Monday, August 17, 2009

1948 Kaiser Sedan

Immediately after World War II, Henry J. Kaiser, a steel and shipbuilding magnate, and Joseph Worthington Frazer, a 35-year veteran of the auto industry, thought the time was right for a new auto company and joined forces to form the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation. The company's first cars were produced in June 1946 in the the former Ford WWII bomber plant in Willow Run, Michigan as 1947 models. There were two brands: the lower Kaiser brand and the upscale Frazer brand. Initially there were two Kaisers built for every Frazer.

By 1948, Kaiser-Frazer was the number eight automaker in the country, having passed all the other independent automakers. The car shown here is a 1948 Kaiser sedan. The styling is virtually identical to that of 1947, and the next year would see some changes.

Unfortunately, things got worse for 1949, when the company dropped to 14th place. Henry Kaiser borrowed heavily to finance new models and an all-new small car. Joseph Frazer left the company, and the Frazer brand was phased out in 1951, the same year the new small car, the Henry J, was introduced.

Neither the new full-size Kaisers nor the new Henry J were particularly successful. In 1954, Kaiser purchased Willys-Overland, builder of small cars and the famous Jeep, to become Kaiser-Willys, and the HEnry J was discontinued. Kaiser sold the Willow Run plant to General Motors and consolidated production in Willys' plant in Toledo, Ohio.

The situation didn't improve, and the US production of both Kaiser and Willys passenger cars ended in 1955. The company continued on with the Jeep product line as Kaiser-Jeep and the simply the Jeep Corporation, which was acquired by American Motors in 1970 and survives today are part of the Chrysler Corporation.

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