The Dragon of 1953 was Kaiser’s most luxurious model in the early 1950s. In 1951, the Dragon name had been used for several short-run series of specially equipped Kaiser Deluxe sedans and coupes. Some of the early Dragons included a painted roof, while others received a padded roof treatment. All included the special upholstery from which the model derived its name.
After skipping a year in 1952, the 1953 Kaiser lineup included the Dragon sedan as a separate product line from the entry-level Deluxe and mid-line Manhattan products. The new Dragon was offered only as a conventional four-door sedan, although Kaiser marketed the vehicle as a “hardtop” due to the roof treatment. The roof was given a padded covering, but a strip of painted body color was left around the perimeter of the windows, including the sedan’s B-pillar. A spear of chrome trim accented the base of the side windows.
The Dragon was a loaded luxury car, including almost every option that Kaiser had on the books as standard equipment. Every Dragon received the special “Dragon Hide” heavy duty vinyl seat upholstery, plus a Hydra-Matic automatic transmission, air conditioning, heater, defroster, tinted glass, radio, and whitewall tires. The padded roof was made from “Bambu” vinyl, which also graced the interior panels of the car. Each Dragon also received gold-plated hood, fender, and trunk badges, plus a personalized engraved gold-plated plaque with the owner’s name on the glove box door. Some later series 1953 Dragons were equipped with wire wheels as well.
The engine for the Dragon was the same 226.2 cubic inch inline flathead six-cylinder with the two-barrel carburetor used with the entire Kaiser line. This engine was rated at 118 hp and achieved 21 mpg in testing by the Mobil Oil Company.
The 1953 Kaiser Dragon carried a rather expensive purchase price of $3,924. Kaiser released three separate series of Dragon sedans in 1953, each with its own set of available exterior and interior colors. The first series included black on black, maroon, and jade green. The second series dropped the black and added a lighter green, and the final series included an ivory color. With only 1,277 Dragons made in the 1953 model year, any color combination will be rare.
With so few cars built and so many unique features, the 1953 Kaiser Dragon is eminently collectible, and its name is now uniquely appropriate for its rarity. Savvy collectors will prefer a car that is complete – especially with respect to those gold plated emblems. As Kaiser was a relatively low-volume automaker, parts availability on a Dragon is likely to be a challenge.