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 we turn our attention to:
"UNDER THE HOOD"

 
The 226.2  cu. in. "Continental Red Seal" Kaiser engine needs some attention. It allows me some diversification, in my second restoration.

  The most obvious refurbishing upon opening the hood,   is the oil filter system: 
Both inlet and outlet engine oil lines to the filter are blocked off. Oil filler tube and cartridge ...
...plus brackets...
...need restoration and a fresh coat of paint.
New inlet and outlet brass fittings (top right & bottom center) are installed; and areas around filler tube and dip-stick (below yellow paint) openings  are cleaned...
 KAISER was "conceived" along with
 FRAZER in the Graham-Paige factory...
 ...then it became KAISER - FRAZER..
 ...then KAISER MOTORS...
 ...then KAISER - WILLYS...

...and five years after the machinery for the Kaiser automobile was sent to Argentina...

I purchased short-block # 226-100004
for $ 365. from the :
WILLYS MOTORS INC. Toledo, Ohio;
while changing their name again to: JEEP-CO  !
 Besides the "engine plate" there are three more plates on my car : 
(1) the  "trim plate"  is on the engine side (center) of the firewall.
(2)   '54 models also have a "Body Number plate" below trim plate.
 5424 refers to a 1954 Kaiser Manhattan 2dr Sedan
... only 30  {KF Registry}  remain of 144 built in Toledo, Ohio.
...and the "Serial Number" plate: K542 002380  is on the driver's door post .
( modern cars  have a "VIN" vehicle identification number).
..here I am using the very light metallic "Pontiac Blue",
....originally?... for the convertible top metal frame,
 now?... for the filter canister and oil filler tube, which will also get new fittings and new connecting hoses, & new oil filter.
  ..."Pontiac Blue" paint is dry.  Now comes the
installation, the gasket sealer is for the oil filler tube,
the plumbers tape for the fittings.
I am using  3/8" fuel injection rubber hose {SAE J30R9} with special plastic lining on the inside.
...I always find it interesting what the "past" believed
a "future" design (on this P - 51 OIL FILTER) would look like. 
However, before reinstalling the oil filter 
this exposed part of the 226 Kaiser 
-- Continental Red Seal engine --
...needs some red engine paint 
"High Heat with ceramic to 1200 degrees." 
...all new fittings, hoses filter, paint...
by refurbishing this, I even discovered the hand stamped  engine number  HR 100 004 ,
and what looks like a large  letter "A"
I added 5 quarts of new HD-30 motor oil .
The missing dip-stick (bottom right of  # plate) is
getting the same treatment: "Pontiac Blue"
However, the second most obvious need, of having a good look under the hood, is the starter.
Area of removed starter is in need of attention...
 ...also the broken starter housing. This I will take
to an " auto electric " specialist.
Top view of passenger side engine-compartment-wall.
Is wire-brushed and sanded, not to forget wiping down the area with a damp rag to eliminate dust; and then...
a few coats of fresh, black paint.
There is only surface rust. Battery cradle on driver's side engine-compartment-wall also gets wire-brushed, sanded, wiped down with a damp rag to catch dust...
...and then freshened up with black paint. 
Literally UNDER THE HOOD,
also needs wire-brushing and sanding, wiped 
down with a damp cloth,
 ...and then gets one coat of " zinc rich primer" &        one coat of "smoke gray gloss paint" and "clear" engine enamel with ceramic heat tested to 500 degrees.
2 barrel Carter carburetor  is removed, to sand, 
clean and...
 ... paint this side of the 6 cylinder "Continental Red Seal"  engine, with "High Heat paint with ceramic" tested to 1200 degrees.
               > It is also oil and gas resistant<
Passenger side of engine is painted.
The Kaiser 226 Engine was also used for Checker Taxi cab and airport push-pull lorries/tugs.
Properly tuned,  with supercharger, this 
1954 Kaiser engine produces 140 Brake Horsepower.
The following  black and white picture is taken
directly from my Owners Manual pages 11 + 33.


