Henry J. Kaiser, a wealthy industrialist and shipbuilder, partnered with auto industry veteran and Graham-Paige executive Joseph Frazer to create and build new automobiles for the post-World War II American market. The first cars bearing their names appeared as 1947 models, and over 70,000 vehicles were sold by 1947. This success was partly due to the modern design, while most other manufacturers were still selling the prewar image. The euphoria would be short-lived, as sales soon fell after the more established brands introduced their new models.
On October 31st, 1952, Kaiser introduced the Dragon, a four-door sedan with seating for six and a base price of just under $4,000. Its design had been created with input from independent designer Howard ‘Dutch’ Darrin and future Studebaker chief stylist Duncan McRae. The exterior colors and interior trim were selected by Carleton B. Spencer and the Dragon would be the first production car to use gold-plated ornamentation.
Although this was a new model, Kaiser had used the name ‘Dragon’ beginning in 1951 as a trim package for their cars. It was not used in 1952. The 1953 Kaiser Dragon was often referred to as the ‘Golden Dragon’ due to all 1953 Dragons having 14-carat gold-plated trim elements that include hood and fender nameplates, hood ornament, plus select interior components that included a nameplate on the glovebox door that was personalized with the owner’s name. Unique features implemented on the Dragon model included a ‘Bambu’ vinyl-covered top (resembling bamboo), special exterior trim, and a two-tone vinyl-and-cloth custom interior. There was extra sound insulation which added to the quiet ride of this luxury car. It came with virtually every available factory option as standard. The list included the E-Z-Eye tinted glass, Hydra-Matic transmission, heater, defroster, air conditioning, shaded backlight, Deluxe wheel covers, white sidewall tires, radio with antenna and rear speaker, windshield washer, and door lock shields.
Kaiser sold just 1,277 examples of the Dragon in 1953. It was stylish and luxurious, but its price was too high, considering that a Cadillac Series 62 sedan was selling for less, at $3,666.