The Kaiser Special could be the most beautiful sedan you never knew existed

Founded in 1945 by automobile executive Joseph W. Frazer and industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, Kaiser-Frazer was one of carmakers that attempted to stop the supremacy of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. Like other companies before and after it, Kaiser-Frazer failed, but it built a few cool automobiles in the process.

The Manhattan, the Henry J, and the Darrin are somewhat famous, but it’s the relatively unknown Special that deserves more attention. It was far from groundbreaking and its performance was unimpressive, but it’s one of coolest looking cars launched in 1954.

1954 Kaiser Special - One of the Most Beautiful Failures in Automotive History
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The Special was actually a version of the Manhattan and its design wasn't entirely new for 1954. Kaiser had a big stock of unsold vehicles in 1953 so it changed a few parts on the existing bodies to create a new model.

It might sound lazy, but the sharp, concave grille and the bowed taillights made the sedan stand out among sedans from the era. The bubble-style roof and the arched beltline that became really low toward the rear add to its unique look as well.

Sadly, the Special arrived at a time when Kaiser was already struggling to survive. Frazer left the company in 1951, sales began to drop when GM and Ford launched their first new cars after World War II, and its six-cylinder engine was underpowered.

Kaiser halted U.S. production in 1955 with less than 8,000 Specials built. Many of them didn’t survive, so the Special is actually a rare automobile, but it will never become as desirable as other Detroit-built cars from the era. But it will always stand out as the unpopular car that’s different and downright beautiful.

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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