America's first postwar convertible sedan was a hurry-up job by an upstart independent maker suddenly in need of some new sales magic but unfortunately, the 1949 Frazer Manhattan wasn't it.
After pumping out scores of World War II Liberty ships post haste, Henry J. Kaiser decided to pump out cars -- by the boatload, he hoped. But though his new six-cylinder Kaisers and Frazers did well enough in 1946-47, sales dropped sharply once updated Big Three models appeared with all-new postwar styling and more power. The upper-medium-priced Frazer, named for Henry's partner and industry veteran Joe Frazer, was hit particularly hard. But rather than heed Joe's advice and come back with all-new 1950 products, Henry ordered higher production -- and wound up with acres of unsold cars.
The 1949 Frazer Manhattan claimed the place of the first
postwar convertible sedan, but was ill-received by the public.
See more pictures of classic convertibles.
Among them was a new '49 Frazer to attract showroom crowds: America's first postwar convertible sedan, created by simply snipping the top from a four-door sedan, the only body style K-F had. Offered only in upper-level Manhattan guise, it wore the same facelift as other Frazers (highlighted by a shiny eggcrate grille), but rode a heavier -- and costlier -- reinforced frame that only further taxed the 112 horsepower of K-F's 226-cubic-inch six. Structural concerns prompted the use of fixed side window frames and B-posts with glass inserts, so this wasn't even a "full" convertible.
The stylish interior was par for the course on the 1949 Frazer Manhattan, but the
company lacked the name recognition its competitors boasted, hurting sales.
It was, however, luxuriously finished with such niceties as "dual trim" body-side chrome molding. Alas, that only contributed to a lofty $3295 price in a year when a Cadillac convertible cost but $150 more. With all this, the Frazer just couldn't sell, and only 70 were built through 1950. Another 131 with a heavier facelift were built for '51, after which Frazer was consigned to history.
For more classic convertibles of the 1930s and 1940s, see:
|1949 Cadillac Series 62
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