Plymouth (520,385)79,947

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