Henry J

Henry J
Henry J
Henry J 1952 Mitsubishi-built Henry J
Manufacturer Kaiser-Frazer Corporation
Production 1950 – 1954
Assembly Willow Run, Michigan
Toledo, Ohio
Body style 2-door sedan
Layout FR layout
Engine 134.2 cu in (2.2 L) 68hp[1] I4
161 cu in (2.6 L) 80hp I6[2][3]
Wheelbase 100 in (2,500 mm)[4]
Length 174.5 in (4,432 mm)(1950) to 178 in (4,521 mm)(1953-1954)[5]
Width 70"[6]
Curb weight 2,341 lb (1,062 kg)[7]

The Henry J was an American automobile built by the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation and named after its chairman, Henry J. Kaiser. Production of six-cylinder models began in July 1950, and four-cylinder production started shortly after Labor Day, 1950. Official public introduction was September 28, 1950. The car was marketed through 1954.



Custom Henry J (custom painted door pulls)

The Henry J was the idea of Henry J. Kaiser, who sought to increase sales of his Kaiser automotive line by adding a car that could be built inexpensively and thus affordable for the average American in the same vein that Henry Ford produced the Model T. To finance the project, the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation received a Federal government loan in 1949. This financing specified various particulars of the vehicle. Kaiser-Frazer would commit to design a vehicle that in its base form retailed (including Federal tax and retail delivery preparation charge) for no more than $1,300.00 (US$11,860 in 2011 dollars[8]). It was to seat at least five adults, be capable of going at least 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) for sustained periods of time, and available for retail sale no later than September 30, 1950.

To accomplish this, the Henry J was designed to carry the fewest possible components, and built from the fewest number of parts. To save body stamping costs, early Henry Js did not have rear trunk lids; owners had to access the trunk by folding down the rear seat. Another cost-saving measure was to offer the car only as a two-door sedan with fixed rear windows. Also lacking in the basic version were glove compartment, armrests, passenger-side inside sun visor and flow-through ventilation.

Power for the Henry J was delivered by a 134.2 cu in (2.2 L) four-cylinder 68 hp (51 kW) engine; later models were available with a 161 cu in (2.6 L) L-head six-cylinder 80 hp (60 kW) engine. Engines were supplied by Willys-Overland; the four-cylinder engine was the same engine used in the CJ-3A series Jeeps, with only slight modifications to component parts; the block and internal components were interchangeable with the CJ-3A engine.


The Henry J proved to be a disappointment for Kaiser. While the Henry J was priced low, a Chevrolet 150 could be bought for a few dollars more, and the price included operating rear windows and a trunk lid. The Chevy, Ford and other low priced competitors were also larger cars, offering more interior room. Kaiser-Frazer started offering the deck lid as part of an "Accessory Group" (preferred equipment group) during the 1951 model year, and a variety of other dress-up items, but major advertising still focused on operating costs at a time when the rationing of gasoline by the War Production Board ended and fuel sold for about 27 cents per gallon. The car could achieve 25 miles per US gallon (9.4 L/100 km; 30 mpg-imp) and in 1953, a Henry J won the Mobil Economy Run.[9]

In 1952, Kaiser began selling rebadged Henry Js through Sears, under the nameplate of Allstate. Allstates were nearly identical to Henry Js but they carried a unique grille, hood ornament, hubcaps, identification badges and interior trim, and Allstate-brand tires and batteries. After two years of disappointing sales, Sears dropped the car. The car was also available in Japan from 1951 to 1954, through a licensing deal with East Japan Heavy-Industries, part of the Mitsubishi group.[10]

Sales declined each year the car was marketed. In 1950 it had 1.35% of the market while in 1954 it had 0.02%[11]. While the Henry J was inexpensive for consumers, manufacturing and labor costs were high. Henry J. Kaiser had hoped to make a profit through volume; however, the cars' slow sales negated his plan. The automobile market was competitive and challenging the U.S. "Big Three" — General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler — proved difficult as price wars began that had a devastating impact on small domestic automakers.[12]

While sales of the Nash's compact Rambler were successful, it was partly because Nash marketed it as an accessory-loaded convertible. The Henry J was a plainly trimmed two-door sedan; consumers understood the difference between "inexpensive" and "cheap" and they perceived the Henry J in a negative fashion.

With the acquisition of Willys-Overland's vehicle operations in early 1953 by the Kaiser Manufacturing Company division of Kaiser-Frazer (the division changed its name at that time to Willys Motors, Incorporated), management decided to discontinue the car at the end of the 1953 model year. Efforts to sell off remaining vehicles were unsuccessful, resulting in an abbreviated run of Henry J automobiles by Kaiser Motors (Kaiser-Frazer got a corporate name change in May 1953) as 1954 models, using up more of the incomplete 1953 models scattered around the Willow Run, Michigan factory.

See also


  1. ^ Flory, Jr., J. "Kelly" (2008). American Cars, 1946-1959 Every Model Every Year. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7864-3229-5. 
  2. ^ Flory, Jr., J. "Kelly" (2008). American Cars, 1946-1959 Every Model Every Year. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7864-3229-5. 
  3. ^ http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Kaiser-Frazer/1951_Kaiser-Frazer/1951_Henry_J_Specs/1951%20Henry%20J%20Deluxe%20Coupe%20Specs-01.html
  4. ^ Flory, Jr., J. "Kelly" (2008). American Cars, 1946-1959 Every Model Every Year. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7864-3229-5. 
  5. ^ Flory, Jr., J. "Kelly" (2008). American Cars, 1946-1959 Every Model Every Year. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7864-3229-5. 
  6. ^ Flory, Jr., J. "Kelly" (2008). American Cars, 1946-1959 Every Model Every Year. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7864-3229-5. 
  7. ^ Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (19 July 2007). "1951 Henry J DeLuxe". auto.howstuffworks.com. http://auto.howstuffworks.com/1951-henry-j-deluxe.htm. Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  8. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2008. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
  9. ^ Gunnell, John (7 October 2005). "Ten collector cars to collect in a gas crisis". Hagerty Insurance Agency. http://www.hagerty.com/lifestyle/hobby_article.aspx?id=33890. Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  10. ^ "History of Mitsubishi, 1940-1959". Mitsubishi Motors. http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com/corporate/museum/history/1940/e/index.html. Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  11. ^ Flory, Jr., J. "Kelly" (2008). American Cars, 1946-1959 Every Model Every Year. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7864-3229-5. 
  12. ^ Flammang, James M. (1994). Chronicle of the American automobile: over 100 years of auto history. Publications International. p. 278. ISBN 9780785307785. http://books.google.com/books?id=9Z5TAAAAMAAJ&q=frantic+1953-54+Ford/GM+price+war&dq=frantic+1953-54+Ford/GM+price+war&hl=en. Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  • Gunnell, John, ed (1987). The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975. Krause Publications. ISBN 9780873410960. 
  • Langworth, Richard M. (1975). Kaiser-Frazer, the Last Onslaught on Detroit: An Intimate Behind the Scenes Study of the Postwar American Car Industry. Princeton Publishing. ISBN 9780915038046. 
  • Mueller, Jack (2005). Built to Better the Best: The Kaiser-Frazer Corporation History. MT Publishing. ISBN 9781932439335. 

External links

Media related to Henry J vehicles at Wikimedia Commons

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