The year was 1964 and 19 year old Eric Gordon, a boy from New Jersey
wanted a convertible.
The following page shows how he got one.

Eric Gordon's 1954 Kaiser
Convertible Conversion



On  my nineteenth birthday I bought a  used '54 Kaiser Manhattan right off a
New Jersey automobile dealership's showroom floor. Originally this car was a 2 door
Sedan. And I made it....converted it to a "Convertible" (vin # K542-002380).

Yes, I just started with a hacksaw, pliers, chisel, hammer and screwdrivers.
Yes, and a huge amount of youthful "can do" enthusiasm-optimism and not to forget that
nebulous elusive  naiveté. Without that I would have never gotten started.
What puzzled me back then, and, yes, even today, is:
Why was a '54 Kaiser taking up space in a dealership's showroom;
almost a decade had passed, since this 2 door Sedan was new?
I saw this car late one evening while getting off a crowded expressway, and  driving
through town. It took up the whole show-window and looked phenominal and
mysterious the way it was lit with hidden spotlights. That night I could not sleep much.
I only thought about the '54. I had never seen one, and knew they only made very few.
I had gotten a really bad case of the incurable "Kaiser-Fever."
After all, I was already driving a '51 Kaiser which I liked tremendously.

At that time my family lived in an apartment and our cars were parked in city streets.
It just so happened that my mother bought a "summer cottage" a month earlier, some
forty miles outside the city, three miles from a lake. This "country-place" inspired me
to want a convertible. It had to be a car with very special lines, low-long-sleek.
My mother also liked the looks of the '54 and said :
"...almost like a brand new car...but where will you be able to park it?"
"At our summer-place, " I replied. "But we don't even have a driveway?" she said.
"So? So I'll build the driveway first." The next day I bought the 2 door Kaiser.
And now, let the following pictures, each tell a thousand words, and more...

OH ! Kaiser designer Howard "Dutch" Darrin's approval ?

Once I finished building the Convertible, I volunteered for the U.S. Air Force, and was
stationed out West, Nevada. I used my Kaiser as a daily driver on base, 99 per cent of
the time the top was down, I even upgraded  the transmission to manual with overdrive.
After serving honorably, I settled down in Southern California. There, years later, upon
a chance visit with friends to Santa Monica's Park, I noticed a distinguished elderly
gentleman taking snapshots of my Kaiser Convertible.
(I had heard that "Dutch" Darrin lived somewhere  in Santa Monica).
"Are you "Dutch" Darrin by any  chance?" I asked the gentleman.
"Yes, I am. I designed this car, but we never built a convertible !" Darrin looked closer
at my Kaiser, then said: " Very good... this is excellent work...who built this?"

"Mr.Darrin, I did it...I am the "redesign...  ahh...reworker," I answered.
Then I showed him a small photo album of the conversion work
I carried in my  glove compartment.

He then invited me and my friends to his house. I parked in his driveway. I listened
with my friends of all the cars he told us about that he had
designed and showed us photos of them.
Many were especially custom made by him for Hollywood-Stars and personalities.

Next to my car, in his driveway, was a new Volvo which he was at
that very moment in the process of redesigning.
That familiar "chrome slash" across the grill?
"Dutch" told me personally :
"In our mechanical automotive world, everything is balanced. Right and left,
top to bottom, all is equally balanced. This "slash" violates an unspoken code,
your eye is drawn to this, therefore, this Volvo becomes more visible........"

Reflecting upon this decades later, I realize I truly was in the presence of one of
the great "genius" automotive designers.

c  copyright  2005 by Aigle Books
ERIC GORDON, Writer, Editor, Publisher of Aigle Books, Place ST. Georges, Paris, France  GIVES HEREBY
PERMISSION: for John MacDonald- " to use my writings, computer sending and pictures
for the above named internet pages.
(Saturday 26 March 2005.)


