1953 Henry J
FACTORY-INSPIRED RESTO, FRESH INTERIOR, ORIGINAL DRIVETRAIN, 8 VOLT, MUST-SEE!
The Henry J is an interesting little piece of American automotive history. Built by the Kaiser-Fraser company as a low-cost alternative to the Big Three, it produced a number of innovative features all designed to pare the car down to its essence. Sales were tepid, and combined with the car's relatively low price when new, it means finding a wonderfully restored example like this 1953 Corsair model is quite extraordinary indeed.
The Corsair model actually brought with it several notable upgrades from the earlier Henry J (which was named after the company's chairman, Henry J. Kaiser, by the way), including such things as a trunk lid and a full-width chrome grille. The entire car, built as it was to be economical and easy to build, was designed to have the fewest number of pieces and the result was a trim, sporty fastback shape that has aged well. Wearing nondescript beige paint, this one looks exactly the way it might have on Main Street circa 1953, easily tooling around town where its trim size and great maneuverability were a big asset. And Kaiser stylists did work wonders with it, as it shows wonderful details like the quarter panel stampings around the rear fenders and the neat little kick-up for the taillights that proves fins were not just for the big cars. The sporty fastback profile looks quick and sporty, and thanks to a restoration that cost all out of proportion to the car's value, it remains in excellent condition throughout. Seriously, it's very unusual to find one this nice.
The interior is even more of a treat, with cool period textures and materials that make even the affordable Henry J feel special. The floor is covered by a rubber mat, but the wide bench seats sport brown vinyl with a checked seating area and door panels to match. The dashboard is pre-war simple with a gauge cluster that will be familiar to Kaiser fans. The matching steering wheel and column-mounted shifter offer light control efforts and a splash of color in the horn button, which sports a stylized "K" emblem. The back seat is spacious enough for two, although the sporty roofline cuts into headroom a bit, but that's the price of fashion, then and today. Focusing on value, this one has no options, not even a heater or AM radio, but again, that's all part of the Henry J's charm. There is, however, a spacious trunk with a full-sized spare, and looking around, this one is quite clean, even in the usual trouble spots that always seemed to plague this charming little go-getter.
The Henry J used the same 134 cubic inch inline-four that powered Jeeps of the period, and despite its modest specifications, it's energetic around town and will happily cruise at 50 MPH. In fact, this engine might make the Henry J a smart hobby car today, as it often pulled down as much as 35 MPG, and there's no reason it can't do it today. The engine bay is detailed properly, with corporate green paint on the engine, a big oil bath air cleaner, and the original generator, which now spits out 8 volts for improved starting power. The ratios in the 3-speed transmission are well chosen and the suspension is conventional. It's clean underneath and features a new gas tank and tube shocks, as well as painted steel wheels with affordable 5.90-15 bias-ply blackwalls.
Thrifty fun still works today, and this Henry J feels like a more expensive car than it is. Call today!
- Vinyl Interior
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