Car Collector Corner: Remembering the Frazer automobiles
Q: Greg, your weekly columns bring back great memories. How about telling me what you thought of the Frazer automobiles? My friend has one that allowed the trunk to turn into a spacious cargo area. I know they weren't in business long. Fred L., happily retired in Massachusetts.
A: Fred thanks for the kind words. As for those Frazer cars, the company came into existence thanks to Joseph Washington Frazer, a noted descendent of the original "Washington" family from Virginia (yes, President George was related!)
Frazer had previous successful experience with Pierce Arrow, Packard, Chrysler and General Motors. He met Henry J. Kaiser in the early 1940s and the two formed a new car company called Kaiser-Frazer in July of 1945.
Since the war was still going on and the car companies were building tanks, Jeeps and other major war components, the duo decided to introduce the first post WWII vehicle in 1947 called the Frazer, while a less expensive model, called Kaiser, would also be available in similar design with less trimmings.
The 123.5-inch wheelbase Frazer models came in upscale Manhattan and the entry Frazer, which only had Frazer badges for identification. Frazers received power from a 226-inch flathead six cylinder producing 110 or 112 horses.
Kaisers, meanwhile, had to make a quick u-turn during production. They were supposed to come in a front drive, 117-inch wheelbase motif with an 85-horse flathead six (see advertisement). However, the idea was scrapped when costs became unsustainable and the Kaiser mirrored the Frazer mechanically when it arrived in 1947.
Overall, the exterior design was, for the day, impressive with the all-new fender design that interacted with the hood instead of differentiating. Some of the car's appearance work came from noted Kaiser Darrin sports car stylist Howard Darrin, who many hold in the same "design esteem class" as GM's noted creator Harley Earl. The interior featured the widest front seat to date in the industry.
At about $2,695 for the Manhattan and $2,295 for the regular Frazer, the cars were in no way cheap. In comparison, Kaiser's entry level Special initially cost $1,868, but the price quickly went to $2,105 due to manufacture price demands. The Kaiser Custom upgrade model cost $2,456, which was far from an entry level 1947 Chevy Town Sedan, which cost only $1,219 to park in your driveway.
Surprisingly, sales were great for both Frazer and Kaiser in '47, and the company made an estimated $72-million on total sales of 68,700 for the Frazer and 70,500 for the Kaiser.
Sadly, the two principals parted ways in 1949 following Kaiser's demands not to implement Frazer's ideas for a new vehicle with more aerodynamics and Darrin's influence. By 1951, the Henry J was in production as "the new small Kaiser brainstorm," while the final Frazer was sold in 1951. (See my previous column on the company's "First Ever Hatchback" I wrote in February of 2011 if you have access to a computer).
Thanks for your question and may God bless you in your retirement.
(Greg Zyla writes for Gatehouse News Service and welcomes reader question all nostalgia car topics at 116 Main St., Towanda, Pa. 18848 or at firstname.lastname@example.org)