Monday, August 3, 2015

Kaiser's Henry J

Launched in 1950 as compact, economical, and affordable ($1299), the Henry J was indeed "Spartan." Early models bore no truck lid or glove box and the rear windows did not roll down. It came powered by a Willys Overland engine used on Jeeps and the four cylinder versions were alleged to be capable of 30 miles per gallon. The Henry J won the Mobil Economy Run in 1953. Such constitutes its fifteen minutes of fame.

It shared the rocket or jet plane hood ornament several makes and models sported in the the early Fifties.

Poor Henry never caught on with a public who wanted powerful engines, roomy interiors, and conveniences such as automatic transmissions provided by the Big Three, and in 1954, production was suspended. It appeared as an Allstate in 1952 but Sears, Roebuck, and Company abandoned marketing these cars after disappointing sales experience.

Models were badged as a Corsair with some modest upgrades and the final version, the Vagabond, came with continental kit, but sales remained miserable for a car some consider ahead of its time. The "Think Small" revolution in automobile taste and marketing had not yet captured the public's imagination.

Note the fins, reminiscent of the 1949 Cadillac. Tail lights of the earlier models were located right and left of the spare shown on this Vagabond model, not jutting out from the fender. The slight dip in the rear window reflected a styling motif of the the 1953 Kaiser, Henry J's big brother.

1 comment:

  1. One inaccuracy. It list the Vagabond as "the final version" which is not true. The Henry J Vagabond was a one year only model - 1952. The only reason it even existed was because KF over-produced and had about 7,000 1951 models that were still unsold by December of 1951. In order to get dealers/distributors to take these cars KF re-serialed them as 1952 models and added 'Vagabond' scripts to the fenders and put black plastic pieces on the hood ornament. Most of them got a Continental spare tire on the back. From March 1952 on, all Henry Js were either Corsair (4 cylinder model) or Corsair Deluxe (6 cylinder model.)