Kaiser-Frazer Motor Car Co.



Photograph courtesy of The Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

After World War II, American auto companies transitioned from defense production back to making passenger cars. But there was an upstart on the scene: Kaiser-Frazer Motor Car Co., which set up shop in 1945 and introduced prototypes the following year. It was named after its founders, industrialist/shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser, and Joseph Frazer, who had been president of the Graham-Paige Motor Co. In this photo, taken outside the company’s Willow Run plant, Edgar Kaiser (Henry’s son) poses with a new Kaiser (left), while Joseph Frazer stands along his namesake auto. Frazer left in 1951, and the company was renamed Kaiser Motor Corp. In 1953, Kaiser bought the struggling Willys-Overland Motors, and that merger resulted in Willys Motor Corp., which made passenger cars in the United States until 1955. Renamed the Kaiser Jeep Corp. in 1963, it was eventually sold to American Motors Corp. Despite its brief life, the automaker produced some memorable models, including the sleek Kaiser Darrin convertible sports car, whose doors, rather than opening outward, slid into its front fenders. It was also the first fiberglass car, beating Corvette to market by one month.