Amelia Island | Lot 123
1954 Kaiser-Darrin Roadster
$97,350 USD | Sold
| Amelia Island, Florida
10 March 2012
Model KF-161. 90 bhp, 161 cu. in. F-head Willys “Hurricane” inline six-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with wishbones and coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 100"
• Landmark early American fiberglass-bodied sports car design
• Limited production
• Freshened restoration
The distinctive Kaiser-Darrin roadster, conceived by renowned designer Howard “Dutch” Darrin, remains an undisputed American automotive icon. Aimed at the same young and affluent market as Chevrolet’s Corvette, the Kaiser-Darrin combined a sleek fiberglass body with a three-position convertible top and mechanical components sourced from the company’s parts bin, including the compact Henry J chassis and the F-head “Hurricane” six-cylinder engine from Willys, which Kaiser acquired in 1953.
At $3,668, the Kaiser-Darrin was costlier than a Series 62 Cadillac or a Lincoln Capri but offered plenty of standard equipment including a tinted windshield with washers and comprehensive instrumentation including a tachometer. Production began in January 1954, but when Henry Kaiser changed his business focus from automobiles to healthcare by purchasing an interest in the Permanente hospital chain in California, production halted with 435 Kaiser-Darrins built. Some 50 unsold cars were parked in the Willys storage lot. Darrin was incensed and acquired the lot of them, which he eventually completed and sold over the next few years.
This fine example was acquired by the current owner-collector in 2010 with its older restoration remaining in very good condition. Since then, the Kaiser-Darrin has been elevated to its excellent present condition with a fresh exterior refinish, a reupholstered interior and restored brightwork. The freshly restored and detailed undercarriage is equally impressive. Beautifully presented, this 1954 Kaiser-Darrin roadster is a fitting tribute to its designer and champion, Howard “Dutch” Darrin. As such, its offering provides a wonderful opportunity to acquire and enjoy a rare American design statement.