1954 Kaiser-Darrin Roadster
$140,000 - $180,000Offered without reserve
RM | Sotheby's - ARIZONA 2019 - Offered on: Thursday, January 17, 2019
- Renowned Dutch Darrin design
- Fewer than 500 ever built
- Multiple trophy winner and cover car
The Kaiser-Darrin had its beginning in secret, in the shops of Howard “Dutch” Darrin in California. Darrin had designed the 1951 model Kaisers, but fell out with Kaiser management. The car’s fiberglass body incorporated the hallmark “Darrin dip” along the doors, which were of a novel sliding design. To enter the Kaiser-Darrin, one twisted the door handle and pushed the door forward into the front fender.
Henry Kaiser was not initially impressed, but his wife, Bess, was. Through her influence, Kaiser was convinced to put it into production. An F-head Willys six was chosen as the powerplant (Kaiser had bought Willys in 1953), and a few cars were finished toward the end of that year. At $3,668 it was expensive – more than a Series 62 Cadillac or a Lincoln Capri – but came with lots of standard equipment: a three-position landau top, tinted windshield with washers, and a tachometer. Weather protection was furnished by side curtains. Production began in January 1954, eventually topping out at 435 cars. Alas, sales were slow. At year’s end, about 100 remained unsold.
This handsome Kaiser Darrin in the distinctive light green Pine Tint hue was completely restored during the period 1999–2001. It has received accolades in SCCA Concours competition, as well as concours events at Carmel, Hillsborough, Palo Alto, Palos Verdes, and many other venues where it was the recipient of numerous trophies and awards. It was the cover car on the February 2012 issue of Motor Market magazine. The restoration and subsequent servicing are documented in a portfolio of invoices that accompanies the car. It also includes Kaiser-Darrin sales brochures and memorabilia of the 2005 U.S. Postal Service stamp issue “50s Sporty Cars,” which pictured a Kaiser-Darrin in this very color.
Although some 60 percent of production survives, it amounts to barely 300 cars. The next owner of this Kaiser-Darrin is unlikely to meet another on the road.