1946 Frazer Manhattan
The first new car design in post-war United States from a new car company, Kaiser-Frazer was introduced.
The Kaiser-Frazer Corporation was founded on July 25, 1945. In 1946 Kaiser-Frazer displayed prototypes of their two new cars at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Kaisers and Frazers made an exciting entrance. Kaiser and Frazer shared bodies and engines through 1950 with different exterior and interior trim. The flagship line of upper-medium priced American luxury automobiles manufactured by the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation, Willow Run, Michigan, was the Frazer and was along with Crosley, the first American car with fresh postwar styling.
Kaiser-Frazer Corporation was a partnership between automobile executive Joseph W. Frazer and industrialist Henry J. Kaiser. Frazer had become president during WWII of Graham-Paige automobile manufacture. In 1947, the Kaiser-Frazer acquired the automotive assets of Graham-Paige. For a few short years Kaiser-Frazer was the only new US automaker to achieve success after World War II. Kaiser and Frazer shared bodies and engines through 1950 with different exterior and interior trim.
The Frazer Manhattan was the first entirely new postwar body style, with a never before offering of interior and exterior colours. It featured a brand new design concept to the North American car buyer; a seamless flow front to back (envelope styling). The stylist responsible for the innovative design was Howard A. “Dutch” Darrin who was paid him a 75 cent royalty for each Kaiser-Frazer car built. 70,000 Frazers and 80,000 Kaisers were built using his design (approximately $1,365,186.04 today). Today, he’s respected as one of the industry’s most prolific stylists. The Fashion Academy of New York Gold Medal for design achievement was awarded to the Frazer.
The Manhattan had a bulbous body and a long wheelbase which gave it enormous interior space, and with the Continental Red Seal 226 CID “Supersonic” L-head six power-plant rated at 115 hp. provided for a smooth ride and good gas mileage. Designer, Carleton Spencer, choose the colours and fabrics, it soon became industry-wide practice to offer a wide variety of colours and fabrics. Price, new: $2,712-$2,746 (USD).
The proud owner of one of the few remaining 1947 Frazer Manhattans know to exist is Glen Woodcock, Campbellford Ont. After an exhaustive search including a near-miss on E Bay (a fake), Glen received an email about a real Frazer Manhattan in 2005. The car had been sitting in storage for over twenty years in Bolton Ont. Glen went with his friendly mechanic, Charlie Appleman (mechanic), Port Hope Ont. and his trailer to pick-up the car.
A frame on restoration that took the car to bare metal was performed and replaced the fragile interior. The restoration was done in less than a year. The engine needed liberal amounts of Amsoil, the exhaust and brakes were also replaced as well as the installation of radial tires. There is only 38,000 miles (61,000 kms.) on the odometer. The car was repainted in its original colours; Buck-eye Maroon over Doe’s Skin colour scheme, “the gracious madness of Kaiser-Frazer”.
Glen Woodcock first car was a well-used 1955 Meteor sedan. He writes a weekly feature for Autonet called Time Machines. Glen wrote his first automotive article, a road test on his own Fiat 850 Spider for the Toronto Telegram in 1969. He joined the Toronto Sun and started the automotive section of the paper in 1976 and continues to contribute articles to Sun Media. Glen also is the host of the longest running radio show in Toronto; The Big Band Show, Sundays from 5:00 pm. to 10:00 pm., has been a Toronto radio fixture for 39 years on JAZZ.FM 91.
story and photos by bill samuel