Junkyard Gem: 1947 Frazer Manhattan


Automobiles bearing the Kaiser badge— with its Je suis prêt (I am all set) slogan— were offered for just the 1947 by 1951 model a long time, so you will not uncover quite a few in your community auto graveyard these days (though I did regulate to discover a discarded ’51 Frazer Vagabond a decade back). That’s a disgrace, for the reason that the contemplation of a weathered Frazer opens a interesting window into some critical automotive heritage. Here is just one of the to start with cars and trucks at any time created by the Kaiser-Frazer Company, now residing in a Denver self-assistance lawn.

Joseph Washington Frazer— indeed, that center name derives from an ancestry that integrated the to start with President of the United States— is just not a family identify now, but he played a pivotal part in the development of Chrysler Corporation (it was Frazer who imagined up the name for the Plymouth Division), went on to run Willys-Overland (where he trademarked the Jeep model) for the duration of Earth War II, and then took around Graham-Paige with the prepare of developing tens of millions of civilian automobiles right after the war. Missing capital, he joined forces with industrialist Henry J. Kaiser (who masterminded the company that cranked out 2,710 Liberty Ships for the duration of the war) and the two men produced the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation.

The corporation leased the wide Willow Run plant in Michigan, originally built to manufacture B-24 Liberator bombers throughout the war, and— in legitimate Liberty Ship fashion— arrived up with types for two all-new cars and trucks seemingly right away. 1 was a radical unibody-chassis machine with entrance-wheel-push that never produced it into generation even with loads of hoopla during 1946, even though the other was a common overall body-on-body sedan with rear-wheel-drive and a elements-bin powertrain. The second style went into manufacturing at Willow Operate as a 1947 model, with the Frazer versions priced larger than their Kaiser counterparts. The Manhattan was the prime-of-the-line Kaiser-Frazer model, priced at $2,550 (about $35,145 in 2022 pounds) that year. You could invest in the lessen-zoot Kaiser Specific variation for a mere $1,868 ($25,745 now).

Ford, GM, and Chrysler were however creating prewar styles at this time, so the slab sides of the Kaiser-Frazers appeared futuristic by comparison. The postwar lack of new vehicles meant that buyers did not considerably treatment if their ’47s and ’48s ended up truly late-1930s patterns, even as streamlined rocket-run aircraft flew a lot quicker than audio, so determined vehicle purchasers snapped up every thing new with four wheels and an engine throughout the 1946-1948 time period (my grandfather bought a new 1946 Crosley as his postwar work auto and regretted the conclusion immediately).

After the Detroit Significant Three experienced finished the changeover from developing tanks and bombers to developing and constructing fashionable Unique Deluxes, Tudors, and Chieftans, even though, the get together was more than for Kaiser-Frazer. Not only did everyone’s 1949 designs feature slab-sided bodies, but overhead-valve engines had been turning into the Upcoming Significant Point. Cadillac and Oldsmobile boasted model-new pushrod V8s that yr, Chevrolet experienced made available an OHV straight-six since the 1920s (Buick offered OHV straight-eights setting up in 1931), and even the flathead-engine holdouts were jacking up compression ratios and producing their aged valve-in-block engines seem modern-day. Meanwhile, Kaiser-Frazer was trapped with the most generic of off-the-shelf engines imaginable: the Continental flathead straight-6.

The heritage of this motor is so tangled that I might have to write a doctoral dissertation to do it justice below, but the condensed model is that Continental constructed engines for other manufacturers (of tractors, aircraft, generators, vehicles, cars, you title it) starting up in 1905, and at some point additional than 100 will make of car would be crafted employing some variant of the Continental flathead straight-6. In truth, the incredibly past new flathead-outfitted vehicle you could purchase in the United States was the 1964 Checker Marathon, which could be acquired with a 226-cubic-inch (3.7-liter) Continental.

Kaiser-Frazers also employed the Continental 226 (the later on Kaiser Henry J used Willys flathead engines), coupled to a 3-on-the-tree column-change handbook transmission. Kaiser-Frazer profits collapsed in 1949, by no means to recuperate. Joe Frazer quit the firm following limitless squabbles with the stubborn Henry Kaiser, and the Frazer model received the axe immediately after 1951 (when the cars were just 1950 styles designed with leftover components).

The previous Kaiser-badged cars and trucks sold in America have been 1955 products, when Jeep creation ongoing below the Kaiser-owned Willys Motor Corporation and then Kaiser-Jeep. Jeep finished up in the arms of American Motors, which was eaten by Chrysler in 1987. We could as a result consider today’s Junkyard Gem to be a distant ancestor of the cars produced by the existing-day Stellantis Empire, earning it a cousin a lot of instances removed of the Opel Grandland Plug-in Hybrid and Peugeot 208. The Kaiser Permanente health care firm, started for the duration of Earth War II as a usually means of furnishing professional medical care for Kaiser shipyard personnel in California and named following the creek near Kaiser’s cement plant, is the most noticeable remnant currently of Kaiser-Frazer.

Packed with background as it is, this automobile by no means experienced a chance of acquiring set again on the street soon after shelling out many years outdoor in Superior Plains Colorado. A quite great ’47 Manhattan just isn’t really worthy of substantially now, regrettably, so a tough a single is well worth its excess weight in scrap.

Try to remember, your Kaiser-Frazer dealer is providing now!

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