Open Roads, February | Lot 259
1954 Kaiser-Darrin Roadster
North American Offering
$137,500 USD | Sold
| Waxahachie, Texas
19 - 28 February 2021
- An excellent example of the pioneering, Howard “Dutch” Darrin-designed American fiberglass sports car
- 161 cu. in. Willys “Hurricane” F-head I-6 engine; three-speed manual transmission
- Fitted with period-appropriate McCulloch supercharger
- Accompanied by rare Darrin-designed hardtop created from original molds
- Presents in beautifully restored condition
Legend holds that Howard “Dutch” Darrin’s design for a sports car built of that new post-war miracle material, fiberglass, did not particularly move industrialist Henry J. Kaiser. Kaiser was a practical sort, and there was not much practical about this sporty roadster. For his wife, Alyce, it was another story altogether, and in the end, Henry J.’s salesman side gave the lady what she wanted.
The Kaiser-Darrin was America’s first production fiberglass sports car, with its prototype debuting in fall 1952—just ahead of the Chevrolet Corvette (although production did not begin until 1954). It was powered by the reliable Willys 161-cubic inch “Hurricane” F-head six-cylinder engine, and its design became a legend of 1950s motoring, with sweeping front fenders that plunged behind the doors into a “Darrin dip,” a split windshield, and a distinctive “rosebud” grille, which, it was commented, always looked like it wanted to give someone a kiss.
Most fascinating of all were Darrin’s beloved “pocket” doors, which slid forward into the front fenders to permit entry and exit. Darrin promoted sliding doors for decades, claiming that they were a very safe alternative as they did not open into traffic. While the idea never quite caught on, they remain a Kaiser-Darrin trademark, and one of its best-remembered features.
With only 435 production examples completed, the Kasier-Darrin is an uncommon offering by any measure. The roadster offered here is a very late-production car, number 390, originally finished in Yellow Satin. After being treated to a body-off, professional rotisserie restoration in the original color, it presents beautifully, and it is further enhanced by a few very rare accessories.
A small handful of Kaiser-Darrins were experimentally equipped from new with Paxton-McCulloch superchargers, as were used on Kaiser sedans of the period. This proven performance-enhancing feature was occasionally added to other Roadsters after the fact, and such is the case here: A period-appropriate Kaiser/McCulloch supercharger has been fitted, with the necessary supercharger mounts reportedly made from castings off an original car.
In addition, Darrin had designed a low-slung removable hardtop as an aftermarket option, and one of these hardtops was made for this car off the original molds. Besides being a rare piece, it very much compliments the lines of the car, making it even more pleasing to the eye. The car also features correct chrome wire-wheel covers and wide whitewall tires.
This is a rare opportunity to acquire a well-accessorized and beautifully restored Darrin in very attractive colors, sure to make its new owner feel like a 1950s film star!