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Robb Design Portfolio: Dutch’s Treat

  • Robert Ross

1954 Kaiser-Darrin

Kaiser Motors Corp., which built cars in the United States from 1945 until 1955, introduced the Kaiser-Darrin model in late 1952. This was about a month before General Motors debuted the Corvette, thus making the Kaiser-Darrin America’s first fiberglass sports car. (The distinction is ironic considering that the company’s owner, industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, knew a thing or two about steel.) The Kaiser-Darrin was also the only car with pocket doors that slid into the front fenders.

Kaiser’s partner in what proved to be the company’s only sports-car venture was noted California designer Howard "Dutch" Darrin. Though Kaiser disapproved of the roadster prototype, his wife championed the car, which led Kaiser to bless it ultimately.

Priced at $3,668, the Kaiser-Darrin was expensive for its day, and its 90 hp Willys 6-cylinder engine failed to deliver the type of performance suggested by Darrin’s stylish design. The company built just 435 in the car’s only year of production.

This article was originally published in the January 2013 issue of Robb Report. Click here to read more articles from this issue.

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