1954 Kaiser-Darrin

1954 Kaiser-Darrin Features
This Kaiser-Darrin required only two doors, neither of which employed hinges -- they slid into the fenders.
This Kaiser-Darrin required only two doors, neither of which employed hinges -- they slid into the fenders.

The result of the prototype for the 1954 Kaiser-Darrin was typically Darrin in that the front fenders swept up from a "dip" at the rear fender leading edges; high, vee'd grille; long hood; clean, tapering rear quarters; and smooth teardrop taillights (slightly modified from standard 1952 Kaiser units, Darrin's last contribution to the second-generation sedan design).

But its most notable aspect by far was sliding doors, a Darrin notion dating back at least to 1946, when Dutch patented it. The patent drawings showed a four-door model, with the doors sliding electrically on rollers into the front and rear fenders, meeting in the middle when closed. The idea, of course, was to ease entry/exit while eliminating conventionally hinged doors that Dutch saw as clumsy and old-fashioned.

Being a two-seater, the Kaiser-Darrin required only two doors, but they rolled into the front fenders just as Dutch's patent had outlined. Unfortunately, they didn't roll far enough, or were perhaps too narrow to begin with, for the openings they left were small, and most people found getting in and out quite a squeeze. Still, this problem might have been worked out in production -- had there been any to speak of.

Other features were more successful. A one-piece hinged decklid, extending behind the cockpit all the way to the rear, could be lifted clear for easy access to both the top and luggage compartments. Functional landau irons allowed the folding soft top to be locked in an intermediate position, leaving the rear section erect for open-air driving without back-drafts.

Underneath were the ladder-type, 100-inch-wheelbase chassis and 80-horsepower, 161-cubic-inch L-head six from the production Henry J. The only other hardware borrowed from K-F's compact were bumpers, steering wheel, and a few minor dash controls.

The first prototype from Darrin was considered one of the best-looking sports cars of its time.

For more information on the 1954 Kaiser-Darrin prototype, continue on to the next page.

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