Kaiser Henry J

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In The Real Frank Zappa Book FZ describes the family's move to California in 1951:

So, in the dead of winter, we set out in our 'Henry-J' (an extinct and severely uncomfortable, small, cheap car manufactured then by Kaiser), via the Southern Route, to California. The backseat of a 'Henry-J' was a piece of plywood, covered with about an inch of kapok and some stiff, tweedy upholstery material. I spent two exhilarating weeks on this Ironing Board From Hell.

Henry John Kaiser (1882 - 1967) was an American industrialist with interests in many areas including construction and shipbuilding. In 1945 he set up the Kaiser Frazer automobile company with Joseph Frazer. Initial sales of their cars were not maintained as sales plummeted from over 100,000 in 1947 to around 5,000 by 1949 - probably due to lame advertising slogans such as "You should drive one".

The Back Seat of a Henry J (folded down)

In 1949 Kaiser negotiated 44 million dollar loan from The government's post war Reconstruction Finance Corp. As part of the deal it was stipulated that part of the loan would go to finance the production of a low priced "people's car" that most families could afford.

The 1951 Henry J was that car. To keep costs down the Henry J was a fairly basic car - window vents did not open, the steering column was not cased and the only access to the trunk was via the back seat which folded down. The car sold for around $1300 (average annual salaries at the time were around $4000) a slight saving on an average regular car's $1600 price.

Although improved models did follow the car was never a great success and ceased production in 1953.

See also: Cars (CC). Also of note: "Kaiser Rolls".