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						Henry J 2
Blank Canvas Henry J

Henry J Body

By Dean Larson

The story of the Henry J is a sad one. Its two-door, fastback body seems to have nearly all the good 1950s styling cues crammed into its pint-sized dimensions. Quirky, but good looking, the Henry J seems like a happy little car that really should have been America’s VW Beetle. Unfortunately, the Henry J fell a little short of its goals, living up to a different legacy along the way.

The Henry J was the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation’s attempt at an American economy car. The idea was to build a capable new car that was priced low enough to attract used car buyers. Named after the company’s chairman, Henry J. Kaiser, the Henry J was debuted in 1950. It was cheap, around $12,000 in today’s money, and thrifty with war-proven four-and six-cylinder engines from Willy’s Overland. The four-cylinder standard engine was capable of 42 miles per gallon if driven with a light foot, thanks to the J’s 2,300-pound curb weight.

Kaiser-Frazer sought to cut costs on the Henry J in a justifiable manor, standardization and simplification. The J was available in the two-door sedan layout only, and the cars lacked glove compartments, armrests and passenger sun visors. Rear windows were fixed and the trunk was accessed by folding down the rear seat, cutting down the bill for panel stamping.

After going to such lengths to make the Henry J affordable, it was a severe blow when it wasn’t all that cheap. In fact, better-equipped cars from the big three, such as the Chevrolet 150, could be had for some small change over the J’s price. Kaiser-Frazer strung along light production of the Henry J until 1954, with sales decreasing each year.

Henry J 6

After its production stint, the Henry J found new love from a surprising source – drag racers. The Henry J’s fastback, two-door post (with B-pillar) roofline made it a naturally rigid body. The J was also light, relatively spacious and, best of all, dirt-cheap. One of the odd icons of the gasser era, Henry Js are most often built into gasser drag cars with lifted straight-axle front ends, huge rear rubber and fender-well headers.

The Henry J might not have been a big seller when it was new, but today nostalgic gassers are hot, and there are simply not enough quirky Henry Js to go around. This replica J body offered for sale of eBay was built by ScottRods of Ohio. The body appears to be in new condition and is being sold by the original manufacturer. While this article is titled “Blank Canvas Henry J,” the bass boat silver gel coat and one-piece front-end guarantees a future of straight-axle gear jamming as a gasser for this Henry J. Bidding starts at $6,000, but we would advise bidders to consult the ScottRods website before bidding, as the base price for this basic body package starts at $7,000. That being said, we would approve of spending a little more to get this beautiful silver-flake finish. 

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Drag Racing Gasser