The Kaiser-Darrin, an American sports car, was built by Kaiser Motors in Detroit in 1953 and '54. Designed by Howard “Dutch” Darrin, the car was the only one produced that had the doors slide into the fenders. The bodies were all Fiberglas and made by the Glasspar boat manufacturer for the auto application on a modified Henry J chassis. Although many critics considered the car underpowered, the light weight of 2,175 pounds resulted in zero-to-60 mph runs in 13.8 seconds.
The car is extremely rare as only 435 units were built. The engine is a 161-cubic-inch (2.6 liter) Willys flathead, three-speed manual with electric overdrive. The original price for one of these cars was $3,668.
In an interview several years ago with Donnie Gardner, manager of Skillman Collector Cars, all Darrins came with tinted and shaded windshields. The dual horns, tachometer, stainless steel wheel covers, bumper guards, cigar lighter, inside-the-car rearview mirror and glass “wind wings” were all standard equipment. The only option listed was for leather seats.
There were no radios. Some of the cars were later retrofitted with more than one carburetor to increase performance. Falling corporate finances, pending loss of assembly facilities looming in the future and a severe winter snowstorm that ruined finishes on 50 cars all conspired to doom the company to failure in 1955.
Darrin outfitted his last 100 cars with V-8 engines; these vehicles are the most sought after by collectors. According to Brighton Motorsports of Scottsdale, Arizona., if you can find a fully restored Kaiser-Darrin, the average price is between $220,000 a $230,000. Until next time, happy cruisin!