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Highway 61 1:18 1953 Kaiser Manhattan

Reviewed by:   Richard Sufficool
     
  Highway 61 1:18 1953 Kaiser Manhattan diecast car
 
 
 

Old Henry J had some lofty goals when he hooked up with auto executive Joe Frazer to take on Detroit's Big Three with a new automobile line dedicated to advanced design, style, and safety. Reality defeated some of his most advanced features, like front wheel drive, torsion bar suspension, and unit body construction, but with the introduction of the '51 body and thanks to the return of Howard "Dutch" Darrin to Kaiser, many of his styling and safety features finally found a home. With the assistance of stylist Duncan McRae, this excercise in "anatomic" styling was transferred from the drawing board to sheet metal, resulting in one of the most unique designs of the 50s. Although it's a pillared sedan, it was sleeker than most hardtops, with its rounded roof, tall windows, and low beltline showcasing Darrin's "dip" motif at the leading edge of the rear fender and the widow's peak, or "sweetheart" dip, of the safety pop-out windshield and rear window. Another safety feature ahead of its time were the side-visible teardrop taillights. The interior of the Manhattan was plush and safety conscious too, sporting a padded vinyl bamboo-patterned dash and trim for luxe fabric upholstery. Standard and optional accessories could make the interior one of the most luxurious in the automotive world, but this came with a price tag that had Kaiser competing with top tier automobiles. Where the Kaiser was not competitive at this level was power. In order to expedite production in 1946, Kaiser used an industrial Continental L Head 6 cylinder engine, which by 1953 had been tweaked to 118 HP. The Kaiser always suffered to some degree from the lack of a V8 option. Although K-F had tried to purchase Rocket 88 engines from Olds, Korean War restrictions on civilian engine output put that deal on hold until it was too late for Kaiser. Powerplant aside, the Kaiser was universally lauded for its ride and handling.

Highway-61 has given us the 1953 Kaiser Manhattan in all its glory. My favorite is the Copper Dust Metallic & Australian Beige color combo, which comes with the correct factory optional wire wheels. And speaking of options, H-61 has loaded this model with virtually every option available but the Dragon trim package and the windshield visor. Exterior trim options include chrome ventshades on the side windows, dual combination spotlight and sport mirrors, and a vacuum antenna to complement the delux Delco 8 tube pushbutton radio within. The badging on this car is superb. Curiously, H-61 has modeled the jetplane hood ornament in gold plate offered only as part of the Dragon package. Perhaps they mean to punch out rear passenger doors and model the Dragon in a future release.

The paint is just spectacular. The metallizer in the Copper Dust is incredibly fine and the look is deep, rich, and perfectly scaled. The chrome looks rich and the foiled window trim is well applied and trimmed nicely. All the lenses are detailed plastic, although one slight knock are the two locator pins on each headlamp, which are not-so-well-hidden on the sides. The scripts are foiled and stand out nicely on the paint. The aforementioned wire wheels sport tire valves and are shod with great looking tires with wide whitewall inserts. Bounce them around and you'll note a fairly stiff operating suspension. Flip the model over and there are metal coils between the A-arms and flexing plastic leafs in the rear with actuating shocks. Also, to delight the kid in us, there is the working drivetrain that extends from the rear wheels to the engine fan. Emergency brake cables are metal wire and the chassis is nicely modeled all around.

The interior is spectacular with its pleated vinyl bamboo motif extending from dash to sill. The hardware and trim are chromed and it's fascinating to see the way the doorpanels were chromed and painted with the tutone trim colors so the fine chromed trim shows through. The door sills, carpeting, and embossed vinyl mats give a great finished look. As this is a tudor sedan, the front bench seats articulate and slide on rails for access to the rear (if you're under 3" in height). A check with the pedal cluster and shift designator marks this car with the optional GM two-stage Hydromatic transmission. Operating features include the sunvisors, glove box, and front and rear vent windows. Pop the deck and remove the spare cover and you'll find another fat whitewall mated to a steel body-colored wheel.

The hood opens with those great looking spring-loaded scissor hinges to expose that "Supersonic-Six" for the little guy that it is. Everything is nicely done... plumbed and wired from the 6 volt battery to the spark plugs. Even the vacuum advance tube to the manifold is there.

I don't know if I'm the right or wrong guy to review this model. I've been in love with these Kaisers since I saw them roll out of the dealership as a kid. H-61, God bless'em, H-61 has nailed this car and offered some spectacular color combos and wheel options. I'm looking forward to any future variants they may see fit to model.

(08/20/2005)
 
 
  Highway 61 1:18 1953 Kaiser Manhattan diecast car

Highway 61 1:18 1953 Kaiser Manhattan diecast car

Highway 61 1:18 1953 Kaiser Manhattan diecast car

Highway 61 1:18 1953 Kaiser Manhattan diecast car

Highway 61 1:18 1953 Kaiser Manhattan diecast car

Highway 61 1:18 1953 Kaiser Manhattan diecast car

Highway 61 1:18 1953 Kaiser Manhattan diecast car

Highway 61 1:18 1953 Kaiser Manhattan diecast car

Highway 61 1:18 1953 Kaiser Manhattan diecast car

Highway 61 1:18 1953 Kaiser Manhattan diecast car

Highway 61 1:18 1953 Kaiser Manhattan diecast car

Highway 61 1:18 1953 Kaiser Manhattan diecast car

 
 
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Highway 61 | 1:18
Highway 61 1:18 1953 Kaiser Manhattan

Highway 61 1:18 1953 Kaiser Manhattan

 
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