The First CUV: 1949 Kaiser-Frazer Vagabond

The 1946-1951 Frazer was the flagship line of the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation and was technically the first American car to be built with “post-war” styling (although some people claim it was the Crosley CC). It was also the first car with “hatchback” styling and compact utility vehicle (CUV) functionality. Today’s example is covered in a magnificent shade of faded bronze it is offered for a simple price. Find this 1949 Kaiser-Frazer Vagabond offered for $7,900 in Middletown, CT via craigslist. Tip from ME.

From the seller:

1949 Kaiser-Frazer Vagabond
condition: good
cylinders: 6 cylinders
drive: rwd
fuel: gas
odometer: 47000
paint color: brown
size: full-size
title status: clean
transmission: manual
type: other
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1949 Kaiser-Frazer Vagabond

Is this the first real SUV?

4 doors (well, actually 3), big straight 6 under the hood and fold down seats and fold out “hatch back” long enough to nearly drop a 4×8 piece of plywood into.

I’d have to say that Kaiser-Frazer was ahead of it’s time, by a good 50 years.

The Traveler and Vagabonds were very similar, the Vagabond being the “fancier” of the two. The body stye was popular as over 24,000 were produced and sold, however, ONLY 946 Vagabonds were produced and sold, making this a rather rare automobile.

This one started life being sold out to the Pacific Northwest where she stayed until just recently.

The history we do know about her is that she was last registered and driven in Bellingham, WA in 1962. She was then parked in a garage and there she stayed until about 2-3 years ago when the Foster-Father of Orphaned Souls found her and brought her back east to CT.

The engine was stuck, she was covered in 60 years of dust, the gas tank was rusty and she had no brakes.

When she arrived here in CT, she was treated to a bath and then the engine was treated to a soaking in Marvel Mystery oil to get the pistons to free up. Once she turned, she was massaged back to life and started and ran. Oil change took place and the gas tank was replaced, as were some fuel lines and fuel pump. The brakes were taken care of as well (lines, shoes, wheel cylinders). While under the car, the tail pipe and muffler were replaced as they were a bit rusty too.

However, other than those areas, there wasn’t much other rust on her. There is some starting to show on the rockers and a little bit in the “trunk”.

We also know that at some point in her life she was painted in what is probably Bermuda Tan, a change over from the Flax she wore originally. The paint is in OK condition, showing some wear here and there, a little fade, but with a little buff and wax, maybe ceramic on top of that, she’ll present pretty well.

We already know she runs and she does so very well. She fires right up and settles into a solid idle punctuated by the rumble of the simple single chamber muffler and new tail pipe.

The car drives very well and shifts through the standard “3 on the tree” transmission. Up on the highway, the overdrive is pulled to reduce RPMs and you’re cruising easily at 60-70 MPH.

To get out and enjoy her, there is nothing that really needs to be done. The tires are in good shape but are of an unknown age. They are BFGoodrich Silvertown’s in 7.10×15, bias 4 ply.

The interior is probably the best feature as it is still in very good condition, as spartan as it is, considering it’s 3/4 of a century old. The headliner and dash all show rather well and the upholstery on the seats is in very solid condition as well. (the front seat may have been reupholstered at some point). One very cool design feature is the large button door release, hold the handle, press with your thumb and the door pops open. The wood slats are all in good, solid condition, no rot… If I were buying her, I’d sand them a bit and clear coat them with a flat urethane to keep the patina look, but to protect them. Of course, this car is a rather solid foundation to start with if looking to restore to like new condition.

If I had room and didn’t have a kitchen redo in the future for my wife, I’d be taking her home, to use for what she was designed to do, just as she is.

With only 47,000 miles on her, she does have many years of life left in her, especially if driven as a classic only several thousand miles a year.

Yes, the “cop spot light” works too!

Overall, this rare classic cross-over vehicle is ready to hop in an enjoy and if you’re looking for something that you can tinker with and make better and better along the way, she’s the perfect ride. Looking to restore a unique classic, she’s an awesome start.

The entry point on her is $7900

Another inexpensive avenue into the collector car world.

Any questions, for 400+ more photos and video, to schedule a time to see her in person or to make an offer,

please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thank you!

See a better way to drive something strange?