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1951, 1952, 1953 Kaiser Traveler

The 1951 Kaiser Traveler received the same handsome all-new styling as the rest of the Kaiser-Frazer line.
The 1951 Kaiser Traveler received the same handsome all-new styling as the rest of the Kaiser-Frazer line.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1951, 1952, 1953 Kaiser Traveler was offered in both the Special and Deluxe series for 1951, with two and four doors. Sales of two-door versions were minimal, and after a handful of ex-1951s were reserialed and sold off as 1952 "Virginian Travelers," Kaiser built only four-door models.

These four-door Kaiser Travelers continued through 1953, almost all in the lower-end series; more luxuriously trimmed 1952-1953 "Manhattan Travelers" were ostensibly offered, and at least one example has been found. Though the pre-1951 models had sold in good numbers, these later Travelers did not appeal, possibly because the new body restricted their capacity -- only a few thousand were sold between 1951 and 1953.

Compared to the workaday station wagon, which still tended to be a boxy, truck-like vehicle made largely of wood in the late 1940s, the Kaiser Traveler was a revelation -- and probably did more to popularize the civilized, all-steel wagon than most people realize.

General Motors and Ford bought Kaiser Travelers and tore them apart, to see if their obvious advantages were compromised by any structural shortcuts. "They were pretty good," one GM engineer said. Much later, of course, the Traveler idea would lead to the modern hatchback, though not in quite the same way.

One big problem that Kaiser-Frazer never licked was the seals insulating the hatches from the rest of the body -- and from each other. Seal and rubber technology was not nearly so advanced then as now, and Kaiser Traveler hatches leaked incessantly.

Another, minor contribution of the Traveler was its vinyl upholstery, pleated and embossed on the 1951-1953 Kaiser Traveler Deluxe models and the 1953 Manhattan. Working with the L.E. Carpenter Company of New Jersey, K-F interior designer Carleton Spencer developed the unique, heavy-duty upholstery, created by low-pressure refrigerated embossing.

The smooth vinyl of the 1951-1953 Kaiser Traveler was heated and fed into a machine with refrigerated plates in the die design. The die then "kissed" the vinyl and immediately caused the design to set through heat transfer. The stuff was called "Dragon" and "Dinosaur" vinyl, Spencer said, "so no one would mistake it for real alligator or real lizard."

Keep reading to see the specifications of the 1951-1953 Kaiser Traveler.

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