The 1952-1955 Kaiser concept car initiative was built mostly on false promises. The hastily designed "Anatomic" Kaiser did manage a strong 139,000 sales for 1951, (helped by a six-month jump on the competition), but that belied the fate of the 1952-1956 Kaiser.
The brand scored just 32,000 sales for 1952 despite a heavy facelift by Kaiser-Frazer Styling (with many ideas from renowned consultant Brooks Stevens left unused). Sales skidded again for 1953, thudding at 28,000.
There were two big problems. First, Kaiser still had only an anemic six to counter the potent overhead-valve V-8s of most rivals. Kaiser-Frazer was working on a V-8, but couldn't afford to produce it because of the second problem: money squandered on the unhappy Henry J compact.
To some extent, the "Anatomic" also suffered from offering just two- and four-door sedans, hatch and non-hatch. Not that Kaiser-Frazer didn't consider other body styles while finances were healthy.
A proposed hardtop coupe, dubbed "Sun Goddess" by stylist Alex Tremulis, was actually constructed from a 1951 two-door. Basically stock from the beltline down, it carried an attractive pillarless roofline with broadly wrapped backlight.
Also, the great 1930s coachbuilder Ray Dietrich oversaw the conversion of several 1951 coupes (some sources say as many as six) into convertibles concepts for 1952 and beyond. But again, there just wasn't enough money.
Kaiser was thus forced to rely on facelifts, plus interesting trim options like the colorful "Dragon" series, to get through each year. Somehow, though, money was found for a 1954 update boasting a wide concave grille, wrapped rear window, and three-sided "Safety-Glo" taillights with supplemental red lenses atop the fenders. Herb Weissinger was again responsible for a remarkably adept Kaiser-Frazer restyle.
But by that point, time had run out. Despite a new performance-boosting supercharger option, Kaiser sold just 8,539 of its 1954 models. After struggling to build just 1,291 of the virtually unchanged 1955s, management decided to abandon the U.S. passenger-car market to concentrate solely on Jeep vehicles (acquired with the Willys takeover).
The final proposed Kaiser facelift was a garish, two-toned affair for 1955. Also left stillborn was a complete makeover planned for 1956.
Learn about how Kaiser lived on overseas by continuing to the next page.