Kaiser - Darrin History Page


1954 Kaiser Darrin prototype. Note the lower headlight height, lack of turn signal housings and split windshield.


This page is dedicated to the organizations founded by Henry J Kaiser.

Kaiser was an industrialist who divided his time between many enterprises that included manufacturing, construction and health care. During WWII, his shipbuilding work was legendary with his yards having turned out hundreds of Liberty Ships. His legacy today includes the Kaiser Permanente health care system.

To learn more about Henry J Kaiser, visit this webpage.


The Kaiser Darrin, also known as the DFK 161, was produced by Kaiser Willys Motors in Jackson, Michigan in 1953 and 1954, although all were sold as 1954 model cars. 435 were produced and in addition, several prototypes were built to test body stiffness and frame durability.The design was conceived by Howard 'Dutch' Darrin in his own studio in 1952. The first prototypes didn't have turn signals, used a different dash layout and method for top storage, incorporated a two piece windshield and had a lower fender line.


Henry Kaiser was shown the car and at first, refused to consider building them, however, when his wife saw the car, she persuaded him to move forward with the project. The rest, as they say, is history!



PLEASE NOTE - All information contained on this page is deemed accurate at the time of publication. Every effort has been made to ensure that what's here is correct, however, from time to time, documentation surfaces that may change what we believe to be true. Please, do your homework!



        Body - Fiberglass construction.

o       Manufacturer - GlasPar

o       184 inch length overall, 67 inch width, 51 inch height with top in up position.

o       Fiberglass hardtop available as an option (the mold still exists).

        Engine - 161 cubic inch f-head engine of Willys manufacture.

o       90 hp at 4200 rpm

o       5 quart oil capacity with accessory filter.

o       30-40 lbs oil pressure with warm engine at 35 mph.

o       Cooling capacity 12 quarts, 13 with accessory heater.

        3-speed H-pattern floor shift Borg-Warner transmission with electrically driven overdrive.

o       Ratios: 2.605:1 in first, 1.630:1 in second, 1.00:1 in third, 3.536:1 in reverse and 0.70:1 in overdrive.

o       Rear axle ratio: 4.01:1 or 4.55:1. Zero to 60 times of 13.8 seconds were reported by Motorsport Magazine in December 1954.

        Landau folding top, manual. From front, the landau irons curve up, then down. Side curtains are fitted and are snap in due to the sliding doors.

        Sliding doors, running on an aluminum U-channel with nylon rollers used.

        Pincrush vinyl dash and seats. The first 50 cars used an X pattern in the seat upper and lower panels, all others used a pleated style.

        Carpet is a short loop except for the first 50 cars that used the Willys style cut pile.

        Directional signals, borrowed from the Henry J were standard on all cars.

        Tinted and shaded windshield standard as were windwings (KF part #215421) and could be either glass or plastic.

        Electric windshield wipers were fitted to all cars.

        5.90x15 2 1/2 inch whitewall tires were standard. 6.40 is also accepted in KFOCI judging as 5.90 tires have only recently again become available.

        Other standard equipment

o       Dual horns

o       Tachometer - driven from the distributor

o       Stainless Steel wheelcovers (borrowed from the Henry J)

o       Bumper guards are another item borrowed from the Henry J

o       Cigar lighter

o       Floor tunnel ash receiver

o       Inside dash mounted rear view mirror

o       Spare tire and jack

o       Fram partial flow oil filter



        Windshield washers

        Heater, one quart capacity. Same as standard (without doors) unit as used in the Henry J.

        Seat belts, driver and passenger

        Stainless steel spoked wheel covers. The first type was a flat unit with a finned cover. The second series was similar to those on concurrent Nash and Chrysler automobiles with a removable center. A plastic Darrin medallion is affixed to the center of the latter version, held in place with a chrome plated, pot metal K.

        Exhaust deflector, flat pancake style. May or may not have K medallion affixed.

        Outside fender mirrors. Not originally equipped but allowed in KFOCI judging as a safety item.

        Radios were not available but if dealer equipped, they should be mounted under the dash. The antenna is stowed laying flat in the top well, not vertically affixed to the body.



        Radiator cap - AC547 (7lb unit)

        Battery cables

o       Braided ground (positive terminal)

o       Black zero gauge negative terminal with offset head

        Bumper jack - ratcheting style with L-shaped lug wrench

        Oil filter

o       Fram replaceable cartridge style C134PL or C231PL

        Spark plugs - Champion J8 or J8C or Autolite A5 or A7

o       Darrins were originally equipped with Autolite plugs. Champion is accepted at KFOCI judged events.

        Muffler - round style located next to fuel tank on drivers side


o       Delco Remy, number 1112316

o       Point gap .022

o       Condensor number 1869704

o       Point set number 1871362

o       Rotates counterclockwise from top. Firing order 1-5-3-6-2-4.

        Coil - Delco Remy number 1115385

o       Current draw, 1.5 amperes at idle, 5 amperes at 6.3 volts stopped.

        Starter - Delco Remy number 1107131

o       Armature number 1717855, brush spring tension 24-28 oz at 5500 rpm max.

