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1940s and 1950s Kaiser-Frazer Concept Cars

1951 Kaiser Concept Cars
This 1951 Kaiser concept car shows a fastback proposal from Brooks Stevens that hinted at the actual roofline for the 1951 Kaiser line.
This 1951 Kaiser concept car shows a fastback proposal from Brooks Stevens that hinted at the actual roofline for the 1951 Kaiser line.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

It's a good thing someone at the company was thinking enough ahead to produce 1951 Kaiser concept cars, because it was about all Kaiser-Frazer could do to produce a lightly modified 1951 Kaiser line after company founders Henry Kaiser and Joe Frazer split.

But the company was never short of ideas on how to make the old stuff seem new. These came mainly from Kaiser-Frazer Styling principals Bob Cadwallader, Herb Weissinger, and Arnott B. "Buzz" Grisinger, all recruited from Chrysler, plus the able Cliff Voss and Milwaukee-based consultant Brooks Stevens.

Between them, these five conjured countless facelifts on the original 1947 bodies, plus variations including hardtop coupes, two-door convertibles, fastbacks, and even wood-trimmed sedans.

Two pioneering styles, the hatchback sedan and four-door "hardtop," did see production in the 1949-1950 Kaiser line (as the Traveler/Vagabond utilities and hardtop Virginian) and as 1951 Frazer models. Kaiser and Frazer also offered America's first postwar four-door convertibles, but these were just cut-down sedans done on the cheap.

Like Kaiser-Frazer's first-generation cars, the look of the rakish new 1951 Kaiser was largely owed to the renowned Howard A. "Dutch" Darrin, another consultant who carried the day over proposals from both Stevens and the in-house team. Weissinger and Grisinger finalized things like bumpers, hood ornament, and grille, but the long, low shape was pure Darrin. Sleek and beautiful, the 1951 Kaiser had no design peer among Detroit sedans for a good five years.

Because Joe Frazer and his namesake car were still around during developent, the new Kaiser was also planned as a Frazer -- again, a more luxurious and expensive version with slightly different styling. Weissinger, who also supervised the 1951 Frazer restyle, envisioned a complex eggcrate grille a la 1947-1950, placed low on the new Darrin body.

Toward 1949, however, it was decided to postpone the second-wave Frazer until 1952. At one point, Weissinger tried grafting the 1951 Frazer front onto the new Kaiser shell, which would have been ghastly.

But none of this mattered in the end. With Joe Frazer about to leave after being reduced to the meaningless position of board vice-chairman, the Frazer line was deemed unnecessary after 1951 and did not return.

To learn about the gradual demise of Kaiser over the next few years, keep reading on the next page.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out: