Sunday, February 21, 2010

Is There Still a Tent Option?

C H O P — Ain't gonna happen now that Chief Pontiac has been sent packing, but this is what could have been the Aztek II. 

This is the epitome of a fun chop. The original Aztek was unanimously assailed for it's er, um, interesting style—pre- and post-facelifted versions. The brand-new Acura ZDX seems to be taking over that same reputation, perhaps most kindly expressed as WTF? So there was only one thing to do—mash 'em together. My Aztek II is an oh-so-current awd crossover coupe, with classic 'Tek cues such as the 3 spoke wheels, triple door strakes and the quad grille intakes. No word on whether or not the camper option, with the fold-out tent, would have been carried over. You can't help but smile when you see this mutt!

B T W :
A N  E A R L I E R   C A M P E R   O P T I O N — The Kaiser Traveler (above) of the late '40s–early '50s, America's first hatchback sedan, had a rare camper and tent option. Both my father and his brother owned 1948-50 Kaisers. My dad owned the 2-tone Traveler in the photo above and my uncle's was the monotone sedan. Both cars looked pretty much the same on the exterior; the Traveler's rear driver's side passenger door was welded shut at the factory so the spare tire could be mounted on it, but looked normal from outside; there was an additional cutline that went up and over the rear lift-up glass; an extra handle on the trunklid to pull down the tailgate section. The cutline over the rear window and the handle on the trunklid to pull down the tailgate are apparent in this photo.

Though considered somewhat 'blobby' by later periods' sense of aesthetics, Kaiser-Frazer was one of the first postwar designs to feature full-through fenders, or slab sides. No discernible front or rear fenders were pressed into the sheetmetal. The '49 Ford also featured a full envelope body like this, but GM and most other mfrs hedged their bets with faired-in front fenders and still-visible rear fender seams/bulges.

Kaisers were priced like Oldsmobiles but equipped like Chevys, which made them a bit harder to sell. They were built like tanks though, which appealed to my dad and his brother. They were also large cars with a wheelbase of about 123 inches. Full sized Fords and Chevys of the period were only 115 or so. K-Fs came with Continental L-head 6 engines of about 100 hp. The Frazer part of Kaiser-Fraser, sold cars with the same basic chassis, and very similar bodywork, in  upmarket trim, including one of the few postwar 4 door convertibles.

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