Arizona | Lot 209
1954 Kaiser-Darrin Roadster
$176,000 USD | Sold
| Phoenix, Arizona
29 January 2016
- An excellent example of the pioneering American fiberglass sports car
- Complete professional rotisserie restoration in original colors
- Rare Darrin-designed hardtop and Kaiser/McCulloch supercharger
- Spectacular presentation and surprising performance!
Model KF-161. 110 bhp, 161 cu. in. F-head Willys “Hurricane” inline six-cylinder engine with McCulloch two-speed centrifugal supercharger, three-speed manual transmission with overdrive, independent front suspension with wishbones and coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 100 in.
Legend holds that Howard 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 built before the Corvette, although production did not begin until 1954. It was powered by the reliable Willys 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. They were never an idea that’s time had come, and they were the Kaiser-Darrin’s trademark, being its best-remembered feature.
The Kaiser-Darrin offered here is a very late-production car, number 390, originally finished in Yellow Satin. Over the past four years, it was treated to a body-off, professional rotisserie restoration in the original color, with a few very rare accessories. “Dutch” Darrin had experimentally equipped a few of the leftover Kaiser-Darrins with Paxton-McCulloch superchargers, as were used on Kaiser sedans of the period. A Kaiser/McCulloch supercharger was mated to the car offered here using supercharger mounts for the engine 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!