- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 12, 2010

If only Gary Himelfarb’s 1954 Kaiser Manhattan were 3/8 of an inch longer it would stretch an even 18 feet from the canted front bumper guards to the factory-installed “continental” spare tire at the rear.

“I love this design,” Mr. Himelfarb said. “I think it is one of the most tasteful, interesting designs.”

He purchased the Kaiser Sep. 18, 2006 and since then he says, “I’ve done nothing to the car. I’ve driven it and enjoyed it,”.

Sketchy records that came with the car give the current owner reason to believe he is the fifth owner of the Kaiser.

It was restored in 1996 at a shop in Tazewell, Va. That’s when the Persian Gray over Arctic White paint was applied.

When new, the Kaiser had a base price of $2,670. Beneath the stylish hood with the non-functional air scoop is the 226.2-cubic-inch, L-head, in-line six-cylinder engine. In order to move the 3,375-pound sedan with alacrity, a McCulloch centrifugal supercharger on the right side of the engine boosts the horsepower rating up to 140. “It’s a nice highway car,” Mr. Himelfarb reports. He says it cruises comfortably between 60 and 70 mph. The highest number on the speedometer is 120 mph.

The cooling system has a capacity of 13.5 quarts and at the rear of the car is a 17 gallon gas tank.

Originally, the Kaiser was equipped with 6.70x15-inch tires but when Mr. Himelfarb purchased the car it was rolling on 7.10x15-inch tires which give the car a cushier ride. “I would drive it anywhere,” Mr. Himelfarb says.

Stylistically, the front of the Kaiser is almost a direct copy of the XP-300 show car that Buick had previously unveiled. It was - and is - beautiful, so Kaiser “borrowed” the design, with its 56-tooth grille, for the Manhattan. But Kaiser designers added a few of their own nice touches to the lines of the car.

The “Safety-Glo” taillights are distinctive and wrap up over the top of the rear fenders in a graceful curve.

The large windows received special attention too. The widow’s peak dip at the top of the windshield is repeated on the rear window, which wraps around the sides of the car and is divided into thirds by a pair of vertical chrome bars. Additionally, each of the four doors has a functional wing vent window.

Extending the length on both sides of the Kaiser is a six-inch wide strip of stainless steel which blends into the bumper at the rear of the car. The ends of the front bumper have built-in wing tips. The designers positioned the side strip so the portion above the rear wheel effectively becomes a fender skirt.

Chrome trim outlines the scoop on the engine hood along with the gas filler door on the left rear fender.

The Kaiser Manhattan has a spacious interior and the padded dashboard is pushed all the way forward to the base of the windshield in order to give the front seat passenger additional legroom. Every stitch on the charcoal gray padded dashboard is still in place, a fact that amazes Mr. Himelfarb.

Clustered on either side of the two-spoke steering wheel are the controls, designed to simulate those in an airplane cockpit. The gear positions of the automatic transmission lever are from the left: Neutral, Drive, Intermediate, Low, Reverse. There is no parking gear - that’s the task of the hand brake.

The big car is a hair away from being 75 inches wide and is just more that five feet high. Even with a long wheelbase, the Kaiser can be turned in 38 feet.

“I love driving this car,” Mr. Himelfarb says. “Whenever I stop it draws a crowd. People are always asking, ‘What is it?’”

He likes to share that good feeling and occasionally his teenage son, Eric will borrow the car. “I love seeing my kid drive off in it,” Mr. Himelfarb says.

He isn’t possessive of the car because, he explains, he doesn’t really own it; he’s merely the car’s caretaker for a while until the next person takes over.

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