My Car Quest

October 24, 2014

The First Fiberglass Sports Car – The Kaiser Darrin

by Mike – 

Kaiser Motors

Kaiser Motors was formed in 1945 as Kaiser-Frazer. They changed the company name to Kaiser Motors and merged with Willys Overland in 1953 and changed the name again to Willys Motors Incorporated.

Kaiser Darrin

The company name was changed one more time in 1963 to Kaiser Jeep Corporation (the Jeep brand came along with the Willys merger).

Kaiser Darrin

They were sold to American Motors in 1969 and in 1987 American Motors was acquired by Chrysler which today continues to make the Jeep. What a complex and confusing history and I haven’t even mentioned Renault, Daimler-Benz, Fiat or the US government.

Kaiser Darrin

Kaiser Darrin

The Kaiser Darrin is a beautiful fiberglass bodied convertible two-seater with very unique doors that glide forward inside the front fenders. It was the first fiberglass bodied sports car beating the Chevrolet Corvette to market by just a few weeks.

Kaiser Darrin

Henry Kaiser initially did not like the design of the Darrin (by designer Howard ‘Dutch’ Darrin) but eventually agreed to produce the small roadster at the request of his wife, who loved the car. Kaiser even named the car after the designer.

Kaiser Darrin

The Darrin roadster was targeted at the young and stylish car buyer unlike the other Kaiser models.

Kaiser Darrin

The Sliding Door – Open

Kaiser Darrin

The Sliding Door – Closing

Kaiser Darrin

The Sliding Door – Closed

Dutch Darrin was fascinated with sliding doors rather than normal swing-out doors. With the Darrin sliding doors hitting the curb, or another car, with the door was a problem of the past and the Darrin was easier to get in and out of than other cars, at least in a tight spot.

Kaiser Darrin interior

The Kaiser Darrin roadster was short-lived, production was stopped after nine months with only 435 examples being made, all in 1954.

The Darrin roadster is a great example of Post-War American design like the Studebaker Avanti and the Corvette.

Kaiser Darrin

Kaiser Darrin wheel

Kaiser Darrin

Kaiser Darrin advertisement

Some photos by Michael Menetto.


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Comments

  1. ScuderiaPacNW says:

    In the 50’s our extended Mid-West family was the typical Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Lincoln, Cadillac, mixed group of auto buyers…with lots of friendly rivalries surrounding the various choices. Then one day our Grandfather stunned the entire group by purchasing a 1954 Kaiser Manhattan…a Darrin/Weissinger design. Everyone was shocked! He was born in Wales and was schooled in the Queen’s English, and there was just something about the design that appealed to his UK senses. He drove the car for several years tooling around in retirement with his grandchildren on board, much to the quiet embarrassment of his own children. Finally he sold it to a neighbor with some 50.000 miles driven. I can still hear the sound of the communal family sigh of relief.

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