Engine specifications
 
 Passenger side of engine-compartment-wall is wire-brushed and sanded,
...while getting freshened  up with black paint.
Starter was repaired by  :"Jim Wood Auto Electric, Inc" new brushes; and the broken housing bolt mount was repaired ...
...by welding/brazing on a new pot metal base flange 
for bolt mount, removed from a used starter housing.
  With that great repair job, starter  now gets the "Pontiac Blue"  <star treatment> lots of coats of 
'high heat' fresh paint.
 The rear part of engine  is thoroughly sanded, cleaned,and taped, ready for "high-heat" 
{with ceramic} paint ...
...however, this area needs to have a "draincock",
{ to be able to drain the engine block; another one is found at bottom of radiator} reinstalled first,  and then thoroughly cleaned, dried and dusted before applying "high-heat" paint.
Once painting starts,   "1  5  3   6  2  4  FIRING ORDER" of distributor to sparkplug range becomes clearly visible...
... on the "head" of engine block.
A new engine block "draincock" needs to be installed
at the bottom, rear of the engine block.
The same type is used for draining the radiator.
Kaiser part  # 200449. 
[ This can also be gotten at most auto supply stores 
for about 4.-$.]
 ...now this part gets a  thorough preparation...
...for several coats of "High Heat with ceramic"
paint, tested to 1200 degrees.
 Engine block drain cock finally installed (with               plumbers tape), now waiting for paint to dry for           starter installation.
The generator is completely removed to be refurbished by "Jim Wood Auto Electric. Inc." including the voltage regulator .
 Meanwhile, this area gets totally cleaned 
and prepared  for...
...application of "High Heat " engine paint.
Driver's side engine compartment needs refurbishing
and a fresh coat of paint...
...before the generator and accessories get reinstalled.
Driver's side engine compartment is painted.
Accelerator linkage gets painted, as well as
coil and bracket.
The reconditioned starter is installed.
Also decided to purchase a new belt #40 515 (serrated) ;
the old one I will  keep  in the spare tire compartment.
The accelerator linkage, along with the coil
bracket gets installed.
The temperature (cooling) sensor is sanded and cleaned. Jim Wood  of "Auto Electric"  tested this sensor with hot water and an Ohm meter.  It is A- OK !

Accelerator linkages  are reinstalled, including 
counter balance spring, and....
...new cotter-pin  with washers to connect...
....the accelerator push rod...
...which clips into a round rubber socket on the 
back of the  gas pedal.
The  6 volt coil also  tested A-OK.  It too gets the...
..."Pontiac Blue"  > star treatment <  paint.
New Battery cable is installed on engine support bracket,  (below starter).
Bent generator support bracket is hammered straight, sanded, cleaned...
...and gets a fresh coat of red "High Heat"engine paint.
New fan-belt installed and proper belt tension applied (15-pound pull on generator with a spring scale) with refurbished bracket and bolt.
Refurbished starter solenoid with reworked lead 
wire to starter is installed.
The rebuilt Voltage regulator is installed.
(Kaiser had struck a deal with other supply houses
Delco-Remy supplied most of the electrical accessories
for my car.)
  I now install the generator and new fan belt.
"Jim Wood Auto Electric" reconditioned this
generator, along  with voltage regulator, to new condition.
Driver's side accessories checked, reworked, painted and reinstalled. When possible, all new 1/2 inch head  bolts  and 1/2 inch nuts were installed to keep uniformity and just use one size wrench when working.
(Also slotted-head screws were replaced with Phillips-head screws.)
The heater shroud-casing (this has only slight surface rust) needs attention:
... sanding, cleaning  and a fresh coat of paint.
And, outer heater casing is also refurbished !
Next the directional flasher gets refurbished, and fastened back on the engine compartment's firewall driver's side.

Heater radiator reinstallation


Heater radiator is checked for leaks. All "A-OK" !
" Cradle " for heater radiator is cleaned, painted green,
 and  4 rubber bumpers reinstalled, then...
.....reinstalled inside the heater radiator cover.
Copper cooling tubes upper left and bottom right
 ready for engine heater hose  hook-up.

Refurbishing the 2 barrel Carter carburetor


...and now to refurbish the 2 barrel Carter carburetor...
...to new condition...
...and reinstall the carburetor onto the intake manifold
The body flange of the carburetor is degreased 
and gets a new gasket...
...then reinstalled ...
...to the refurbished carburetor; including a new manifold gasket.
Now ready for...
...installation.
Reinstall the adjusting rod to the cross shaft...
...and the carburetor lever onto the support bracket.
...carburetor is installed, ready for fine tuning.
The 54 Manhattan Kaiser is fitted with a supercharger to boost  horsepower to 140 hp.
My convertible no longer has this option, however, it still has the supercharger intake manifold, and can be converted again...
...for now, I decide to use a standard aftermarket  4"x2" triple chrome-plated air cleaner;  for this 2BBL carburetor.
This air cleaner is made in China by SPECTRE.
...my car was running great.  However, when I wanted to start it, after running for several weeks, the engine just "sputtered" ;  just would not start.
As I found out later, fuel is not going into the carburetor...  It should spurt from this opened line when the engine is turned over...
I removed the fuel pump ...
and  this pump needs to be thoroughly checked out.
To be replaced ? .. or just "clogged up" and needs  cleaning ?
 Fuel pump was completely refurbished by Bassett Automotive near Deerfield, Ma.
I gave it a coat of engine paint and then reinstalled it.
The fuel lines and hoses from the fuel pump all the way to the gas-tank, were also tested and cleaned.
Some even had to be replaced,  they  were "gummed-up" solid.

 
 
 

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


Coming Home
Body Work
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
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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