Posts Tagged ‘Kaiser-Frazer Manhattan’

Fathers and sons – 1945

posted on June 16, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Edgar Kaiser, Henry J. Kaiser, Henry Kaiser Jr. at New York City debut of Frazer-Manhattan convertible, 1951-10-15; R1-13

Edgar Kaiser, Henry J. Kaiser, Henry Kaiser Jr. at New York City debut of Frazer Manhattan convertible, 10/15/1951.

On a rainy and snowy night in November 1945, U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Emory Land dropped his famously brusque manner to confess that he was “overwhelmed with sentiment.”

While sentiment is not an emotion often associated with World War II, Land was referring to some deep bonds that bubbled to the surface as he surveyed the shipyard and oversaw the last wartime contract ship to be launched, the S.S. Scott E. Land.  

She had been built in the Kaiser Vancouver, Wash., shipyards, which produced 20 of these C4 cargo carriers and troopships.

“I’m sentimental about my father for whom it [the ship] is named. I’m sentimental about this magnificent shipyard. I’m sentimental about this young industrialist (Edgar Kaiser). I’m sentimental about these thousands of workers who came here from all parts of the nation to make the shipbuilding records possible.”

The war had been over more than three months, and the massive Home Front campaign was switching gears to a peacetime economy. The mighty Kaiser shipyards were finishing up war contracts, and everyone was uncertain as to what the future would hold.

An account in the shipyard newspaper The Bos’n’s Whistle gives us this touching account of that last launch on November 24th:

Both Land and Kaiser spoke of the strong father-son ties that influenced them so greatly. Kaiser pointed out that both their fathers were imbued with the spirit of the west and its potentialities. Land’s father, Scott E. Land, was a pioneer in the field of developing the west, and he raised his family in the early days of the West in Colorado. He was instrumental in starting its development as a recreational and scenic center, and envisioned its later development a generation ahead of Henry Kaiser, who has so materially carried forward the dream of western development.


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Bicycle Safety – Thriving on two wheels

posted on May 18, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


automobile, safety, Kaiser Manhattan, World's First Safety First Car

Print ad for 1953 Kaiser Manhattan, “the world’s first ‘safety first’ car”

Prevention has always been fundamental to Kaiser Permanente’s mission. That includes both the prevention of illness through healthy behaviors and the prevention of injury by taking safety precautions. Even outside the health care field, Henry J. Kaiser’s Kaiser-Frazer automobile company strove to build safer cars and educate drivers, especially newly licensed teenagers, about safe driving.  The 1953 Kaiser Manhattan was dubbed the “World’s First Safety-First Car!”

A current Kaiser Permanente campaign to encourage the wearing of helmets when riding a bicycle (“Making Bicycle Helmets the New Safety ‘Seatbelt,” May 3) may be our newest effort in this arena, but it’s certainly not our first. Here are just two notable bike safety efforts from our archives:

Maryland’s bicycle helmet law, which became effective in October 1995, covered children under the age of 16. The legislation was spearheaded by Maryland Governor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (now called the Governor’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee). Kaiser Permanente was among Maryland’s bicycle helmet legislation partner organizations, providing testimony, incentives, and education.

Planning For Health 1993-Summer

Planning For Health; summer,1993

Oregon’s law was even earlier. It passed in July 1993 and took effect in July 1994. The year’s delay was built in to educate the public about the law and because of concerns about the ability of low-income children to afford bicycle helmets. The legislation was pushed by the Oregon Bicycle Helmet Coalition, which included a wide range of people and groups, including Kaiser Permanente.

As soon as the law was implemented, Kaiser Permanente distributed 1,500 free bike helmets to students at schools in Portland in hopes of reducing bicycle-related injuries and deaths. Ellen Hall, MD, from the Beaverton, Ore., Medical Office, was quoted as saying, “We’re concerned about how few children in our communities have helmets.”

In addition, Kaiser Permanente worked with officers from the Portland Police Bureau’s Bicycle Safety Unit and the Community Cycling Center in northeast Portland to teach traffic safety classes at north Portland schools. Kaiser Permanente also sold bike helmets at cost at three ‘cash-and-carry’ sales. By the end of 1995 Kaiser Permanente had donated nearly 2,000 bicycle helmets to low-income and at-risk children.

Bike helmet giveaway to 200 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students at James John elementary school in North Portland, Pulse 1997-08

Bike helmet giveaway to 200 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students at James John elementary school in North Portland, Pulse; August, 1997

“Even though Oregon law requires everyone under age 16 to wear a hike helmet when riding, many families can’t afford one,” said Adrianne Felustein, MD, co-chair of Kaiser Permanente’s Trauma Committee. “At Whitman school, just over half of all students qualify for free or reduced lunches—and the majority don’t have bike helmets.”

