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Darrin D.K.F. 161
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  Kaiser Darrin D.K.F. 161

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Country of origin:United States
Produced in:1954
Numbers built:435
Designed by:Howard 'Dutch' Darrin
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:September 12, 2005
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Click here to download printer friendly versionIn the Second World War Henry Kaiser had made a small fortune building Liberty-class warships for the navy. He teamed up with ex-Willys employee Joseph Frazer to for the Kaiser car company. The manufacturer's first prototype was very advanced, but for the eventual production cars were of a more conventional design. The four door sedans proved an immediate hit and before the end of the decade 5% of all new cars in the United States was produced by Kaiser.

In 1951 the two door Henry J model was introduced, which featured a smaller wheelbase and Jeep derived engines. Howard 'Dutch' Darrin used this small Henry J as basis for a two door convertible. It featured a fiberglass body, a three position convertible top and unique sliding doors. Unlike later designs for sliding doors, the Darrin's doors did not pop out to slide back, but instead slid into the front fender. The only other application of this feature are the BMW Z1's doors, but these slide down into the sill.

On January 6 1954, the Kaiser Darrin roadster made its debut and deliveries started shortly after. Sadly its high price and unconventional styling meant that it was not a big sales success. After only 435 examples rolled off the line, production ceased. Dutch Darrin picked up production for a short while with a Cadillac engine version, which could be supercharged on request. Not long after the demise of the Kaiser Darrin, the complete company folded; yet another attempt to take on America's big three had failed.

Thanks to its unique styling and rarity the Kaiser Darrin is a popular Concours d'Elegance participant. The featured example was meticulously restored before being shown at the 2005 "Palm Beach International, a Concours d'Elegance."

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