Bonhams | 2018-10-08 | Collectors Motorcars and Automobilia Auction Philadelphia Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum | Venue : Philadelphia, Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum
Lot No. : 106
Year : 1954
Engine Size : -
Chassis No. : #1611249
Estimate : US$ 140,000 - 180,000
US$ 135,520
Kaiser Darrin 161 Sold


161ci OHV Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
Single Downdraft Carburetor
90bhp at 4,200rpm
3-Speed Manual Transmission with Overdrive
Independent Front Suspension – Live Rear Axle
4-Wheel Drum Brakes
*Only 435 produced
*Beautifully Restored
*Winner AACA Senior Badge
*A legend of 1950s motoring
In the bustling years after World War II, American roads were peppered with ever growing numbers of European and British sports cars. American servicemen returning from overseas duty were bringing with them nimble little cars with gutsy engines and sleek styling. American manufacturers wanted in on the action, but nobody had a suitable car ready to compete with the European invaders. Ford and GM started work on their own interpretations of a sports car, while the independent Kaiser Motors also decided to toss their hat in the ring. To compete with the imports, swift action was needed, so Kaiser enlisted the famed industrial designer Howard Dutch Darrin to produce a fiberglass-bodied sports car based on the compact Henry J. economy car.
The first prototype appeared at the New York Auto Show in 1953, just besting Chevrolet's Corvette to become America's first fiberglass production sports car. Beyond the sweeping profile and heart-shaped grille, the Darrin was most famous for its pocket doors that disappeared into the front fenders on sliding tracks. Construction of the fiberglass bodies was outsourced to Glaspar of California. Power is courtesy of the 161 cubic inch Hurricane F-head inline six. Just 435 of these stunning cars were built, making them both rare and desirable. All sold as 1954 models and came equipped with a three-position Landau top, which was considered quite novel at the time.
Being just one out of the 435 produced, this Kaiser Darrin represents one of the few examples of the unique roadster from its limited production run. As rare as it is innovative, this Kaiser Darrin is finished in the correct Pine Tint paint with matching seat covers and accurate brown carpets.
With its fiberglass coachwork and numerous difficult to find parts, Kaiser Darrins are sadly neglected due to the cost and challenges involved in restoring them. It is a rare find to come upon an example as nicely presented as this one. While the earliest history of the vehicle is shrouded in mystery, it is known that the car bought by a Mr. Will Markey in the early 2000's. Reports state that the Kaiser was in an unrestored state but generally in good order. Nevertheless, Will decided to subject the car to a restoration soon after his acquisition. He would reap the rewards of this work by taking the vehicle to a national meet in Hershey Pennsylvania where it subsequently and deservedly won the AACA Senior Badge. Further endorsing the condition, it scored 190 out of 200 possible points at the Kaiser-Frazer owners meet.
Few cars possess the style and elegance of the Kaiser Darrin. With so few examples left in existence, this great car is sure to command attention. To own a Kaiser Darrin is an opportunity to enjoy a rare, iconic American sports car.

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