...."where will you...park it?" questioned my
  mother, "...we don't even have a driveway,"
 "So?  So I'll build  a driveway first..."
It took two truckloads of earth first
to come up to basement window. 
All work done with bucket and shovel.
And then two more truck loads of grading-gravel.
This is what I started with.
Chrome is already removed. 
The entire top, including all the windows
are going  to  be removed.
 "Yes, I just started with a hacksaw, pliers, chisel, hammer and screwdrivers. 
Yes, and a huge amount of youthful
                   "can do" enthusiasm-optimism and not to forget that nebulous-elusive naiveté. 
Without that I would have  never gotten started..."

                   Backseat interior removed and carefully start to separate the tinted 3 piece rear window.          ( Which I have to this day, stored in my 
present home's basement).

...........carefully stored in my present home's basement. Tinted 3 piece rear green glass, still in excellent condition, can be used  for both 54 & 55
2 and 4 door Kaiser Manhattan models.
...this is..."actually just a hack-'saw' job." 
Very difficult. After trying  neighbor's borrowed
power tools, to no avail, I returned to using
a hacksaw and many blades. Here lies
the roof strength, each pillar took
most of one day's work.
 Gordon's body shop. All of the conversion
I could do was done here.
 Neighbor Andy-boy helps with taking photos
now that the roof is sawed off. Kaiser windshield
        still in door window frames get hack"sawed" off. Vent windows remains for now. 
         Kaiser gets driven to Mine Hill Auto Body Shop to have '52 Cadillac convertible windshield 
         "professionally" welded into place.
         (Shop also removes the rest of Kaiser frame and windshield). 
By the way I removed a '52 Cadillac convertible frame  with a broken windshield, with that hack
   saw at an auto salvage place and bought a good 
      used window off the shelf for 
body shop installation,
         The "top" frame I will be installing later.
 Convertible now back from Mine Hill Body Shop, and Andy-boy shows new Cadillac windshield and frame  installed, while Kaiser "wing"
windows still in place.
  Windshield is 1 and 1/2 inch shorter on left and on right (3 inches total)  than the Kaiser windshield.  (Also 3 inches shorter in the height of that trademark Kaiser "heart-shaped" window). 
Further, the Cadillac window is curved 2 and 1/2 inches towards hood, just clearing the hood.
Meanwhile other work needs attention.
Old trunk paint stripped down to the metal.
It is amazing what a few coats of
silver rust-inhibitor paint can do.
 Mine Hill Body Shop will section
in new rocker panel
Gordon's body shop will remove
(notice 2 to 3 inch gap) Kaiser vent 
or "wing" windows.

....." standing proud.....


.........that I finally have a Convertible......
"wing" windows completely removed 
also   installed "top"frame.
Chrome and tail lights removed
52 Cadillac convertible
"top-frame" installed...
Cadillac windshield is 1 and 1/2 inch shorter on left
and on right (3 inches total). 
It is also 3 inches shorter in the height of that trademark "heart-shaped"Kaiser windshield.
Further, the Cadillac windshield is curved
(bowed) 2 and 1/2 inches towards hood,
just clearing the hood. Chrome trim for bottom of
Cadillac windshield is slightly altered to fit the wiper
motor rods of the Kaiser wiper mechanism which remains.
Cadillac top  has chrome closures to
fasten top-frame to  top of windshield.
This is where the folded (now manual) top is
stored in the down position.
 Wheel-wells were hammered down - 3 inches- to allow smooth frame fit for custom cover.
Rear window storage panel is completely removed.
 Bottom right shows hammered down wheel-well.
Backseat braces folded and spot welded to back-
seat brace panel which was shortened by 6 inches.
Back of backseat "hanger" fastening hooks remain.
 The bottom of back seat remains.
The top of  back-seat has one entire row of springs removed (6 inches) to adjust seat to convertible conversion, and that top folds properly.
Two rows of springs on each side of back of 
backseat are removed to allow space
for top-folding frame

Rear of top frame is fastened to side panel with
brace behind panel for strength of
movable manual top.
(Side rear windows & mechanisms removed completely).

