The Kaiser-Frazer Corporation was founded in 1947 by Henry J. Kaiser and Joseph Frazer, and was built on the remnants of the defunct Graham-Paige company of which Joseph Frazer was formerly the president. Kaiser-Frazer had a relatively short stint as a full-fledged manufacturer, and struggled from early on to gain a foothold in the market against the might of the Big Three. At the head of the corporation, Kaiser and Frazer often clashed about their strong philosophical differences. In 1951 Joseph Frazer was ousted from the company bearing his name. Adding insult to injury, the Frazer nameplate was dropped from the lineup in the middle of 1951 production. Henry J. Kaiser tried to shore up his company’s assets by purchasing another struggling independent, Willys-Overland. This formed the Kaiser-Willys Corporation, and in 1956 the company ceased passenger car production altogether, focusing instead on utility vehicles. Only the Jeep brand survived the twists and turns of this tumultuous company’s history.
The Frazer Manhattan was the company’s flagship offering for 1951. The Frazer models received a significant restyle which they did not share with their sister cars at Kaiser, making these cars quite rare indeed. The distinct styling proved popular with the public and nearly 50,000 orders were placed. But the company could not keep pace, as the Manhattan was largely hand built, and only 10,214 left the Willow Run factory before supplies ran dry. This 1951 Frazer Manhattan is a rare and fascinating four-door convertible, but the fact that this is serial number 002 – one of two pilot production models – makes it truly special. This very car was shown at the 1951 Chicago auto show, then returned to Kaiser-Frazer’s Willow Run plant where it became Henry J. Kaiser’s personal car. Kaiser kept the car for many years, a testament to the quality and style. It has been well documented that he used it at his homes in both Michigan and Hawaii; in fact it still bears its Hawaii permit sticker from 1962.
Showing just over 65,000 miles, this significant Frazer presents in very well-maintained condition. It has benefitted light restoration work and careful preservation from previous owners. The pleasing yellow over black color combination suits the car very well. The chrome has recently been restored and some minor detailing has been done to keep the car properly preserved. The venerable Continental Supersonic L-head six-cylinder engine is in fine order and is mated to a robust GM Hydramatic transmission. Engine bay detailing is pleasing and tidy, not over-restored, but with a nice period correct feel. Inside, the leather interior is surprisingly luxurious and has been beautifully preserved. It features hydraulically operated power windows and power top, and a delightful array of chrome detailing on the dash. An extensive document file including factory manuals, factory correspondence and historical documentation is included. Overall this is a pleasing, well preserved example of a very unusual American classic with the added attraction of a rich and fascinating history.
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