THE MIRACLE OF GETTING
A CHANCE TO REBUILD
MY CAR  AGAIN, 20 YEARS LATER
Eric Gordon's 1954 Kaiser
Convertible Conversion


 

 

ERIC GORDON'S  '54 KAISER CONVERTIBLE
APPROVED BY DESIGNER "DUTCH" DARRIN



 
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.


This is how Eric built the 54 Kaiser Convertible.
It's now time to look at how he found that car after some 20 odd years of searching.

That was about 3 decades ago. Today Eric was fortunate enough to get a second chance to rebuild his convertible.

c  copyright  2005 by Aigle Books
POST SCRIPT:
ERIC GORDON, Writer, Editor, Publisher of Aigle Books, Place ST. Georges, Paris, France  GIVES HEREBY
PERMISSION: for John MacDonald- "Sympatico Mail" <johnmd1@ns.sympatico.ca> and ,sharon@summerville-
novascotia.com. to use my writings, computer sending and pictures for the above named internet pages.
(Saturday 26 March 2005.)



 

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 pictures show..........

!!!!Coming Home !!!!
The following announcement was received from Eric Gordon 
on the 28th of April 2006.
<> NEWS <> CONVERTIBLE NEWS <>

  DRIVING TO PENNA  /  RENT U-HAUL 
   TOW  MY 54 KAISER CONVERTIBLE BACK TO  CONNECTICUT / 
 THE PRESENT OWNER CALLED / WE MADE A REASONABLE  $-DEAL

And now the story continues


And then like everything else in life, time changes one, things, beliefs, attitudes, history, as we mature and learn. With lots of luck and the  tremendous help of KFOCI member Gene and Kathy Webb, of Moscow, Penna. I managed to repurchase "MY" car again.  It was Gene who called me in January 2006 to let me know where I could find this Convertible again and urged me to call the present owner. I was in a mild state of   ???? after some 20 odd years of searching.
And it was Gene, again, who helped in the  loading and trailering, driving it through the steep mountain paths of the "Endless Mountains Region" of Northeastern Pennsylvania on the 
29th of April 2006.
(Gene actually drove the truck and trailer for me one fourth of the way, back to CT.)
I can't begin to thank Gene.

Early in the morning of April 29'th Eric took a little drive to Pennsylvania.

The following pictures will tell the story of the start of a new life for

"ERIC GORDON'S  '54 KAISER CONVERTIBLE"




 
 

:"Jersey boy....standing proud....
  some three decades ago...
"standing proud"  with "MY" car that
  I built/rebuilt some 30 years ago....

