Amelia Island

8 March 2014

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Lot 168

1954 Kaiser-Darrin Roadster

  • Chassis no. 161-001023
  • Body no. 161-1023

Sold for $159,500


Model KF-161. 230 bhp, 331 cu. in. Cadillac overhead-valve V-8 engine, Getrag T-5 five-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with wishbones and coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 100 in.

  • Darrin-style Cadillac V-8 engine upgrade
  • Well-engineered suspension and chassis modifications
  • Beautifully restored in original factory colors
  • An American classic with the performance that it deserves


The Kaiser-Darrin, designed by the revered Howard “Dutch” Darrin, was America’s first production fiberglass sports car. Its prototype was built before the Corvette, although production did not begin until 1954. Powered by the reliable Willys six-cylinder engine, Darrin’s design became a legend of 1950s motoring, with sweeping front fenders that plunged behind the doors into a “Darrin dip” and a distinctive “rosebud” grille, which, it was commented, always looked like it wanted to give someone a kiss.



Most fascinating of all were Darrin’s beloved “pocket” doors, which slid forward into the front fenders to permit entry and exit. Darrin promoted sliding doors for decades, claiming that, as they did not open into traffic, they were a very safe alternative. They were never an idea that’s time had come. They were the Kaiser-Darrin’s trademark, and they remain its best-remembered feature.



The shame was that the dashing Kaiser-Darrin came at the end of its manufacturer Kaiser-Frazer’s decade-long lifespan. The snazzy Roadster wound up being a one-year-only offering, with only 435 produced. Of these, six were fitted with Cadillac V-8 power by Dutch Darrin himself, at his shop in Santa Monica, California; thus producing a car that had performance to match its jaunty looks.



The car offered here is a Darrin-inspired Cadillac conversion that has been professionally engineered by its present owner to standards much higher than could have been achieved in the 1950s. This car was the 23rd Darrin built, and it was totally disassembled to facilitate the addition of a crossmember to the factory boxed frame, which increased its stiffness. The rear springs were beefed up, and mounted in the chassis is a correct 1954 Cadillac V-8 with a four-barrel carburetor and custom headers, which is mated to a Getrag T-5 five-speed manual transmission through a custom cast-aluminum adapter. The electricals were also upgraded to a 12-volt system.



True knock-off wire wheels were custom-made for the car by Dayton. The body was painted in a original factory color of Pine Tint Green. The upholstery was provided by the Kaiser-Frazer Owners Club parts source, and the correct top material, in the same color as the upholstery, was provided by Haartz. The car even comes with a correct jack and hammer, and it still wears its accurate chassis and body tags.



The car has received an outstanding restoration, and it is reported by its owner to be wicked-fast and capable of speeds up to 120 mph. It is, in many ways, the car that the Kaiser-Darrin deserved to be and, thanks to this car’s owner, now is.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more