The unusual looking Malaise Era carriage you see here is a Kanzler Coupe, just three are known to have been built and one of them belonged to legendary performer Liberace. Up until very recently the whereabouts of the third car had been a mystery.
The two surviving cars were well-known in certain automotive circles but it was widely assumed that the third had been crashed or otherwise destroyed, never again to see the light of day., that is until it popped up for sale on eBay out of a junkyard in Sun Valley, California.
Fast Facts – The Kanzler Coupe
- The story behind the Kanzler Coupe is fascinating, it was designed by Ernie Kanzler Jr., a man who grew up in the automotive world as his father was Ernie Kanzler Sr. – a major executive at The Ford Motor Company who was also a friend of Edsel Ford – who he was related to by marriage.
- In 1978 ads for the Kanzler Coupe began appearing in the pages of motoring magazines. The car featured wild styling not dissimilar to other Malaise Era classics like the Excalibur, Zimmer, Clénet, and of course the rebooted Stutz Blackhawk.
- The Kanzler Coupe was essentially three cars in one, it was based on a Lincoln chassis, it was powered by a Ford 351 cubic inch V8, and it had a central body section sourced from the Opel GT.
- The asking price in 1980 dollars was $73,000+ USD – a breathtaking amount of money at the time, particularly for a fledgling automaker with no track record. Just three cars were made, two were sold to customers (including Liberace) and the third disappeared – until very recently.
The Malaise Era
The term Malaise Era was coined by veteran automotive journalist Murilee Martin as a reference to U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s “Malaise Speech” in which he talked about both the crisis of confidence in the United States and the 1979 Oil Crisis.
Martin’s term is used to describe the decade between 1973 and 1983, when American automotive design is widely considered to have taken a nosedive, coupled with vastly less powerful engines as a result of increasingly stringent emissions regulations.
The arrival of the 1973 Oil Crisis further compounded the problems, and the new crash bumper regulations released by the U.S. government landed in the same year. These regulations were focussed on crash safety and resulted in large unsightly bumpers being fitted to the front and rear of any car targeted at the US domestic market.
Another phenomenon grew in popularity during the Malaise Era – the trend of building or customizing then-modern cars to look more like their predecessors from the 1930s. Examples of this trend include cars from Zimmer, Clénet, Excalibur, and the Stutz Blackhawk of 1971, not to be confused with the original Blackhawk from the 1920s.
These cars may look gaudy to us now, but back in the 1970s they had a huge fanbase and they were well suited the zeitgeist of the age – with all of its sequins, bell bottoms, and glittering discotheques.
The Malaise Era is said to have ended in 1983 with the release of the upgraded Fox body Mustang with more power, power levels began to slowly climb as automakers got better at making smog-compliant engines, and automotive styling began to change significantly, many would say for the better.
The Kanzler Coupe
The Kanzler Coupe was certainly a product of its time, it featured sweeping curves, avant-garde styling, and an undeniable road presence. The body was made from a mix of steel and fiberglass panels, with fiberglass being used for those long fenders that flow front to back.
Little detail is available on the platform the car was built on, all we know is that it was a Lincoln chassis, though this isn’t elaborated on further. Power is provided by a Lincoln Ford 351 cubic inch V8, an engine that would have been good for 250 – 300+ bhp depending on configuration, and power is sent to the rear wheels via a 3-speed automatic transmission.
The car was fitted with a 21 gallon fuel tank and it had a wheelbase of 120.4 inches, with a height of 56 inches, a width of 77 inches, and an overall length of 207 inches – or 17 and a quarter feet. 15 inch chrome Zenith wire wheels are fitted at each corner, all with knock off hubs, and a spare was carried prominently on the rear.
The curb weight of the complete car is listed at 4,420 lbs or approximately 2,004 kilograms.
Interestingly the central passenger compartment of the car was sourced from the Opel GT, a European sports car with styling that’s long been compared with the C3 Corvette. The trim inside was opulent, with wood panelling, plush carpets, air conditioning, power steering, power windows, and leather upholstery.
The Kanzler Coupe was initially built under the parent company Quest Projects Incorporated based out of Costa Mesa, California and they began advertising in motoring magazines in 1978. It appears that the parent company changed at some point with the advertising materials switching to “Newport Coachworks Incorporated.”
The cost to buy a Kanzler Coupe was $73,000+ USD in 1980 dollars, the equivalent of $265,041 USD today – a hefty sum for a car from a new and unproven automaker.
Liberace And His Silver Kanzler Coupe
The company did attract some attention including from legendary performer Liberace, a pianist, singer, and actor who became known for his flamboyant style – for a time he was the highest paid entertainer in the world.
Liberace ordered a silver Kanzler Coupe and it’s known that he owned it for at least a while before it was sold on, it remains in private ownership today. One other car finished in red was also sold, though it’s not known to who, and lastly the car you see pictured in this article was made. It appears that the cars have changed colors over their life, one being repainted white and the other being changed to purple.
This car was apparently never sold or road registered for use, though it does appear that it was complete. It’s possible that the car got tangled up in the shut down proceedings of the company in the early 1980s.
Exactly what happened to it or where it was isn’t known, in fact it was widely believed that this vehicle, the third Kanzler Coupe had been forever lost to history. It suddenly appeared for sale on eBay out of a junkyard in Sun Valley, California with no clue as to what happened earlier in its life.
It’s clear from the images that the car is significantly worse for wear after years exposed to the weather, however it does appear to be almost entirely complete with the original body, engine, and interior all in place.
The car is now being offered for sale with a Buy It Now price of $10,399 USD in the hopes that a buyer will come along and rescue it, then restore it to all its Malaise Era glory.
If you’d like to read more about it or enquire about buying it you can visit the listing here.
Images courtesy of International Auto Wrecking.
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with well over a million monthly readers from around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.