 
And now the work begins

 
The refurbishing and painting of the top frame

 
...now to tackle the refurbishing and
painting of the top frame !
...convertible top-frame removed;  minor surface rust on "header bow." Soon ready for pressure washing and sanding and then primer paint; and finally the new convertible-frame  color  "Pontiac Blue"...
...partial vinyl removed carefully from "rear top bow" and then from the "header bow" (top-left) front and back of "bow" has embedded tacking strips,           where the front of the new top  will be attached.
...the entire mechanism is in excellent working order...
no rust whatsoever...
only one bolt needed replacing...
...frame  &  "header bow" paint (metallic-blue '58 Olds) is over 35 years old. This time, I decided to use
"Pontiac Blue"  a somewhat lighter blue, seen on
spray can tops...
...however, first this "ancient" paint must be stripped...
.. and before applying the "Pontiac Blue"  ...
... and, to prevent further rust,
<even minor surface rust>...
.... from reoccurring, .I have decided to apply rust preventative primer paint first to the entire  top frame...
...especially here, paint needs  to be stripped ...
... down to these ancient welds <still perfect>
and apply rust preventative primer.
and now I arrive at a perfect dilemma/example every
antique restorer  wrestles  with many times a day:
For example: "Do I remove these originally chromed
folding mechanisms, levers, bars and bolts?
Restore them to "factory <in this case Cadillac> standards and have them jobbed out and chromed?" 
Decisions?  ....decisions !
...decision made !
Now this needs to be turned over and repeat the refurbishing process ...
...turned over...
...and...
...repeat the refurbishing process.
..."header bow" hard-and-soft-ware...
... sanding, wirebrushing and cleaning ... 
...is 80% of the work...
...both "hard" and "soft" ware, I estimate some 500 +  bolts-nuts-washers-screws-panels-bars-frames-"chromes" -rubber-plastic-padding-vinyl, etc. make up the
intricate/ingenious  engineering of a 
folding convertible top.
...sanding down to bare metal at times..
...and careful painting..
... of rust preventative primer coat.
...very important,
... not to forget:  complete removal of old tacking strip ...
ready for new top molding "strip" once primer paint has dried !
...waiting  for
... the primer paint to dry.
And  still working outside, because of chemical fumes..
..and ready with blue tarp cover in case of rain !
Eric has to be prepared for the inclement weather that has been plaguing the eastern seaboard of the US this summer.
...now I apply  the permanent paint...
by hoisting the frame up high, I am able to spray paint both sides at once, and save a lot of time...
... I changed the color "Pontiac Blue" for the entire convertible top frame to a very rich "Cordova Brown"  when I realized that some of my side panels are trimmed in  burled woodsy motifs  < center of photo >
... painting of the convertible top frame is finished, now comes the drying process; and then the reinstallation...
..top "painted" frame installed. Only slightly lower than the original top
curve of frame-bows will add to 
the typical convertible look.
... right now only a bungee cord holds 
the rear bow in place.
giving an approximate location...
...now the front bow, called the "header bow, "
has two rubber guides/braces  painted also in the
cordovan brown metallic...
...and along with the 3 chrome   "header bow"
anchor plates....
...are reinstalled.  These plates guide the frame onto
the three chrome  "pointed -anchors"  that are fastened  into the top of the  Cadillac windshield frame.
Center  chrome anchor plate...
as well as side anchor plates are reinstalled.
(marginal rubber seal will be replaced  with a new seal
by  the convertible top shop installers)
the top closing mechanism handle (covered in masking tape)  is shown. The  side and center chrome anchors  are visible (bottom) ...
as well as  the "pointed-anchors" on top of the
windshield frame.
The manual convertible frame...
...in the  down position.
February wind on beige cover gives nearly"design/shape" of eventual white convertible top.
  Carlson Auto restored framing,  body work, 
and applied 15 coats of urethane paint, even designed this streamline top.
Meanwhile,  I install the more traditional 1952 Cadillac top, that I refurbished myself in Connecticut.
Longer than the average dining room table are the left and right frame edge foam padding with beige sleeve
for the...
...convertible vinyl top to be installed next.
Convertible white vinyl top, already bought,
placed on top-frame, awaiting professiona installation.
3 chrome 'eye shaped' anchors are bolted
backward facing...
... into the custom "imagineered"
bonnet/top trunk-lid that faces forward.
The vinyl top's clear plastic window, is attached
to a steel bar that hooks into the 3 'eye shaped'
anchors. {Chrome anchors and a 36 x 1 in flat
steel bar are MGB, purchased from a
British-Sports-Car aftermarket co,
Moss Motors. LTD, Goleta, Calif
Unlike the flexible plastic rear window, the  side-rear  windows are rigid plastic, similar to the 1954 Corvette side window solution.
My rear side windows slide into place inside 
metal reinforced weather-strips... 
on three sides.
These tough rear-side windows are  imagineered   from 
a polycarbonate plastic named makrolon, and have...
...already weather-strips glued onto edgings ... 
...that need additional protection. 
The 3 drivers side windows are now installed
(Note: rear side window still has protective
paper attached to inside surface.)
Convertible tacking strips were out of cork or pressed
cardboard, shown here in brown, and tack nails were
used in the 50's... (black sample is of hard rubber).
Modern applications use hard rubber with urethane
glue... and air pressure staple-gun to fasten top.
Long padding pockets 1/4 x 6 in x 5 feet are 
installed next, to protect the vinyl top from
the metal frame folding mechanism.
The bottom is carefully stapled to front and rear
tacking strips, the two center bows are fastened
with small screws. Then glue is sprayed on including
a 1/4  in. foam padding inlay, then the flaps are also
glued and folded over the foam.
The top of rear plastic zippered window is now stapled
onto the tacking strip of the rear top-frame bow.
Careful and exact trim is done with each step.
Also, a small white rubber lining is sewn under the 
vinyl tops beading that comes in contact with the convertibles metal "imagineered, forward-folding, bonnet."
...also, main part of vinyl-roof is now stapled to
rear-bow tack-strip, then also trimmed, and...
...a special wire encased trim-bead is also
stapled to the rear-bow and folded over, with...
...a special wire encased trim-bead is also
stapled to the rear-bow and folded over, with...
...stainless steel pointed finishing-caps installed.
similar procedure is followed with the
front end of the vinyl roof...
 ...trim strip of front is not finished yet at this
 stage, because...
...holes are drilled for the eye-shaped chrome 
fasteners ... then attached to the rear "bonnet" 
into an exact space to anchor the...
... "eye-shaped" fasteners/retainers which
 are permanently attached to the "bonnet cover"
 to secure the ....
...hidden steel bar >now inside a pouch/sleeve< 
that is also hidden underneath the rear window.... 
... vinyl bottom frame.
Beige is the underside... 
...of top
 Next ...  the intricate work of the front vinyl trim;
 including the rear side (note clamp) vinyl top attachment to the frame. 
Additional weather-strip is attached below tack-strip, then folded under large front clamp-support-bow ...
...and secured underneath the entire bow with metal holding bars and stainless steel screws with attached washers.
The side-rear part of top is glued into the round side-folding-bar of top frame, and...
...additional metal encased weather-strip 
>to secure rear-side windows< is screwed also into
place of this round bar for extra strength, on both
sides,  meanwhile...
... 3 additional snap button anchors
are screwed into "forward facing bonnet/cover,"
...then blue top of snap buttons are pressed into the vinyl top material, and secured.
The snap button anchors are slightly visible when the 
top is underneath  the metal bonnet/cover. 
This is my first vinyl top photo I took overlooking 
the Hudson River from New Jersey.
(Incidentally, at the very moment of this photo the 
Queen Mary steam ship, visible in the Hudson, is 
headed from NY to Long Beach, Calif. to be converted 
into a hotel).
And here is the second white vinyl top installation 
now completed  on 11/12/'13.

