Forgotten Car Concepts from an Unexpected Source

A 1958 Kaiser Waimea concept

If things had been different, I might be living near a Washington State auto production facility today instead of an abandoned aluminum factory.

Washington is home to a couple of automakers, one being SSC North America, the maker of the Ultimate Aero and Tuatara, and the other being Commuter Cars, maker of the tiny-but-crazy-fast electric Tango.

Both companies are vanity automakers, producing a very small number of vehicles per year. What if there was a third Washington automaker? I’m sure many people outside the state couldn’t possibly care less, but if some car concepts from Kaiser Aluminum in the 1950s had gained traction, maybe we’d be talking about Ford, GM, Chrysler and Kaiser as the Big 4 American automakers.

Probably not, but keep reading anyway for a peek into what could have been.

Kaiser is no longer based in Washington, but has a long legacy of manufacturing aluminum in the state. In the 1950s the company wanted to sell more of its product, and instead of traditional marketing strategies, Kaiser opted to design cars.

What better way to sell your product than to design another product that uses copious amounts of it? Kaiser hired the guy who designed the 1955 Ford Thunderbird to come up with aluminum car concepts that could be used as promotional pieces and, of course, show the benefits of building with the lightweight metal.

None of the concepts ever made it anywhere near production, but it’s fun to think about what might have happened if they did.

That abandoned aluminum plant down the road might still be kicking out new Kaiser automobiles today!

1958 Kaiser Menehune concept

1958 Kaiser Pelle concept

Any of these three concepts would have made great production cars! I think the Waimea, shown on top of the story, could have been a cult classic by now.

Which of these forgotten concepts would you have liked to see produced?

-tgriffith

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  1. Randy
    May 17th, 2013 at 17:12 | #1

    After WWII the aluminum industry was looking for outlets for their serious oversupply of aluminum, so such a car maker was no surprise. One that did succeed, though, was the Airstream trailer company.

    I’d opt for the Wiamea. Looks big enough to live in. Now where did I put the remote for the flat screen TV?

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