Some body work needs to be done 
 Rear panel "tack-welded" back to braces
  then" bondoed" before undercoat is applied.
 Before and after photos

  Drums cleaned and painted with
  silver rust inhibitor

All the chrome and tail lights are removed,
     52 Cadillac convertible "top-frame"
     now installed my work is getting difficult:
       the side windows mechanisms for 
Kaiser and Cadillac do not fit.
Door insides need to be removed completely.
All Cadillac side windows 
I found  in various North Jersey salvage yards
  were electric. So I "lucked" upon 52 Buick
        Convertible door mechanism with windows,
that was manual. Front doors carefully "gutted". 
....I carefully measured the length
and height of the chrome framed Buick 
convertible window & mechanism.
Size fits within half of an inch, that
         of the Kaiser window with "wing window". Kaiser door insides on left, Buick on right.
 Kaiser has now Buick mechanism on inside
    both doors, carefully screwed and tack welded
    to the "frame" of  door insides.
Kaiser door handle "bar/rod" mechanism is now fastened to Buick panel of inside of door.
Window and "Wing" handles/cranks are now Buick.
  I spot-welded the "wing" window in place.
Mine Hill Body Shop will clean that up before the
under coat gets painted. After final paint
Kaiser door "elbow chrome" gets reinstalled
Buick Convertible windows are trimmed
in chrome.
 Part of Kaiser "Wing" frame is used as base for the new"Wing"(slightly  bowed inwards), to make up 
for the 1 and 1/2 inch shorter Cadillac
          windshield left and right.

Note the rough beaded spot weld  ready for
  Mine Hill Body Shop's finishing work.

Cadillac windshield & Buick convertible
door glass fit now perfectly
Cadillac chrome trim (bottom of windshield) is slightly altered for Kaiser wiper rods mechanisms which remains.
 Front windows are now installed and fit perfectly,
including rubber grommet of convertible frame,
    when manually rolled up. 
(Now I can "anchor" the rear frame support bolts).
Driver's side window installed
Floor cleaned and painted.
Windshield dash uses both Kaiser and
Cadillac modified bottom window trim
("wing" still on back seat).
Top frame installed.
The top portion of a 53 Lincoln
bumper has a "dip" in the center. 54 Kaiser 
front "splash pan" also has a similar dip.
I though they make a better match:
to show more of the inverted grill.
 Chrome for lights is back now and needs assembly.
 Rear bumper is now together, front grill next.
Chrome is ready to be installed. 
Copies of these pictures were given to the
Convertible top and upholstery shop.
 Starting to look like a Convertible 
A bed sheet helps the "top-shop" envision the convertible top I have in mind.
The car on the right: ".....I was already driving a
'51 Kaiser which I liked tremendously."
A bedsheet approximates design for top shop
Top up or top down I need a cover...
Mine Hill Body Shop came up with: 61 Ford hood,  turned backwards & cut to fit opening
     with anchor bolts on each side.
Top cover 61 ford....
Metal cover is lifted off manually.
Convertible top is folded down manually....
.....then cover fitted back over folded top.
2 anchor bolts secure front of custom  metal
cover on each side.
To the "Convertible Top & Upholstery Shop."
To the "Convertible Top & Upholstery Shop."
Backseat  cut and fitted  to convertible top frame.  Folded top bars invade rear space by 11 inches,
they will receive "custom fitted  gloves" from     upholstery and top-shop, in the same
leatherette as interior,
attached with push-snap buttons.
 " QM" I called my Convertible symbolically  christened by "Hudson river's waters" real
"....."Queen Mary" in Hudson river........", 
off to become a floating hotel in 
Long Beach, California. 
And I in my "QM", off to "....the 
U.S. Air Force ....out West, Nevada ...." 

