By Rod Ward
This is a story packed with strong characters.
First there is Henry J Kaiser, the dynamic and forthright industrialist responsible for the Hoover Dam, the Liberty ships, the Hughes Hercules flying boat and much more; he set up over 100 companies in his lifetime. Kaiser next wanted to diversify into making automobiles for the postwar market. His chosen partner for this venture was a gracious Southern gentleman and born salesman, Joe Frazer, who had spent his life in the industry reviving moribund car firms. Frazer had ended up at Graham-Paige, which he retitled under his own name, then combined it with Kaiser in the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation. Earlier in his career, one of Frazer’s berths had been at Willys-Overland during the wartime Jeep years. After Frazer left the partnership with Kaiser, the great industrialist took over Willys-Overland, which had been created by another super salesman and auto industry hero, John North Willys. Their story includes walk-on parts for other characters, including Walter Chrysler, Howard Hughes, Joe Graham, Brooks Stevens, Howard Darrin, Charles Sorensen and many more. These personalities populate an account of 20th century industrial and automotive history with some diversions into unexpected byways.