Kaiser was one of the many small, upstart car companies to emerge immediately after World War II. And like many, it was short lived. The company only made cars from 1947 to 1955 and struggled most of that time at finding a foothold in the car market with a roster of economical, light-weight and innovative cars.
One of its last-ditch efforts to tap into the market came in 1953, when Kaiser slimmed down the model and updated its styling with the addition of chrome and a tailfin. Henry J. Kaiser and Joe Frazer had formed the Kaiser-Frazer Corp. in 1945 with the first cars being produced two years later as Frazers. They didn’t take on the Kaiser name until the partnership split in 1951.
The cars offered a six-cylinder engine, while its competitors all had eight-cylinder options. In 1953, a high-end version of the Kaiser rolled out and was named the Kaiser Dragon. The exterior was given a reptilian theme trim package complete with “dragon-skin” vinyl room. Designer Carleton Spencer retooled the interior by continuing this theme in its upholstery. It featured a 14-carat gold-plated hood ornament, exterior emblem, fender script and glovebox nameplate. While it is seen as landmark car, the end of the road was near.
That same year, Kaiser merged with Willys-Overland, which was criticized by the public over its questionable military contracts. Bad press led to low car sales and the company dissolved in 1955. The Kaiser factories were closed and the production equipment was sent to Argentina in 1958, where the car production continued until 1962.