I decided on silver blue leatherette for seats and
side panels....royal blue for carpeting and 
door bottom trim.

Back from convertible top & upholstery shop.
White top now installed. Back window 
and cover panel still need work.
Mine Hill Body Shop painted standard
gray/brown undercoat.

Inside door trim and handles are
52 Buick convertible.
The convertible is finally back
from the paint shop...
A "Jersey Boy" did it. I built myself a Convertible from an already great looking low-long-sleek
2 door Sedan.
 The top portion of a 53 Lincoln front bumper has"center dip," 54 Kaiser front "splash pan" 
also has a similar dip.  I thought they make a better match than the original (since 51 used)
Kaiser bumper.  Also shows more of the
stunning, inverted chrome grill.
New top, windows, upholstery, new short-block engine  #908059 (special serial number 10 000 004)
New, lower 14"  wheels and tires.
I picked a 58 Oldsmobile silver blue metallic paint
Interior leatherette is a perfect match.
 The top is finally complete.....
 ........with a clear plastic rear 
window that is zippered in.
 Down by the Hudson Riverside in Weehawken, N.J. across from midtown Manhattan for this "Manhattan" for a "Première Photo Session".
Notice the very special 3/4 "red-walls"
inside the 3/4 "white-walls" of the new 
14" tires and wheels.
 I installed on the left rear bumper a large
antenna, since I had removed all chrome, 
names and emblems,  mirrors and trunk
handle; which, now operates from a special
cable on the driver's side behind the seat.
 Hubcaps and some of the stainles
steel, that "skirts" the car on both sides,
still needs to be installed.
.....folded top frame/bars invade the rear space
by 11 inches. Custom fitted "gloves" are especially fabricated by the upholstery shop in the same
leatherette as interior, and fastened with 
"push-snap" buttons when top is down. 
Now all the stainless steel has been installed,
and the new red-wall and white-wall wheels
and tires sport some new hubcaps.
Leaving the security....... 
..........of my New Jersey
  environment, including Somerset County's
Bonnie Brae (Beautiful Hills) 
of Liberty Corner........
.....Bernardsville, Weehawken,
Lake Hopatcong, the pristine beaches of  the......
Jersey Shore.  To now head on a 2,500 mile trip.
To trade all this for..........
..........rugged western mountains..... the San Gabriel mountains... 
....taking in the gigantic view at this overlook 
and taking some photos....
..... in California's
Los Angeles area ....... 
..... or the western blue mountains
of the Nevada desert.
 ....taking a look (while having my picture taken)
at the "50 miles plus" view  from Nevada's
      Mount Charleston <12,000 ft above sea level> 
Pleated sunvisors match the interior.
The silver metallic leatherette interior 
matches the paint perfectly. 
True to the 2 door Kaiser front seat design,
 partial back seat is finished in ivory
pleated leatherette, to match the padded
(safety already in 54) dash fabric and color.
" .....I used my Kaiser as a daily driver on base.
99 percent of the time the top was down...."

Slush box out, and jeep stick on the floor manual
transmission, with overdrive, in.
New flywheel and drive shaft especially turned        at a Las Vegas local speed shop.
Once finished, I volunteered to serve my 
country in the USAF. After basic and tech
training in Texas, I was assigned to a 
Nevada AF base.
At the base's "Auto Shop," I installed a jeep