Use the links below to continue viewing the various stages of the reconstruction

Coming Home
Body Work
Under the Hood
Wiring
Mechanical
Phase II

 
 
 
Links
John's Old Car and Truck Pictures
Historic Aircraft Pictures
A Deck of Cards showing
The 1952 cars of The World
Eric Gordon's Kaiser Rebuild
There are many pictures showing the details of this Rebuild
Eric Gordon's First Kaiser
A 1951 Deluxe which comes to a startling end
Visit our Home in Summerville Nova Scotia. This house was built in 1873.
Where we live and what we  do
The Early Harley-Davidson Motorcycles
The Model T Ford and Model A Ford
The Model A Ford
Click here to View the Famous Chevy Tri-Five 55, 56 and 57 Chevrolets
The Chevy Tri-Five
55, 56 and 57 Chevrolets
The Chevrolet Corvette
From 1963 to 1970
Don Pate's 1947 Chevy Aero Sedan 
View the rebuilding of this car from the
bullet holes to the trophy winning
The Early American Sporty Cars
The Oshkosh The Truck that all other only dream of becoming
The Oshkosh 
The Truck of Trucks
The Divco Truck
America's Milk Truck
A Picture Review of 
the Ford Mustang

The Cars Dreams are made of
Those Old Classic Convertibles
Cadillac, Duesenberg, Cords and many more
Anthony Hazelaar's Model Trucks and Cars
Yes you can get a Jeep stuck, Really stuck if you just half try.
Have a look and see how a 
Jeep can get really stuck
A Picture Review of the Cars
of the Chrysler Corporation
A Picture Review of the Studebaker 
If you remember it, could you
ever forget it ?
A Picture review of the Packard
A Picture review of the Nash and Hudson
A Picture Tour of the
Hudson, Essex, and Terraplanes
that were found in Australia
A Picture Review of the
Pickup Truck from 1940 to 1969
A Picture review of the Volkswagen
A Picture Review of the Jeep
from 1940 to the present
A Picture Tour of the Crosley
A Picture Review of the Chevrolet
from 1916 to 1970
The Corvair 1960 to 1969
A Picture Review of the Ford
from 1908 to 1969
The Oldsmobile
The Pontiac
The Cadillac
Wouldn't you rather have a Buick
Wouldn't you rather have a Buick
The Chrysler Airflow
The Tucker '48'
The Amphicar
A Picture Tour of the Henry J
A Picture Tour of the Kaiser Frazer
The Stanley Steamer
View some of John Evan's  Artwork
View some of John' Evan's Auto Artwork 
Click here to View the Jeeps of World War II
WW II Jeeps
James Rucker's Car Collection
A website featuring many articles on many different cars
If you can't find it anywhere else, try here and
if you can't find it here it isn't anywhere
Jim's Old Car Page
A good page for Kaiser information
  View the steam locomotives of the CNR
  Another fun page involving a Jeep
 Tour the 64 remaining Covered Bridges
  of New Brunswick
The Covered Bridges that once dotted Nova Scotia.
If any one is interested in Microsoft's Flight Simulator 
I have written some scenery files for Summerville. Maitland, Windsor and Hantsport.
Summerville now has an Airport
 
 
E Mail
johnmacdoanld@summerville-novascotia.com

 
 
 
 


 
 


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