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....

 
Eric's 1954 Kaiser
Along with owning any antique car come the club events.
"The "Yankee Region" of the KFOCI (Kaiser Frazer Owner Club International)
graciously allowed me as "Guest -Visitor" for their meet at the
"World Famous Clock andWatch Museum" in Bristol, Connecticut
in Spring  2003."
The almost 10,000 member ( KFOCI )
KAISER-FRAZER OWNER'S CLUB INTERNATIONAL
honored me by having, for the second year, a photo &  paragraph of one of my cars. 
(In 2006 my convertible was so honored in the month of August). This year my 4 door Manhattan is one of the photos (right) of  the  2007 KF Calendar Cover. 
{shown here with permission of KFOCI Calendar Editors Mike & Karen Barker}

"Tunkhannock Viaduct , also called the
'Nicholson Bridge'  is the largest poured 
concrete railroad bridge in the world...."
.......the  Penna  2006 Visitors Guide
calls this part of Northeast Pennsylvania:
"...the Endless Mountains Region..." 
...the barn that kept the convertible  out of
the harsh Pennsylvania winter weather...
Glenn helping to get the car out of the barn
Pond with island is part of actual "farm"
directly behind the "barn find" of my 
54 Kaiser Manhattan Convertible.
"........rental trucks and trailers are almost
traded on a daily basis like commodities.... the
price of "rent" goes up and down just like the
price of hotel/motel rooms do....
Joe from L & M Filter in Simpson, PA. explained
the rise and fall of "rent"...more on weekends..."
"I was glad I was able to rent fairly new  equipment,
only 23 mi from the  barn location of my
1954 Kaiser Manhattan Convertible."
Kaiser Frazer Club member Gene Webb helps with the rental vehicles' move. Gas is $2.98 a gallon for regular. 
This 17 foot truck has a $75." thirst".
" ...the car is rolled to the front of Glenn's barn....
now it becomes very important that the wheels
are lined up with the car-trailer ( this rental
company invented the word "auto-transporter"
when referring to towing a car completely off
the ground/road)
Gene Webb is finished installing a pull chain,
carefully, on the front frame of the convertible,
while Glenn is attaching an electric winch, pull motor....
"...some engineer  came up with a great idea here of the rental trailer,
the left aluminum  wheel cover can be moved sideways to  allow easier access to door...."
"....KFOCI member Gene Webb makes sure  convertible rolls properly
onto trailer inch by careful inch...  ready with a large  "block-stop"  if it rolls too fast....
"..........Convertible rolled gently the last critical foot unto the trailer.
Front wheels must touch the metal brace in front....Glenn is removing
front pull chain, and winch ....."
"........  here the most important part is that the front wheel strap-cradle is layered out all the way towards the back  of the trailer as possible
....car must roll over the two front strap-cradles, then straps are cradled from the back of the tires around  front and then fastened to a ratchet tightening device welded onto the very front of trailer........

...if one forgets this?  Car must be rolled back again....
 ...notice the wheelwell cover of trailer still in the down position..."

"... engineers of trailer designed clever  "slide & lock"  pockets for 6 foot loading ramps, directly under the trailer  "bed"...
.......Gene Webb is locking left ramp... as soon as I put the camera down,
I "slide & lock" the right ramp into position..."
Glenn wants to take one more
"make believe" convertible ride...
in MY car now, since we settled on a 
satisfactory to both :
"...... REASONABLE $-DEAL."
"....Glenn extends his overwhelming cordial
hospitality,  by pointing the way to his 
outside stone-quarry antique car collection"...
 ".......and invites us to look at his
latest  2 Kaiser acquisition... one could  very well
be a rare and valuable 'Kaiser Dragon' edition..." 
"...Gene Webb , member of KFOCI, shows  his "trophy"  for all the hard work he is doing for me.   When he picked me up at the bus-station  ( for I had to pick up the car I drove to Penna.) two days later,
he showed me the license plate frame all shined up >> practically new.  Gene is a true Gentleman for volunteering his help and adjusting his schedule...

        Thank you  again, Gene, and  wife Kathy." 

