Mildly Modified: 1954 Kaiser Manhattan – Sold?

by | Jan 2023 | Classifinds, Free For All Friday

(To stop the slideshow and expand the pictures, click on the current photograph below)

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),, 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:

“Hi I am selling my 1954 Kaiser Manhattan. The 1954 Kaiser Manhattan had a very limited production and as you can see was very special. It is believed there are not many left and especially in this condition. This car is absolutely turnkey and ready to drive and show. It has been updated, with a 283ci engine out of i believe a 68 Camaro. The car starts right up and sounds great. The engine does not have any unusual noises and does not blow any smoke. Its plenty of power to move this car along. I frequently check for leaks and there are none. The trans has also been updated to a power glide automatic transmission. The valve body is reversed so park and reverse are in opposite directions. Not sure of it’s purpose but that is what it is. As you can see the gear select was moved to the floor as well. The car goes into all the gears with ease and the transmission does not have any issues. The brakes are high and work well but they are drum so they do not stop the car on a dime. There are no suspension issues as the car tracks straight and there are no old car noises. All the lights work on the car, even the dash lights and turn signals. The exhaust is stainless and there are no issues either.The exterior is magnificent. It was repainted a couple years ago in lacquer. The paint is super shiny and shows a lot of depth. This car is not a Bondo queen, as the sides are very straight and show no signs of ripples. Although i would suspect there is some Bondo used in its restoration; i can assure you its minor. I have provided pictures of the sides close up so you can see for yourself. There is some minor chipping from use, but really minor. As you are aware there is an extreme amount of chrome on this model. I am happy to say its all there, and with the exception of the front bumper i would say its all in excellent condition; maybe better then excellent. The front bumper is in fair condition. I believe the rear bumper has been replated and is excellent. I believe all the glass is original and in good shape except the drivers window does have a crack in it. All the windows operate properly and with ease, even the side vent windows.The interior of the car was completely redone. Its magnificent. There are no rips or tears at all. It does not show any wear at all. That will include all the side panels and kick panels. The carpet was replaced and is also excellent. On the drivers floor that is no a tear you see in the picture, its a flap to the brake booster, as its supposed to be there. The headliner was replaced and done professionally as it looks great and new. Even the sun visors were redone. Now for the really neat part. There is a lot of stainless on the dash and as you know this is what makes the inside of this car so special. I am happy to say its spectacular. Other than maybe a couple surface scratches there is no pitting or dents in it. Even the ash tray in the back of the front seat is exceptional. I have shown in the pictures for your review. The actual dash pad on top is excellent. There are no cracks. The back shelf was redone in fiberglass and it looks excellent. The factory radio is present but it does not work. An aftermarket radio is added discreetly under the glove box and it does play. The original gas gage, speedometer and odometer all work. An after market temp gage and oil pressure gage were added and they both work. The wipers work and so does the fan. An after market horn button was added under the dash. The steering wheel is original and excellent.


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.”

Show or go: What would you do with this restored 1954 Kaiser Manhattan for sale?  Please comment below and let us know!

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