Kaiser/IKA in Gearhead

I am really loving Chas’ Compendium of Automotive Oddities in Gearhead Magazine #18.

After an entire issue crammed full of kar kulture attitude and cheesecake, Editor Mike LaVella sneaks a straight auto history article into the back of the magazine. It’s devoted to the Kaiser cars built by IKA in Argentina.

Writer Chas Glynn gets down to business starting with how the Kaiser Manhattan went south of the border and became the Carabela.

Fun Fact: IKA replaced the Carlton Spencer-inspired bamboo vinyl interiors with authentic leather upholstery from local Argentinian craftsmen.

Then he talks about the ultimate auto mutt: the IKA Torino. It was an AMC Rambler American and Rambler Classic hybrid with a front and rear styled by Pinin Farina and built by Renault after Renault acquired IKA. (Who’s your daddy?)

If you’re not into rods & customs & car chicks, read this magazine Japanese-style: start at the back.

Kaiser Darrins are finally valuable!

Dave LaChance reports a huge price spike in the value of Kaiser Darrins (Hemmings Motor News, February 2010).

It seems the Darrin has rocketed in value about US $50,000 in five years (from 2004-2009).

Not bad for a car with a standard six-cylinder Willys F-head engine.

Carleton Spencer in Collectible Automobile

When it comes to writing history, readers of this blog know how much I hate “book reports.” Stories like these are drab recitations of facts and figures. They should stay in senior high school English classes.

But Richard Langworth doesn’t write book reports. In fact, his first book Kaiser-Frazer, The Last Onslaught on Detroit is a fantastic read. Why? Because he went out and interviewed everyone still alive in 1975 and incorporated a ton of quotes into the narrative. (Richard, pleeeeeeeeease do an update of this book! We’ve learned so much about K-F since then!) History is always most interesting when it’s told by the people who created it.

So I was very psyched to read Langworth’s article about Carleton Spencer, the wunderdesigner at Kaiser-Frazer who dressed up an otherwise limited product line. It’s in the October 2009 issue of Collectible Automobile (still no web site. Seriously.)

Besides a ton of great pictures of Spencer’s K-F interiors, there is a sprinkling of Spencer quotes that help to drive the story.

My only small quibble: since the article is a Personality Profile, I wish that CA had chosen some pull quotes and printed them in large blocks throughout the article. They would have evoked Spencer’s personality and helped us understand better the man who created such striking interior designs for Kaiser-Frazer.