        Generator - Delco Remy number 1102789, 30 amperes at 8 volts and 2050 rpm, cold.

o       Brush spring tension 28 oz, rotation counter clockwise at commutator end. Belt deflection should be one half inch, half way between generator and water pump pulleys.

        Voltage regulator - Delco Remy number 1118841.

o       Cuts in at 6.4 volts hot, current regulator is set to 38 amperes.



        As previously stated, bodies were of fiberglass manufacture. The mold consisted of seven pieces: hood, doors, top well cover, deck lid, rear section and front end assembly.

o       Constructed using a reverse mold process. Glass mat was sprayed into a mold after a wax liner and gel coat had been applied. Wood and metal stiffeners were added where needed for hinge and other mounts.

        Doors are sliding type, running on an aluminum U-channel and using nylon rollers. Over the years, the tracks wear so a restorers trick is to switch sides with the tracks, thereby setting up a fresh edge for the rollers.

        The top is a three position folding top. Upper most is fastened at the winshield header using snaps. The middle position is deau-ville style with the front half folded under and fastened at a top bow. The third is fully retracted and stowed in the top well.


o       Champagne Lacquer (white), Code 153. Top: Red exterior and underside. Interior: Scarlet Pincrush Vinyl, code 7200, 7202 or 7208. Cal-Point short loop red carpet.

o       Red Sail Lacquer, code 156. Top: Black exterior and underside. Interior: Black Pincrush Vinyl, code 7205. Cal-Point short loop black carpet.

o       Yellow Satin Lacquer, code 157. Top: Yellow exterior and underside, white is acceptable. Interior: Yellow Satin Pincrush Vinyl, code 7204, last 20 cars had White Pincrush Vinyl, code 7209. Cal-Point short loop black carpet.

o       Pine Tint Lacquer (green), code 154. Top: Pine Tint exterior and underside. Interior: Pine Tint Pincrush Vinyl, code 7203. Cal-Point short loop rust tan carpet.

        The thread used to sew all top and interior material is multi-stranded, neutral or natural color nylon such as Nymo size F, color 1770. The top material is 'Repp" grain and the vinyl material is known as "Bison" grain.


o       On all cars, the firewall, engine compartment, hood underside, trunk, trunk lid underside, top storage well, dash, gas cap, and air scoop are all body color.

o       The rocker arm cover, air cleaner, battery tray and hold down, radiator, hood and trunk support rods and horns are gloss black.

o       The generator, starter, and distributor are a semi-gloss black.

o       The wheels should be black on the reverse with body color on the outside.

o       The spare tire cover should be the same color and material as the seats and the side curtains are of the same material and color as the top.

o       The wheel wells and body underside should be unpainted fiberglass, although some overspray is acceptable. NOTE - There is some debate as to the use of undercoat. At this time, the author does not endorse its use.

o       The engine block, bellhousing and transmission should all be dark green the same paint as used on all 1951-1953 full size Kaiser automobiles. John Deere green is incorrect.

o       The trunk latch and striker, hood latch and striker, horn relay and hose clamps should all be cad plated.

o       Hose clamps are of the nut-and-bolt clamp style, cad plated and not the worm-and-roller type used today.

o       Dash knobs, hood, top storage and overdrive release handles, hand brake handle, horn ring, bumpers and bumper guards are all chrome plated.

o       The bumpers, guards and horn ring are all borrowed from the Henry J, although 1951 Henry J bumpers and guards differ and are not correct on a Darrin.



Serial Nbr           Body Color      Paint/Trim Nbr       Serial Nbr      Body Color     Paint/Trim Nbr

001-050             Champagne     153-7200                242-251        Pine Tint         154-7203 
051-071             Champagne     153-7202                252-261        Yellow Satin   157-7204
072-081             Yellow Satin    157-7204                261-271        Champagne    153-7202
082-091             Pine Tint          154-7203                272-281        Red Sail          156-7205
092-101             Yellow Satin    157-7204                282-291        Pine Tint         154-7203
102-111             Pine Tint          154-7203                292-301        Yellow Satin   157-7204
112-121             Red Sail          156-7205                302-311         Champagne    153-7208
122-131             Pine Tint          154-7203                312-321        Pine Tint          154-7203
132-141             Yellow Satin    157-7204                322-335        Yellow Satin    157-7204 
142-151             Champagne     153-7202                336-345        Champagne     153-7208        
152-161             Red Sail          156-7205                346-355         Pine Tint         154-7203
162-171             Pine Tint          154-7203                356-365        Yellow Satin    157-7204 
172-181             Yellow Satin    157-7204                366-375        Champagne     153-7208
182-191             Champagne     153-7202                376-385        Pine Tint          154-7203
192-201             Red Sail          156-7205                386-395        Yellow Satin    157-7209
202-211             Pine Tint         154-7203                 396-405        Champagne     153-7208
212-221             Yellow Satin   157-7204                 406-415        Pine Tint          154-7203
222-231             Champagne    153-7202                 416-425        Yellow Satin    157-7209
232-241             Red Sail         156-7205                 426-435        Champagne      153-7208


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