Manual transmission with special bushing. 
Bushing also turned by local Las Vegas
speed shop. 
 ".....I even upgraded the transmission to
manual with overdrive."
Jeep transmission floor shift shown.
Off duty, I attended many car shows here.
 ...or I enjoy a rest from the desert 
scenery in this "green-green" 
North Las Vegas Park.
 The airbase was frequently exposed to 
heavy wind gusts and sand storms.
I had a full tonneau cover custom fitted. 
 Lake Meade "One final look at beautiful
Lake Meade, before..........
 .......... I leave Nevada, and settle 
down  in Southern California."
   ....I start going to College in 
Long Beach, California.
 College friend Checky invites me to his parent's home in Mexico City for Christmas vacation.
        It is a 1954 mile one way trip. We visited the world famous "Universidad de Mexico."
 'Pyramid of the sun'  (3rd largest on earth)
in Teotihuacan.
            My convertible drove on the "oldest 
<100BC> road" on the entire American 
continent, both north and south.
Checky's father & sister in  convertible.
(Drive back to Calif. took another 
1954 miles in my 1954 car).
 ".... I showed  "Dutch" Darrin a small photo album ....I carried in my glove compartment..."
(Mr. Darrin only saw my Convertible conversion 
with the top in the down position). the late 70's I had the Convertible
painted again. This time a Mercedes Benz
"Midnight Blue"..........

I also left the 50's fender skirts off... 

  A 4 door '54 Kaiser "Special"  was
  made into this convertible  in
the 1990's by Bill & Gail Blair.
Even earlier versions have survived 
after more than 55  years. 
"Coachbuilder" Raymond H. Dietrich built this "prototype" from a 1951 Kaiser 2 door 
Club Coupe hoping Kaiser Frazer might be
interested in his fabrication. 
Unfortunately nothing came of it.

For family reasons Eric had to trade this car for an airline ticket back East,
to help his mother who had gotten very ill; twenty-five years ago.
Ever since then he had tried to   locate his Custom Convertible.
After a nearly 20 year search, Eric's car was found by a Kaiser-Frazer
Club member.  On January 14th 2006 the present owner allowed Eric 
and this K-F Club member to view  Eric's car and take some snapshots.
Surprisingly, it is only 99.9 miles from the New Jersey driveway where 
Eric had built/rebuilt this convertible in the early 60's. 
It is now stored in a barn and needs lots of TLC. There are no major damages,
as these pixtures show..........
!!!!Coming Home !!!!
The following announcement was received from Eric Gordon 
on the 28th of April 2006..


Eric is packed and ready to go
Check back here for more details as they come in.
I do believe the KFOCI slogan should be:


My '54 Kaiser Convertible I built in the 60's was found only 99.9 mi from where 
I modified a 2 door coupe into a convertible. I had to sell it 25 years ago for family reasons.

Convertible was found in Jan 06 and bought and transported to my home on  29 April 2006 :


Charlene  Dayton who took down all the info at a KF meet at Kent Falls, CT in 1991
(yes >1991)  and said: "Our club has ways of finding ..."
and  gave me a good luck wooden nickel  from  Vermont.
Chuck & Betty Hucker: encouraged me to join KF in 2005.
Jane and Don Gordon: invited me to KF meet Spring 2003. 
Larry Barker:     "We will find it, no problem."
Mike and Karen Barker: Aug. Kaiser Frazer  '06 Calendar.
Dave Hollen:   very wise encouragements per "e-mail".
Rudy Phillips: 1st sighting in San Diego, phoned.
Norm Canfield: letter writing campaign.
William Brown: insert in his internet 
Vern Ludwick: 2nd sighting, Santa Barbara,  phoned.
Dale Johnson: a previous owner phoned &  gave leads.
Dieter Ballogh: 3rd sighting Los Angeles, phoned.
Gary Micanek: phoned with info & encouragement.
Mike Lovy: donated KF literature since 1966.
Barbara Mueller: KFOCI  editor inserted a photo of 
car in Jan '06 Bulletin that convinced Gene Webb to
call about whereabouts of car  & helped with towing. 
And Canadian John MacDonald owner of:

THANK YOU  and others not KF club who helped,
 and extra special THANK YOU to  Glenn Love !

Eric Gordon     KFOCI   # 9378


So Click on the pictures below to continue the story of the complete rebuild
Click here to watch the progress being made in restoring this one of a kind car
Click here to watch the progress being made in restoring this one of a kind car

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