Seen on Campus: Two Cars That Party Like It's 1951

Rex Crews, left, and Nathan Swanson with their 1951 Frazer Manhattan convertibles in front of Duke University Chapel. Both are wearing period-correct 1950s garb. Jeremy M. Lange for the Wall Street Journal
Rex Crews, left, and Nathan Swanson with their 1951 Frazer Manhattan convertibles in front of Duke University Chapel. Both are wearing period-correct 1950s garb. Photo by Jeremy M. Lange for the Wall Street Journal

An unexpected and impressive sight for people walking on West Campus last week: Two “ultra-rare” 1951 Frazer Manhattan convertibles parked outside Duke Chapel.

The two beauties belonged to Nathan Swanson, a staff assistant at Duke’s Population Research Institute, and Rex Crews, a lecturing fellow in Duke’s classical studies department. The cars and their owners came together for a photo shoot and interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Most people haven’t heard of the Kaiser-Frazer company – one of a number of small automobiles to unsuccessfully challenge the Big Three in the post-war period-- but to car enthusiasts, the model is a special find. Known as a luxury model, only 131 Frazer Manhattans convertibles were built in 1951. In that year, co-owner Joe Frazer left the company, and the model was discontinued.

“Our 1951 Frazers were among the last built,” Swanson told the Wall Street Journal.”If I had to guess, I would say that there are only a dozen 1951 Manhattan convertibles mobile today. Part of the joy of owning this car is keeping the history alive.”

Click here to read the Wall Street Journal story.  A subscription is needed, but people with a Duke NetID can create a free account for full access.

The two Frazer Manhattans and their owners in front of the chapel. Photo by Bill Snead