- Chassis Number 161-001001
- The Very First Production Kaiser-Darrin
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 was courtesy of the Hurricane F-head inline six producing about 90 horsepower. Unfortunately, Kaiser Motors Corporation could not compete against the marketing might of GM and Ford, and ultimately, just 435 were built, all sold as 1954 models.
Of the 435 Kaiser-Darrin automobiles produced, a certain few are standouts of desirability. Collectors covet the last handful of cars that were sold by Dutch Darrin himself. The very earliest examples are also very collectible as they featured several detail differences from the standard production cars. But the car featured here is a standout among even the most historic of known Kaiser-Darrin automobiles, as it is chassis number 161001-001. This is the very first production car built and the very car that was displayed at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 1953. This is a hugely important car to Kaiser-Darrin enthusiasts.
The earliest examples had a few detail differences that set them apart from the rest of the production run. Full chrome wheel covers differ from later wire wheel covers. The front fenders wear Darrin script badges while later cars only got the script on the trunk, and a slightly different license plate bracket and light are fitted.
This history of Kaiser-Darrin #001 has been well documented. After being shown in the Los Angeles Auto Show in 1953, it was believed to have taken part in the Rose Parade that same year. In 1956 it was purchased by the father of Paris Finch and it remained in the Finch family for many years. In 1973, #001 was restored by renowned Kaiser Darrin expert Buddy Holiday. It was shown at events such as the Kaiser National meet by Mr. Finch’s son, Paris Finch. The current owner had been aware of the car since the 1980’s and kept in touch with the Finch family for many years until he was able to acquire the car. It was since comprehensively but carefully restored to a very high standard and now presents in exceptional condition, in its original paint and trim combination of 153-7200 (Champagne white over correct red vinyl trim). This is far and away the most significant Kaiser-Darrin in existence and it carries with it an exceptional history to compliment the beautiful and fresh restoration.
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