In the early 1950s, the major car manufacturers reckoned that small cars meant small profits, so low priced transportation was left to independent companies like Nash, Willys, and Kaiser-Frazer. In 1951, a streamlined, Frazer-less Kaiser launched “America’s Most Important New Car,” the Henry J. An 80 bhp six-cylinder “Supersonic” engine gave the Corsair frugal fuel consumption, with Kaiser claiming that every third mile in a Henry J. was free.
The market, however, was unconvinced. At $1,561, the Corsair cost more than the cheapest big Chevy, wasn’t built as well, and depreciated rapidly. No wonder then that only 107,000 were made. Had America’s first serious economy car been launched seven years later during the ’58 recession, the Henry J. may well have been a best-seller.
The stubborn head of Kaiser industries insisted that the Henry J., originally designed as a full-size car by designer Howard “Dutch” Darrin, be scaled down.
The 100 in (2.54 m) wheelbase was short, but the interior space generous.
Bolt-on front and rear fenders were part of the Henry J.’s money-saving philosophy.
High roof line owed its existence to the fact that Kaiser’s chairman always wore a hat.
Blue Satin was one of nine colors available.
With the rear seat folded down, the luggage space was among the largest of any passenger sedan.
INSIDE THE CORSAIR
The interior was seriously austere. Apart from overdrive and auto transmission, very few options were available.
The few controls included starter, ignition, light, and choke switches.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Kaiser Henry J. Corsair Deluxe (1952)
PRODUCTION 12,900 (1952)
BODY STYLE Two-door, five-seater sedan.
CONSTRUCTION Steel body and chassis.
ENGINES 134cid four, 161cid six.
POWER OUTPUT 68–80 bhp.
TRANSMISSION Three-speed manual with optional overdrive, optional three-speed Hydra-Matic automatic.
SUSPENSION Front: coil springs; Rear: leaf springs with live axle.
BRAKES Front and rear drums.
MAXIMUM SPEED 87 mph (140 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 17 sec
A.F.C. 34 mpg (12 km/l)