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1950 Frazer Manhattan Convertible

The 1950 Frazer Manhattan convertible's array of fabrics and colors was one of the era's most extensive.
The 1950 Frazer Manhattan convertible's array of fabrics and colors was one of the era's most extensive.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1950 Frazer Manhattan convertible was certainly deluxe, but it wasn't easy to build, fraught with design expense and multiple engineering hurdles.

One of the engineering problems that gave the designers pause was how to tie the door pillars to the roof. Prewar four-door convertibles had used steel pillars, but stylist A.B. "Buzz" Grisinger had a more elegant solution for the 1950 Frazer Manhattan convertible: a metal-framed glass panel between the front and rear side windows. This remained in place (along with the side window frames) with the top up or down, providing good visibility.

K-F's ingenious interior designer Carleton Spencer coordinated the Frazer Manhattan convertible's glorious array of fabrics and colors -- probably the most deluxe materials that went into any cars of this period, maybe any period: top grain, color-back leather, fabrics suitable for fine furniture, handcrafted and installed with care, combined with vivid paint jobs to make the Frazer an eye-catching car. An impressive eggcrate grille and jumbo taillights added to its look of luxury.

Unfortunately, under the hood of the 1950 Frazer Manhattan convertible lurked a low-powered flathead six that had originated as an industrial engine, powering stationery machinery or vehicles like forklifts. The six was never up to the looks and glamor (and high price -- $3,295) of the Manhattan convertible.

Although Joe Frazer had given the ragtop his blessing before he departed as an active manager ("We thought it would sell because it didn't have the four-door competition"), he looked upon it in later life as a good idea gone wrong.

His nephew, Hickman Price, Jr., snorted at the convertible project as a colossal waste of money, believing that the funds expended might have better gone into the 288-cubic-inch V-8 that K-F developed but did not build. When reminded that the 1950 Frazer Manhattan convertible was very rare, Price was wont to reply, "I have no doubt -- so is the ossified egg of a dodo bird."

Rare it is, though -- and a striking car for its time. Total production of four-door convertibles, including the 1950 Frazer Manhattan convertible, by K-F was 253. Of these, 124 were 1949 models, an estimated 70 being Frazers and the rest Kaisers. Some of these were reserialed as 1950 models. The balance were fitted with facelift trim and marketed as 1951 Frazers.

Check out specifications of the 1950 Frazer Manhattan convertible on the following page.

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