In 1995, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission selected Kaiser Permanente’s “Evel the Weevel” (a parodic reference to the motorcycle daredevil Evil Knievel) bilingual bike helmet safety brochures in Oregon to be distributed nationwide. The brochures were praised as an “example of a best practice in preventing childhood injuries.”


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Kaiser-Frazer auto-racing heritage recalled during Indy 500 weekend

posted on May 25, 2013

By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

November 1950 magazine ad for the new Henry J economy coupe

More than 60 years after Henry J. Kaiser debuted his namesake economy car, the “Henry J,” racing enthusiasts around the country still revere – and race – their hopped-up versions of the 1950s-built six-cylinder coupe.

Although outclassed by any race car in this weekend’s Indianapolis 500, the Henry J has had its share of attention, if not glory, over the years. is devoted to everything Henry J, and enthusiasts meet there to share tips for restoration and to score rare replacement parts.

And yet, the Henry J was never meant to be a racing car.

Henry J. Kaiser and Joseph W. Frazer started the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation in 1945 to fill the demand after World War II for new automobiles. During the war, virtually no civilian vehicles were manufactured so factories could focus on the tanks, jeeps and trucks needed for combat.

The company produced a few different cars, including the Manhattan, a large sedan, the Darrin, a sports car, and the Henry J, a lower-priced vehicle for the masses. Kaiser believed that every American should be able to afford an automobile.

Who knew the car could compete?

Hemi-J, souped-up Henry J economy car from the 1950s, manufactured by Kaiser-Frazer Corporation. Photo from

The fancy styling of today’s rejuvenated and supercharged Henry J is a far cry from what Henry Kaiser envisioned. In a magazine advertisement featuring the new model, the car was billed as: smart as an Irish setter; tough as a steer; thrifty as a squirrel and nimble as a kitten.

The ad pictured a family of four riding comfortably and sensibly in a blue Henry J with white-wall tires. Yet hot rodders soon discovered that the light weight and stripped down design of the Henry J made it the perfect candidate for stock car racing. A Web search reveals literally hundreds of hot rodders caught the bug soon after the Henry J’s release.

In June 1960, “Hot Rod Magazine” ran an article about a Henry J converted to a race car by Bill Waddill of Swartz Creek, Mich., not far from where Kaiser and Frazer manufactured the once tame vehicle.

According to “Hot Rod,” Waddill cut the 1953 Henry J in half at the door centerline and “chopped” the top but kept the original body proportions throughout the conversion. He competed in the 1959 Nationals in Detroit, “making a creditable showing before losing out in the run-offs.”

Waddill sold his Henry J in the early 1960s, and the new owner painted the car red and named it “Wicked Mary.”

Indy 500 engineer invents heart/lung pump

Henry J. Kaiser in “Henry J” car on lawn of Claremont Golf and Country Club, Oakland, 1951

For their part in the creation of the Henry J – and the other Kaiser-Frazer vehicles manufactured in the 1940s and ’50s –Kaiser and Frazer were inducted in 2010 into the Automobile Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Mich., just outside of Detroit.

Although the Henry J could never qualify for a race such as the Indianapolis 500, Henry Kaiser, a man for all seasons, had his connection to the prestigious contest. One of Kaiser’s associates, Barney Navarro, considered one of the fathers of hot rodding, a racing engineer and inventor, developed the innovative 199 cubic-inch 6-cylinder Rambler motor producing more than 700 horsepower for the Indy 500 in 1967.

A speed boat racer, Navarro was at the helm of Kaiser’s Chrysler Hemi-powered boat when it set a speed record in the late 1950s. He also raced flat bottom boats with Henry Kaiser.  At Kaiser’s behest, Navarro invented a heart and lung pump that was used from the late 1960s into the 1980s for open heart surgeries at Kaiser Foundation Hospitals.

So when actor Michael Peña says “ladies and gentlemen, start your engines” this weekend, know that the indefatigable Henry J. Kaiser left his mark at The Brickyard.

Henry Kaiser and sons talk about the new Henry J  in 1950 film clip
This clip shows the first few minutes of a film promoting the 1951 model year Kaiser-Frazer cars in the lobby of San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel March 29, 1950. Featured are Henry J. Kaiser and his sons Edgar Kaiser and Henry Jr. The highlight of this show was the low-priced “Henry J,” named after K-F’s chairman, Henry J. Kaiser; here he explains that “The purpose is… [to address] the need for low-cost transportation.”  Production of six-cylinder models began in July 1950, and four-cylinder production started shortly after Labor Day, 1950. Sale to the public began September 28, 1950.


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