Business Find: 1954 Kaiser Manhattan – Listing Expired

Sep 2020 | Craigslist ClassiFINDS, Free For All Friday

October 16th Update: We just confirmed the Craigslist ad for this car expired and with no replacement listing found, we’re assuming this car sold.  This one may have got away, but if you have your heart set on something similar, email us the details of what you’re looking for or call Rudy directly at (908)295-7330

While hearing about the latest Barn Find has become an almost daily occurrence in the collector car world, reading someone finding a restorable classic in the back area of a going business is a new one for us.  Even cooler is the fact said person bought the car and brought it back to roadworthy condition. That great story is why we selected this patina-covered 1954 Kaiser Manhattan Sedan listed recently on Craigslist in Wappingers, New York with an asking price of $5,500.   Comparing this price against the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool confirms this private seller has his Kaiser priced between the #3 “Good” appraisal of $9,200 and the #4 “Fair” estimate of $3,600.  For a second data point, the Collector Car Market Review Online Tool indicates this Kaiser is currently priced between that guide’s #4 “Fair” appraisal of $4,825 and the #3 “Good” estimate of $9,650. 

In their Valuation, Hagerty Insurance provides a nice summary of the ’51-’54 Kaiser Manhattan:

In 1951, Frazer debuted a new design that would continue until the company’s end of U.S. passenger car production in 1955. Designed by Howard “Dutch” Darrin, the cars were longer, lower, and swoopier. The top-of-the-line Manhattan cost just over $3,000, and fewer than 300 were produced in all.

The Frazer Manhattan was available as either a four-door sedan or a four-door convertible and carried a look that was not shared with sister Kaiser models. The sedan resembled a convertible with the top up as it had minor creases at the B- and C-pillars, meant to evoke convertible top bows. A 226-cid, 115-hp, six-cylinder engine was used, and the motor was mated to a Hydra-Matic transmission for the first time.

For 1952, the Manhattan name was shifted to the Kaiser nameplate, and the car received a markedly different exterior that was consistent with the rest of the brand. Most notably, a pronounced dip adorned the center of the windshield and rear glass, and the grille had a simple top bar that curved around the front fenders. For this model year, body style choices were greatly revised, as the convertible model was removed, a club coupe and a two-door sedan were added, and Traveler configurations could be ordered. List prices dropped considerably, and production numbers were much higher.

The 1953 model year was mostly the same, though the Manhattan could be ordered with “Bambu” interior, and body choices were limited to a two-door club sedan, and four-door sedan, and a Traveler sedan. For 1954, Darrin redesigned the Manhattan’s grille in a new “jet air-scoop” design, supposedly borrowed from the Buick XP-300 show car. More importantly a McCulloch supercharger became standard on the Manhattan’s old flathead six, which boosted output to 140 hp. Even so, sales dropped to 4,325 Manhattans.

By 1955, it was all over. Only 1,231 supercharged Manhattans were built that year, with 1,021 being sent to Argentina. The tooling was sent down to Buenos Aires and the Kaiser Manhattans continued to be sold in South America until 1962 as the Carabella.

The Kaiser-Frazer Manhattan is a rare and eye-catching car today. When new they were fairly luxurious, and the supercharged cars in particular provided adequate power. The four-door convertible is an interesting body style, and the 1951 models are particularly handsome. The 1955 Manhattans sold in the U.S. are also quite collectible due to their rarity and performance. Locating a Manhattan in top condition is possibly the hardest part of owning one.”

We have two videos for this listing.  The first is this extended TV commercial from 1954 featuring the Kaiser Manhattan:

The YouTube Channel Auto Moments posted a great day review a ’54 survivor Manhattan:

With this rare Kaiser brought back to life, the next caretaker has to decide whether to continue using the car as-is or take the path of restoring this Manhattan to original glory.  Whichever path you choose, good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“I came across this car stored under a cover inside in the back of a business, has not been used since 1973,(see pics of sticker). Redid the brakes, new master cylinder, new tires, battery, overhauled carb. Starts instantly and runs like a top. Everything works! Rides like a caddy. The trunk is full of original brochures and paperwork. I am sure I put over 100 hrs getting her back in shape. I’m only selling because I’ve taken on another old project and need the space. Don’t waste time with ridiculously low offers and the standard “is it available”.thanks

Would you restore this Kaiser Manhattan or drive it as-is? Comment below and let us know!


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