Mildly Modified: 1954 Kaiser Manhattan – Sold?
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March 17, 2023, Update – We confirmed the listing for this “Classifind” expired, so with no replacement found, we’re assuming this ride is “Sold?” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call us directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.
January 31, 2023 Update – The seller lowered their asking price from $16,500 to $15,50 in their existing third listing.
January 19, 2023 Update – The seller replaced their second Craigslist ad with a third listing. The pictures, description, and asking continue unchanged.
December 14, 2022 Update – The seller replaced their original end-of-October Craigslist ad with a fresh listing. The pictures, description, and asking price all remain the same.
Hot Rod, Restomod, Street Machine, and Rat Rod are a few nicknames used to describe various forms of modified classic cars. While many custom cars are easy to label with one of these terms at first glance, this 1954 Kaiser Manhattan, last listed in January 2023 on Craigslist in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, is in a class all its own. Right down to the full wheel-cover-equipped wide whitewall tires, the stock exterior will make most onlookers think this is another restored Kaiser. Look under the hood and in the interior, however, and you’ll quickly discover a small block Chevy and modified PowerGlide in place of this car’s original L-head inline-six and three-on-the-tree-shifted manual. The only other modification we could spot is the under-dash-mounted aftermarket stereo with box speakers lying on the floor of the back seat area. Consequently, we label this Kaiser as “Mildly Modified.”
Last offered for $15,500 (the original ask was $16,500), Classic.com, the analytics and search engine for the collector car market, confirms the ask aligns with the five-year rolling average of this guide’s summary for Kaiser Manhattans produced between 1952 and 1955. By clicking on the green dots in the graph below, you can navigate to each comparable car sold as a way to help you evaluate the price of the Kaiser featured here:
As a second data point, the Collector Car Market Review Online Tool reveals the seller’s ask falls between this guide’s #3 “Good” estimate of $10,600 and its #2 “Very Good” appraisal of $17,000.
Independent domestic automaker Kaiser produced its top-of-the-line Manhattan from 1952 through 1955 in two distinct series. After a modest launch in 1951, the following year Kaiser engineers, led by designers Howard “Dutch” Darrin and Duncan McRae, completed a restyle that included a heavier bumper/grille combination, smooth teardrop taillights, and little chrome rear fender fins that helped to set the styling. One of the most striking features of the 1952 and 1953 Kaiser Manhattans was the bold use of colors and fabrics in a vast array of choices.
Kaiser facelifted Manhattan once again for the 1954-1955 model years, only this time the updates were handled by stylist Herb Weissinger. Many consider this restyle as an improvement on Dutch Darrin’s 1951 design. All-new sheet metal forward of the cowl featured a concave oval grille reminiscent of the Buick XP-300 concept car. The Manhattan also had curvy front fenders with headlights and parking lights set in chrome-encircled teardrops, again borrowed from Buick. At the rear were large “Safety-Glo” taillights with illuminated lenses running atop the fenders, and a wraparound rear window. Unfortunately, Manhattan’s bold styling didn’t hide the car’s aging L-Head inline six motor, and consequently, only 4,110 were made in 1954. That represented a 77% decline in Manhattan production over the prior year,
The Automobile History USA YouTube Channel features this 1954 Kaiser Manhattan TV ad:
This 1954 Kaiser Manhattan for sale appears to be a nicely restored example with a much much serviceable and powerful Chevy small block combined with a floor-shifted PowerGlide transmission.
Here’s the seller’s description:
This car was obviously extremely well cared for and i can’t emphasize how nice this car is. Now for the important part. This car if virtually rust free. It is not a Bondo queen and other than a drop or two of some surface rust underneath i don’t see any. I have taken close up pictures so you can clearly see this on your own. The rockers, the bottoms of the fenders, the inner rear fender the entire underside (with the exception of some very minor surface rust), the trunk, any of the corners, the trunk lid where the top meets the body, the floors, the inner wheel wells and anything i missed are 1000% rust free.
I am asking 16500 obo. I am available most times to preview. I am open to trades. Test drives with cash in hand only. No tire kickers or dreamers please.”