The 1951 Henry J Models

Model K513 four cylinder


Model K514 Deluxe six cylinder


The 1951 Henry J was introduced in February 1950 at a Chicago Auto show. It was refered to as the "Red Car", but was not officially on sale till Sept 28, 1950.  The 1951 Henry J is often described as “Spartan.”  This is an accurate description - especially true of the earliest Henry Js.

The Henry J was manufactured using funding from a government loan granted by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. Part of the agreement was that the car would sell for $1300. To achieve this, features such as trunk lids and glove compartments were not included. Passenger side sun visors and dual horns were not included on the 4 cylinder models in order to meet the price of $1299 FOB.


The two pictures above show how the 1951 Deluxe model differs from the 4 cylinder Standard model. The deluxe model has chrome trim moulding on the hood above the grill, and stainless steel molding around the windshield.  Bumper guards were standard on the  Deluxe (6 cylinder) model, however, some dealers installed them on the 4 cylinder models as they were a popular factory accessory.  Deluxe,  full size wheel covers were standard on the deluxe model and optional (at extra cost) on the four cylinder model. 


No model designations were used on the 1951 models, however, the 6-cylinder version is referred to as the “Deluxe” in most Kaiser-Frazer literature.


The first 1951 Henry Js had no trunk lid. The trunk area was accessed by folding down the rear seat back. This made it difficult to load cargo or change a flat tire.

When the export business was set up, cars that shipped to the Netherlands in December of 1950 required that a trunk lid be tooled into them. This was done in strict secrecy but once the US dealers found out, trunk lids became available as an option on the US cars. Trunk lids became part of an accessory group offered from Kaiser - Frazer and were available on both 4 and 6 cylinder versions.  

My personal observation is that once trunk lids were available most 1951 Henry Js had them. 


While trunk lids became part of an accessory group, glove compartments were not. Glove compartments were not available on the 1951 Henry J.

According to the factory shop manual “The 1951 instrument panel is the same as the 1952 with the exception of the glove compartment which was not used. Instead, a pocket on the right cowl kick pad is provided for storing small items.”   The Henry J parts book lists glove compartment components for 1952 –54 Corsair models only.  


In February of 1951, the Henry J could be ordered with all vinyl upholstery, known as "Dragon Vinyl" or "Dinosaur Vinyl" to indicate it was not actual animal skin. The seats, door panels, kick pads and even the wind lacing was covered in vinyl. On these models, the steering column and moulding around it, was painted to match the color of the car.  


The all vinyl upholstery came in at least 4 known colors – brown, green, pink (or maroon) and red. 


Later in the 1951 model year, stationary rear seatbacks with package shelves were available as part of an accessory group.  The 1951 Henry Js with this configuration are unusual, but not extremely rare.


Autolite electrical systems (distributor, generator, regulator, starter) were used on the 1951 models.


 The 1952 Henry J Models



Vagabond 4 cylinder model 

The 1952 Henry J Vagabond, referred to as “Early issue” in much of the factory literature, was simply those approximately seven thousand 1951 models that remained unsold at the end of the 1951 model year.  In order to sell these cars, KF marketing came up with this idea – they changed the plastic trim on the hood ornament from clear plastic to black plastic, added "Vagabond" scripting (left over from the 1949 and 1950 Kaiser Vagabonds) on the front fender and then added a Continental spare tire on the back. I have found evidence that not all 1952 Vagabonds were equipped with the Continental spare tire. I currently own one that was not.  Richard Langworth’s book “The Last Onslaught On Detroit”  states “The promoters took off on it, though, calling it ‘America’s finest sports car’ – apparently the Continental spare with which most were equipped accomplished the necessary transformation.”

Aside from these changes, the 1952 Henry J Vagabond was the same car as a 1951 Henry J and just as the 1951 cars, it was available in 4 and 6 cylinder models. Although both models were simply badged "Vagabond", the six cylinder version is often referred to as "Vagabond Deluxe." 



 The 1952 Henry J Corsair Deluxe

The “Real” 1952 Henry Js were introduced in March of 1952. They had model designations on the front fender - Corsair (4 cylinder model) and Corsair Deluxe (6 cylinder model).  The body and sheet metal was the same as the 1951 cars but the grill had been restyled, and the taillights were moved to the tip of the rear fins. Round “K” emblems, or backup lights, filled the holes left where the “old” tail lights were once housed.  The front bumper was now "V" shaped and included a full-length gravel shield (the 1951 and '52 Vagabond models had two small, separate pans - one on each side). According to KF Dealer bulletin 323, trunk lids were still optional. My personal observation is that most '52 Corsair models have a trunk lid. Glove compartments were a new standard feature on Corsair and Corsair Deluxe models. In 1952, Henry Js changed from Autolite electrical equipment to Delco-Remy electrical systems.


The 1952 models also featured new plaid upholstery to complement the Dinosaur Vinyl. There were several colorful plaids used - green and red to name two. The hood ornament on the 1952 models has a flatter, oval shaped tube around it, unlike the round tube on the 1951 models.


The 1952 Allstate

The Allstate car was sold by Sears.  As seen in the above picture, the Allstate is a thinly disguised Henry J. The styling changes were done by Alex Tremulis who also worked on the design of the Tucker.

Just as the Henry J, the Allstate was offered in 4 cylinder and 6 cylinder (Deluxe) models and there were no model designations on the cars. Most literature refers to the 6 cylinder model as the Allstate "Deluxe."  The Allstate in the above photo is not the Deluxe model. Just as the 1951 Henry J 4 cylinder model, the trim moulding on the hood is not chrome and there is no stainless moulding around the windshield (front or rear).  The Allstate had its own upholstery, and the cylinder head was stamped "Allstate" instead of "Kaiser Supersonic." Allstates featured a Sears battery, Sears tires, Sear sparkplugs and all accessories such as signal lights, spot light etc. were also Sears issue.

Just as the 1951 Henry J, the 1952 Allstate did not have the tail lights on the fins - they were between the rear fin and the deck lid. 



The 1953/54 Henry J


 The 1953 Henry J Corsair

A factory brochure advertised the 1953 Henry J as “39 Ways Better.”  I won’t list all 39 changes as only two are significant when viewing the car from the outside. The hood ornament has vestigial chrome wings instead of a plastic tube. The plastic tip on the '53 Henry J hood ornament is rocket shaped with three fins on it.  The other noticeable change is the rear bumper is “V” shaped - like the front bumper.  Other changes include thicker, more plush seats. The instrument cluster features a semi-circular speed-o-meter. The temp and fuel gauges switched places with the oil and amp “indicator lights.” Also, a dome light was added, the windshield wiper control was moved from the top of the dash to the front just above the ignition switch. Corsair Deluxe models featured a vinyl covered dash.  Most '53 Henry Js, regardless of whether or not they were Deluxe models, featured brown dinosaur vinyl with taupe volta cloth inserts.

The 1953 / 54 Henry Js feature Delco-Remy electrical systems (distributor, generator, regulator, starter). Most had trunk lids but they were still listed as "optional" in factory literature. Glove compartments remained standard on all 1953/54 models.



The 1953 Allstate Deluxe

Notice the trim moulding around the hood is chrome and there is stainless steel moulding around the windshield on the deluxe Allstates. The 1953 model is different in that the tail lights are mounted on the rear fender fins, just as the 1952 -54 Henry J Corsair and Corsair Deluxe models.