The last Henry J was produced

Friday 26th June 1953

The last Henry J was produced. The Henry J was an American automobile built by the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation and named after its chairman, Henry J. Kaiser. Kaiser wanted to expand his car line with an inexpensive car for the average man, hoping to recreate the success of the Model T Ford. The car was marketed from 1951 to 1954. For awhile, the Henry J was quite popular, and nearly 82,000 were sold for the 1951 model year. But that evidently satisfied demand, for sales went down sharply in1952. One reason was price. At $1363, even the four-cylinder model was only $200 cheaper than a full-size six-cylinder Chevrolet — and far more basic. The Henry J Six offered “DeLuxe” trim starting at $1499, but it was only ­slightly less stark. A mild facelift gave 1952-54 models a smart new full-width grille, taillights moved from the body to the fins, and nicer interiors. An interim ’52 measure designed to use up leftover stock was the Vagabond — a ’51 wearing “continental” outside spare tire, identifying script, and a hood ornament of black plastic and chrome. After this, Henry Js were called Corsair or Corsair DeLuxe, priced around $1400 for the four, $1560 with the six. But nothing seemed to work, so the Henry J departed in 1954. An estimated 1100 were sold that year, all of which were reserialed ’53 leftovers. Some 30,000 were built altogether. Left still-born were plans for a hardtop, wagon, four-door sedan, and even a convertible. Many felt the original approach was wrong. Lacking glove- boxes, trunklids, and other expected features, the ’51s were simply too plain for most buyers. As Joe Frazer later commented: “I would have brought it out dressed up.” And indeed, that’s what Sears did with its short-lived Allstate derivative. Then, too, the market wasn’t quite ready for compacts (though it soon would be), and K-F was looking increasingly terminal, which surely kept some buyers away. In all, this was a classic case of too little, too soon. Like Hudson’s equally ill-starred Jet, the Henry J was the wrong car at the wrong time.

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