1952-1953 Allstate

The Allstate was basically a Henry J with a different grille and other trim changes.
The Allstate was basically a Henry J with a different grille and other trim changes.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

To create the 1952-1953 Allstate for Sears, designer Alex Tremulis was asked to contrive a hardware shuffle to give it a different look from the Kaizer-Frazer model that it was based on -- the Henry J. This involved, as Tremulis recalled, mainly "a new face. I did a hurry-up remake of the grille, putting in two horizontals and a little triangular piece, made up a jet plane-type hood ornament that looked nice, and put on the Allstate logo with a map of the U.S. Voilá, there it was!"

Other distinguishing exterior details were smooth hub caps or wheelcovers without the "K," special door locks, standard decklid (this was not standard on all Henry Js!). Under the hood the Willys-designed flathead engines were painted blue with orange "Allstate" lettering.

Allstate departed more from Henry J design on the inside, which Houser had wanted to be of slightly higher quality. Kaiser-Frazer's interior trim specialist, Carleton Spencer, developed a colorful plaid Deluxe interior using a new material: coated paper fibers soaked in vinyl -- an impervious material that had proven its durability in none other than the transatlantic telephone cable!

Spencer combined this heavy-duty material with quilted saran plastic. The idea was to save Allstate owners the cost of slipcovers, which almost every new car buyer installed in those days. Of course you had to order the Deluxe to get this interior; cheaper models had more austere upholstery. Other unique interior features included plain (no "K") horn button, standard glove box (again, not always found in Henry Js), and special armrests and sun visors.

Everything automotive that Sears, Roebuck sold was naturally applied to the new car: tires, tubes, battery, spark plugs, each with their generous Sears guarantee. The Allstate as a whole was guaranteed for 90 days or 4,000 miles by Kaiser-Frazer -- "which was as long as anybody would want to guarantee one of the things," as one critic of the Henry J put it. That's being unfair, since the Allstate, like the Henry J, had a good service and repair record.

Despite the marketing muscle of the Sears catalog, the Allstate sold poorly.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

If you can find a 1952 Sears catalog, you'll find the Allstate on the back cover. It didn't reappear in the 1953 catalog because the project was already winding down. Technically available anywhere, the Allstate was delivered almost exclusively in Dixie; if you lived, say, in Minnesota, you would have had a hard time getting one.

Price was against it, too: the lowest you could pay was $1,395, and in practice most sold for about $1,600. At a time when a two-door Ford V-8 cost $1,500 and a Chevrolet about $1,550, the Allstate was up against very tough competition. Of the minuscule production, about three of every five cars were fours and the rest sixes.

To read the specifications of the 1952-1953 Allstate, go to the next page.

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