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Kaiser, Jaguar are this year's Iola poster cars

Two vintage beauties highlighting the theme "Independents and Imports" grace this year's Iola Old Car Show poster.

In a country setting are a 1953 Kaiser Dragon four-door sedan and 1954 Jaguar XK120M Roadster.

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Lowell and Lance Johnson own this 1953 Kaiser Dragon.

The Dragon
The Kaiser is owned by Lowell Johnson of Sheboygan, Wis., and his son Lance of Combined Locks, Wis., while the Jaguar belongs to Ron and Carol Green of Lecanto, Fla. Both the cars and the owners have interesting stories.

Lowell and Lance Johnson are officers of the Kaiser Frazer Owners Club International, which is holding its Midwest Division Meeting at the Iola Old Car Show. Between them, they own several Kaiser-Frazer products and plan to have four of them at the show.

Garnering poster attention is their 1953 Kaiser Dragon, a special model only offered in 1953. Kaiser passenger cars were sold in the United States from 1947 through 1955. After that, the tooling was shipped to Argentina, where the cars continued to be produced.

Kaiser was running into sales resistance by 1953 and was in the third year of its body design. To dress things up, the Dragon was announced as a model based on the four-door sedan. It was available the whole model year with 1,277 believed to be built.

Features of the Dragon were a “Bambu”-textured vinyl roof, trunk lining and interior embellishments, including the dashboard. Gold trim, said to be 14 karat, graced the exterior, including the hood ornament, rear deck insignia, fender script and keyhole covers.

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Restricted color combinations were offered during three production runs during the year, but a strange twist took place when a piece of sales literature was given out at dealers which featured a Stardust Ivory Dragon with green Bambu vinyl trim. That combo, which was quite attractive, was not available as a production offering.

“It is a rare trim car of which less than 10 were built,” Lowell Johnson said. “It was primarily for auto shows in 1953,” he added. “It also as an all-vinyl green interior, another rarity in Dragons, as most had combination cloth and bamboo coverings.”

The Johnsons’ Dragon was found in September 2006 at Bollman Motors of Rock Falls, Ill. The owner was a former Kaiser dealer and had purchased the car three years earlier at Hershey, Pa.
“The car was solid, but needed lots of things,” Lowell Johnson said.

It was stripped and painted the right color, the upholstery needed repair, the windshield was cracked and the exterior trim needed to be redone. It was finished on June 1, 2007, in time for the National K-F convention in Chicago. It has won several awards since.

Lowell Johnson is secretary and Lance is treasurer of the National KF club.

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The ‘Jag’
Just as the Johnsons are devoted to their marques, Ron and Carol Green love their Jaguars (among other collector cars they own). Those who attended last year’s Iola show may have noticed the red XK120M in the feature tent as part of the “Roadsters, Ragtops and Rumbleseats” theme. The couple also regularly display their 1932 Hupmobile F222 four-door sedan in the Blue Ribbon section at Iola.

This 1954 Jaguar XK120M Roadster is owned by Ron and
Carol Green.

So how does this Florida couple make the connection to Iola?

“We used to live in Reedsburg, Wis.,” said Ron Green. “I retired and moved to Florida, but kept the Reedsburg residence as a second home for awhile,” he added.

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That made him a regular at Iola, and the distance to Florida and his new second home in Waynesville, N.C., hasn’t been a factor. When his Jaguar was selected for the 2009 poster photo at the show last July, he agreed to haul it back for the photo shoot last September.

A longtime fan of the XK series Jaguar of the 1950s, Green used to go to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., to watch them race.

“I liked their classic design,” he said.

Production of the XK120 started in October 1948 and continued through 1954. MC special equipment was available from 1952 through 1954. Replacing the XK120 was the XK140, which ran 1955-’57. That, in turn, was superseded by the XK150, which ran from mid-1957 through early 1961 when the XKE took over.

Green’s example was the Roadster which featured side curtain windows and a removable top. Wire wheels were part of the M package. He bought it in June 2000 from Doug Neely of Brookings, Ore. It was meticulously restored in 1992 by Neely, who owned it 31 years. Many new parts went into the restoration.

“It is a bit over restored,” Green said, and in concours judging it was penalized for having a powder coated frame,” he noted. “It only had 700 miles on it since its restoration.”

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While the Greens enter it in shows, they also drive it locally in North Carolina and Florida on occasion.

“I bought it restored, because I wanted reliability, which I have received,” Green said. He also noted that the cost of restoration today would be prohibitive. It has doubled in value since I bought it, and I couldn’t restore it for its value today.”

Owners of both the Kaiser and the Jaguar noted that they enjoy meeting show goers and are glad to answer any questions they may have. The poster cars and the owners will be on display in a corner of the feature tent during much of the 2009 show. They welcome your interest.

This year’s Iola Old Car Show and Swap Meet poster photo was taken by Clay Miller, who designed the poster. The scene was Ferg’s Bavarian Village in Manawa, Wis., not far from the show grounds.

CLICK HERE to view the 2009 Iola Old Car Show & Swap Meet Directory.

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