Prev NEXT  


1949-1953 Kaiser Traveler and Vagabond

1949. 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953 Kaiser Traveler and Vagabond Marketing

Efforts in 1949-1953 Kaiser Traveler and Vagabond Marketing saw the company resort to some of the earliest examples of photo illustration. Until then, auto ads relied on artwork, which could be exaggerated to show cars that looked a lot sleeker than they really were -- along with scaled-down people to maximize the appearance of interiors.

With the Traveler, the precise involvement of human and machine was deemed important enough to illustrate with life-size people and real cars. Volkswagen advertising is widely hailed as a pioneer in this direction, but instead of VW's advertising agency, Doyle, Dane Bernbach, the credit for this innovation goes to Kaiser-Frazer's agency, Swaney, Drake and Bement.

1951 Deluxe Traveler full view
A Deluxe Traveler replaced the Vagabond for 1951.
The utility cars could also be had in
Kaiser’s new two-door body.

Another unique Traveler publicity campaign involved Walter Winchell's nightly radio news program, which Kaiser-Frazer began sponsoring in late 1948. On the eve of announcement of the Traveler, and at specific dates thereafter, Winchell would come on with his usual "Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea -- let's go to press." Following headlines on the Truman Doctrine, the Greek and Chinese civil wars, the Berlin crisis, and the national poultry convention, Winchell would pause and say, "Listen -- is that your doorbell ringing?"

While the celebrated commentator launched into a spiel on the merits of the automaker, every Kaiser-Frazer salesman was supposed to have selected his target, synchronized his watch on Winchell, driven out in a demonstrator, and rung the prospect's doorbell exactly at the correct time.

It is not recorded how many doorbells rang or what percentage of prospects were so enthralled by the synchronized attack that they immediately order a Traveler. But, hey, everybody listened to Winchell, right?

At $2,088 for the Traveler and $2,288 for the Vagabond, the price penalty for the hatchbacks was less than $100 over the equivalent Kaiser sedans and considerably less than the markup on competitive vehicles. DeSoto and Chrysler had similar models, respectively the Carry-All of 1949-1952 and the Traveler -- yes, that's right -- of 1950-1951, but they didn't offer the two-piece hatch arrangement and thus lacked the Kaisers' accessibility.

Among true station wagons in the 1949-1950 period, only the new steel-bodied Plymouth Suburban and Nash Rambler could undercut them on price; most other wagons were substantially more expensive. So on competitive grounds, hokey though it may have been, the Traveler/Vagabond seemed to make sense.

Did it? Well, Kaiser said it did: 25 percent of 1949 sales were Travelers and Vagabonds. The problem was that 1949 sales as a whole were dismal.

Learn about the engineering of these models in the next section.

For more information on cars, see: