Monday, February 16, 2009

Can You Help this Reader?!?!?

How kool is the Internet?!?!? You post something and you are instantly connected to the world. The greatest thing about it is that you are just a few clicks away from learning about anything. Take for instance the email I received today from a first time reader, he writes that he came across my site because he has a Google Alert set for anything Kaiser Darrin related. I had posted a couple of pictures of the Kaiser I had seen last weekend at the Indy Autorama. At any rate, he wrote an incredible email concerning a "mystery" of sorts. Thought I'd post it here in hopes that another reader may be able to help him. I will also post it as a blog post on the "Hub". Hopefully someone can help him. Thanks JD for reading. Please let me know if you find the answers to your questions!

"Hello,

I found your blog because I have a Google Alert set for anything Kaiser Darrin related. The photos of the Darrin you posted are really great. As a long time (30+ years) fan of the Darrin, I've seen several, know a number of the current owners, and a number of former owners. On a happy note, they are finally getting some of the recognition that they should have, but sadly the prices for these few cars make it nearly impossible for the average guy to buy one and restore it. - I myself have been searching for one since 1992 and have missed several great buys, found several that were in the condition I wanted, but way over priced, and several were the write price, right condition, but it wasn't the right timing (new home, upcoming births, and job changes)... Anyway, I now have my own "darrin" of sorts, except this is a little bit of a mystery. I thought I would share it with you to see if you or any of your blog readers would have any insight into this unique, possibly one of a kind, car.


Link to photos/site:
www.1951kaiser.wordpress.com

The car, or at least the chassis and engine are 1951 Henry J, and were purchased in July 1954 straight from the Willow Run (Kaiser-Willys) plant in Ypsilanti, MI and went to Detroit. The most recent sale of this car was it from a gentleman in a town between Flint and Detroit. Contact information for another owner that had it earlier in 2008 who was North and East of Detroit also has also been made. The body is what makes this car unique, and is something that no one seems to have seen before. Some people believe it to be a prototype or concept, while others think it is "something else."

Here is what is currently know about it.

This car has popped up several times since August of 2008 and has mistakenly been promoted as the original Howard Dutch Darrin designed 1946 Darrin and the Kaiser Darrin. As a long time fan of the Kaiser Darrin (161), I know that this car is neither of the two mentioned. That said, there is a question as to what this car is and if it is a factory concept or prototype car, and who may have designed it. I know that Bill Tritt, Dutch Darrin and Brooks Stevens all did design and/or fiberglass work for Kaiser and other companies during this time.

1. The chassis is that of a 1951 Henry J (514) with the Kaiser Supersonic flat head six and 3 speed manual transmission (appears to have overdrive as well). The VIN number on the documents indicates this is 010047. I haven't been able to find a VIN plate/number on the chassis yet, and there is no Henry J body on the chassis. The engine number plate matches the original sales documents though.
2) The chassis does have a partial floor and firewall. Meaning that the main floor pan, back to the rear axle rise, is there and the firewall is there but has been but cut down/shortened. There is no other sheet metal on the car.
3) The chassis is missing gas tank, radiator, and radiator support, and the engine has a single barrel Holley carb (with glass fuel bowl) - The factory didn't use Holly carbs on the production engines, but the green paint on the carb base is a match/near match to the engine color..
4) The Henry J gauge assemble is there and still connected. It shows 35.4 miles.
5) The tires are 5.90x15 Goodyear Super Cushion tires and appear to be the originals. - Wheels are plain steel wheels with full hubcaps, sans emblems)
6) This car/chassis was sold as "new" from the Kaiser factory in 1954 for $200.00.
7) On the By Products (yard) release paperwork, the cars VIN and engine number are listed. Additionally, hand written, there are comments about a fiberglass prototype body and spare parts being included.
8) On one of the sales documents, there is a note saying "Ref: memo from F.E. Reynolds to R.J. Jeeperson 7-22-54." Several people find this interesting and wonder why a memo would have been sent if a stock car (especially a 3 year old Henry J) was being sold, since the Kaiser-Willys company was in the process of removing everything from Willow Run so that G.M. could move in.

The body is where things get interesting.
1) The body is a fiberglass sports car body.
2) The body is "incomplete" in that it is fairly thin and the hood, trunk and doors have not been cut out or marked for cut out. Also, the body does not have any mounts, interior or trunk tubs or inner fender wells.
3) The body has not been painted, primed or given a gel coat. It simply is fiberglass and resin.
4) While the fiberglass isn't smoothed and "finished", it appears that the top layer was hand laid by someone with fiberglass experience. The seams/joints where the pieces of cloth and resin meet are fairly smooth, not lumpy, and there are no frayed, curled, or rough pieces sticking out.
5) Within the documentation is a drawing of the body, with a short and long wheelbase design, and frontal view. The drawing includes some measurements that fall within the Henry J and full size 1951 Kaiser Deluxe models for wheelbase.
6) The body does not have a roof or top, nor does the drawing indicate one.
7) In the photos you will notice a tinted (green) windshield. This windshield does not fit the channel in the body where the windshield goes.
8) The windshield has a PPG sticker, which I have been able to cross reference. This number is the PPG part number for 1955-1957 Ford Thunderbirds.
9) One of the owners (3rd as best as can be determined) says there is a penny embedded in the fiberglass in one of the wheel wells/fenders. He was told that this to be one of the "signature" marks of Bill Tritt who built Glasspar boats, Glasspar G2s, the Woodill Wildfires, and other fiberglass cars.

Contacts that have been made while researching the car/history:
1) Contact with one of Brooks Stevens sons, Kipp, was made. He looked at the photos and does not believe his father was involved in this project.
2) A man named Russ, who was a photographer for the Kaiser Frazer and Jeep companies from 1948-1979, has looked at photos and documents on this car. He has provided some some Kaiser-Frazer information and photos he has on the Henry J and Darrin. Now 82, he says that he isn't familiar with the body and doesn't think this was a factory sponsored ("HOT" project is how he referenced it) effort. He also said this may have been an employees project, but he isn't sure.
3) The Kaiser Club historian doesn't believe that this is a factory prototype/concept. He also had seen this car, being mis-represented, several times in 2008 and tried to get the seller(s) to correctly identify it. Still, he states that upon completion, it would turn heads at any Kaiser function and would be a neat car.
4) Several other Kaiser Club members, one of which is familiar with many, but not all, fiberglass bodies that were designed to fit the Henry J frame have provided input. He and several others believe this to be a concept and yet others are unsure or think it is a kit or home built car.
5) The curator of the Ypsilanti Auto Museum has seen this car and pointed me towards RM Auctions as they were approached about selling the car.
6) A conversation with a man at RM indicated that they were approached about selling it, but they declined based on current state (unbuilt) and lack of complete documentation. He also commented that the fiberglass work appeared to be done by a professional or experienced person, but he isn't sure what the body really is. - I certainly can understand their position on the car and declining it, as there is a fair amount of debate as to what it really is.
6) Research into the original owner shows that he passed in 1999. Contact with a nephew, was made but he wasn't interested in talking about his uncle or any vehicles that he may have owned.
7) Emails to several kit car groups and individuals with 50's era sports and fiberglass cars have resulted in mixed responses, with only one common link... No one has ever seen this body before and they aren't sure what it is.
8) Contact with a man named Jay, who presented it to RM Auctions and hired a 3rd party to sell it on eBay, indicates that he owned it for about a year before selling it this fall to a man who runs a bar and bike shop. He says that he traded a Ford Mustang to the man believed to be the 2nd owner. He remembers a first name, John, town was Armada, MI and street of North Ave., but couldn't recall a last name. He also reports having gotten the engine to run.
9) Jay sold it to a man named "Boomer" who owns a tavern and bike shop. A tie between "Boomer" and the most recent seller, Jason, has been made via the internet., It is unclear if they worked together to buy and resell the car or if there was a separate transaction there. Jason,whom I purchased it from, claimed to have owned the car for about a month before selling it.
11) Jay also stated that he was told that upon purchase from the 2nd owner, that original owner was told that he couldn't show/display, or let the vehicle be seen in public for 20 years, so he stored it in a barn. This is/was consistent with what other prototype/concept car owners (mostly GM products) have reported for purchases they made from the factory. Buy that time, the owner was "up there" and he decided to sell the car. Based upon information found on the original owner, he was around 38 when he purchased the car in 1954 and would have been 58 after the 20 year "hiding" period ended. Other documents on the original owner show that he sold the home/property that is listed on the car title, in 1986. He passed in 1999.

Due to the weather and current storage location of the car, I haven't been able to look for the "penny" in the body as of this time. Hopefully I will be able to soon.


Please feel free to provide your thoughts and feedback and share with your friends and readers. My desire is to identify what the car is/was intended to be, and build it that way. I also plan to document the information I get (pro and con) so that people who see it once I am done, and/or future owners will know what work has been done to identify it.

JD"

If you have any information concerning this car, you can contact JD at: buymy68@comcast.net