KAISER-FRAZER owners club
"antique license frame"
...Glenn is taking a final picture of us leaving, while telling us:
     ..his father always used to say when towing:
       "go half the speed, and then half again"
"as we are leaving the driveway.  The yellow 20 foot rope-band  with ratchet fastener  that I  had bought at Wal-mart, of all places, came in extremely useful... driver's door  closing mechanism needs some work..."
"...leaving Glenn's Farm..."
 "......my view through the steep mountain passes through Northeastern Penna. "Endless Mountains Region" and the Los Angeles like freeways around Scranton.  One spur leading to Simpson, PA, the locals dub  "the freeway to nowhere"... 
".....our first stop, 5 miles down the road, 
first reasonable pull over area, to check the front wheel straps, front and back tie-down chains and truck and trailer couplings and electrical wiring...."
"....safely parked on ramp to freeway,
another safety  check...."
"......Gene drove truck & trailer 87 miles for me, one fourth of the entire trip, to a safe, level  freeway off-ramp.  He drove my car then to his home.
And, I  am driving a  rental truck again for the first time since leaving Los Angeles some 20 years ago..
much has changed..."
"...the blue mountains, there... way in the distance,
barely visible, is where my convertible was stored. 
I am overlooking the NY/PA area where I had driven another rental truck also through, some 20 years ago, returning to the East Coast from California. We all had changed.  Back then the future" :  Concorde, Space Shuttle, to the Stars.. you name it, was still with us: somehow the "future" got lost, shuffled under somewhere..."
"...I consider myself one of the lucky ones, watching the future come and go...
...the miracle of getting another chance (a future dream of my own youth, some decades ago; and that
wonderful, elusive naiveté) to rebuild my car once more, some  20 years later..."
 "... the trained eye sees the work that is needed...
I think I will just give it a good car-wash for now,
paint the underside with rust preventative, give the trunk a thorough cleaning and paint it bright silver, like I did once before, slow, very slow....then decide..."
  "...at every rest-stop I check the chains and strap fasteners; and truck to trailer couplings.  I have a portable air-pump, should I lose some air, especially in the front tires..."
 '...after driving the truck now over 60 miles, one secret, an  inner hope I had was:  that the rental truck would have improved  over the last 20 years?
No such luck, it still had the same bouncy  truck ride. Closed windows wind noises and this only driving  between 45 and 53 mph..."
By trailering the convertible myself, it cost me only one third of  what a local auto transport  rate  would  have charge."
"...I am now only 60 miles north of NYC, many people come up to me asking what kind of car it is.  One guessed it to be a Kaiser Darrin..."
   
"...one gentleman, riding a motorcycle, helped install this...
I had brought these internet pages along for each door ..."
   
" ...it turns out, his name was also Gene, and he is a
journalist working for one of the NY papers, he took the pictures of me; also took pictures with his own camera..."
   
 
   
"...first rest stop in Connecticut...
        only 100 miles to go.."
   
 
   
 
   
 "...discount store and discount gas...
there is of course a totally different way of driving... here I waited for the first bay since there is more room.."
   
 
   
   
"...last rays of the sun, and I arrive at the final rest    stop  for me, near East Berlin, Connecticut.
 Only 50 more miles to go..."
   
And I kept thinking about Glenn's father's advice when towing: "...go half the speed, and then half again!"
   I kept between 45 and 53 mph.
   
 "...two hundred miles behind me now..."
   
"..the last 50 miles the truck and trailer were "humming" like with any machine, there is a special point one can "feel" or "be in tune with" where the machinery operates the very best; 
  I had found that point between 51 and 53 mph,
with this rented rig : 
It then became a gentle dance of rolling along..."
   
"...trailer with convertible...
   
......needs to be positioned..."
   
'...all chains and straps removed, ramps lowered...
   
 ... car is wired to frame and nearby tree 
    (yellow strap)"
   
 "...strap...
   
 ...and wire, anchored to tree gently stop the car..."
   
...trailer and truck leaving for...
...local  hardware store   (open Sundays) to be returned to rental affiliate's turn in place."

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


Body Work
Under the Hood
Wiring
The Convertible Top
Mechanical
Items
Phase II

 
 
Links
John's Old Car and Truck Pictures
Historic Aircraft Pictures
A Deck of Cards showing
The 1952 cars of The World
The Netherlands and most of Europe has a large following of North American Cars
The Old Cars of the Netherlands
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
For those who would like to look at cars that are a little more modern, try Donnie Jones' Classy Cars
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
Poetry and Tunes by Donald Jones
A very well written and interesting page on Canadian heroes
Donald Jones' page on Canadian Heros
 
 
E Mail

 
 
 
 
 


 
 


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