Pick of the Day: 1954 Kaiser Darrin, an early icon of American fiberglass

Credit: Original article published by Classic Cars Journal.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about the Kaiser Darrin.  Sure, it was the first fiberglass sports car introduced to the US, although Chevy Corvette beat it into production, and it has those ultra-cool pocket doors that slide into the front fenders.

And while the styling by the illustrious Howard “Dutch” Darrin is mostly first-rate, I’ve never made peace with that squinty, lemon-sucking little grille.  It hardly looks up to its primary task of keeping the radiator cool.

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Still, the Kaiser Darrin is a rare and awesome piece of sports car history, with just 435 produced in its single year of production, and the distinctive car remains a sought-after collector’s item.

The Pick of the Day is a 1954 Kaiser Darrin roadster that was restored but has been sidelined for a while and requires recommissioning before heading back out on the road, according to the Astoria, New York, dealer advertising the roadster on ClassicCars.com.

“White with red interior, this particular example is just out of a large collection where it’s been in storage for several years,” the seller says. “The fiberglass is in good condition and the frame is solid. The car was running and driving when parked but is ready for mechanical servicing at this time.”

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The car appears in the photos with the ad to be in good shape, with a solid-looking body and nice interior.

“This 1954 Kaiser-Darrin Roadster is quite a rare and exciting find wearing an older restoration,” the seller notes. “Beyond the sweeping profile and heart-shaped grille, the fiberglass-bodied Darrin was most famous for its pocket doors that disappeared into the front fenders on sliding tracks.”

Those sliding doors were a signature feature of the Kaiser Darrin, and they eased entry and exit, especially in tight spaces.  Although convenient and undoubtedly cool, pocket doors never caught on with other manufacturers.

Production roadsters were fitted with Kaiser’s sturdy but unexciting straight-6 F-head engine, which displaced 161 cubic inches and delivered 90 horsepower. After production ended, some leftover cars were outfitted by Dutch Darrin with hotter setups, including Cadillac V8s, but this one seems to be in standard trim.

Kaiser Darrins were equipped with either 3-speed manual transmissions, as this one apparently is, or automatics.  Overdrive was optional, but no word in the ad as to whether this car has that desirable feature.  

The seller notes that of the 435 Kaiser Darrins produced, all of the 1954 models made from January through August of that year, an estimated 300 survive, making this “a rare and iconic American sports car.”

“With so few examples left in existence, this great car is sure to command attention,” the seller adds.

The asking price is $79,500, which sounds in line with the value guides and, depending on what the sleek Kaiser Darrin needs to be operational again, could be somewhat of a bargain.

To view this vehicle on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day

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