1954 Kaiser Darrin 161
In the early 1950s, the famed industrial designer Howard “Dutch” Darrin, who had to previously been employed by Kaiser, now operated out of his own showroom in LA, where he took it upon himself to design a sports car for the Kaiser Corporation based on the compact Henry J. chassis. He invited top company brass to view the car but instead got a rather brusque response from Henry Kaiser himself, who informed Darrin that Kaiser was in the family car business, NOT the sports car business. But Darrin persisted and finally a meeting was set. Upon seeing the car for the first time, it was actually Henry Kaiser’s wife who insisted the car go in to production.
Mrs. Kaiser got her way and the first prototype appeared at the New York Auto Show in 1953, just beating Chevrolet’s Corvette to become America’s first fiberglass production sports car. Beyond the sweeping profile and heart-shaped grille, the Kaiser-Darrin 161 was most famous for its innovative pocket doors that disappeared into the front fenders on sliding tracks. Construction of the fiberglass bodies was outsourced to Glaspar of California, who had previous experience with making a sporty car under their own name. Power was courtesy of the Hurricane F-head inline six producing about 90 horsepower. Unfortunately, Kaiser Motors Corporation could not compete against the marketing might of GM and Ford, and after just 435 Darrins were built (all sold as 1954 models), Kaiser dropped out of passenger car production altogether.
But the story did not end there as Dutch Darrin was able to procure a handful of late production models that were left unsold at Kaiser’s Willow Run factory. He brought the cars to his Los Angeles showroom where they were refurbished, where some were modified with V8 engines and sold as the Darrin Sports Car.
This Kaiser Darrin 161 Roadster is a truly outstanding example, finished in the beautiful factory Champagne White exterior with a matching Red Top and Interior. The marvelous car was the subject of a complete nut-and-bolt restoration exacting standards and has seen only light and careful use since. It is reported that this was a complete and very original car prior to its complete restoration. Every component was given the same care and attention as the next, as this car presents in exceptional condition. Dutch Darrin’s vision for the Kaiser-Darrin 161 extended to the stylish interior. He specified an elegant yet straightforward cockpit treatment that further enhanced the wholly unique appearance of the car. Refraining from adding extraneous trim Darrin kept the interior simple as to not detract from the body design. Restored true to factory specifications this car features the correct upholstery on the seats dash pad and door panels. The soft top is done in period proper vinyl material and the fit is excellent. Equipment is minimal with an under-dash heater overdrive being the only options. Beneath the hood sits the Willys-derived F-Head inline six. With a single carburetor the 161 cubic-inch engine made a respectable 90 horsepower. A three-speed manual transmission with overdrive allows for relaxed cruising ability. As with the rest of this car the engine is meticulously detailed to a very high standard. Factory correct labels and decals give it a showroom-fresh appearance. Rarely do we encounter examples of the Kaiser-Darrin 161 restored with such quality and meticulous detail.
- One year only 1954 Kaiser Darrin 161 Roadster
- Extremely rare having only a total production of 435 units
- VIN: 161001054
- Concours quality nut and bolt restoration
- Runs, drives and performs beautifully