The 1950 Frazer Manhattan convertible was the most luxurious model of the company founded by Joseph Washington Frazer, scion of the Virginia Washingtons and Clan Fraser of Scotland.
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Frazer was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but spit it out early and joined the auto industry. Honing his sales skills at Packard and General Motors dealerships, he joined Walter P. Chrysler's fledgling company in 1924 and, in 1928, named the Plymouth, Chrysler's new economy model.
Later, Frazer revived Willys-Overland with the Americar and the Jeep. Then, during the war, he and some associates gained control of moribund Graham-Paige Motors, which he teamed with Henry Kaiser and then folded into the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation.
Even before the 1950 Frazer Manhattan convertible, Kaiser-Frazer hit the postwar seller's market like a mini-tornado, outproducing all the other independents. By 1948, K-F stood eighth in the industry, producing over 180,000 cars (about 50,000 of them Frazers), and looking like a sure thing to become a fourth member of the auto world's "big four."
But things went sour in 1949, when Kaiser went into debt to finance his compact Henry J and a new full-size car design. Frazer departed as an active management official that spring, and K-F discontinued the Frazer car as soon as it could decently do so.
The most opulent Frazer was the 1950 Frazer Manhattan convertible, carved out of a four-door sedan bodyshell (because it was the only shell K-F had), and heroically reinforced "all over hell" by engineers John Widman and Ralph Isbrandt.
"We had instructions to do no reinforcing of the sedan shell-no X-frame," Isbrandt said about the design of the 1950 Frazer Manhattan convertible. "Even the pillars and headers were sedan parts .... [The first prototype] was like a bowl of jelly. I finally convinced [K-F president Edgar] Kaiser that GM, Ford, Chrysler, etc. weren't putting X-member frames and special pillars on convertibles for the fun of it, and then we began to get results."
Isbrandt even went so far as to purchase a prewar Packard convertible "to use as a benchmark .... I wanted to know what they did, and apply it to ours." In production form, after extensive reengineering, the convertible proved quite solid.
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