One-Off American Classic: 1958 Green Dragon Special

Okay, I’m going to warn you folks in advance — I LOVE this car. This is a true ‘Merican classic, created as one man’s dream back when the world was a simpler place. This is a one-off, craftsman built car that is being sold here on craigslist for what I personally think is a ridiculously low price of $8,500. It’s located in Greenville, South Carolina, and I already scanned my pockets for any available funding and came up bare; that’s why I’m posting it instead of picking it up. So one of you readers had better do it!

As the story goes, a young mechanical engineer employed at Allis-Chalmers decided to turn a 1948 Studebaker into a sports car. He started when the Studebaker was 10 years old in 1958 and spent eight years on the transformation. While the hand-laid fiberglass body is similar to both a T-Series MG and a Jaguar SS 100, if you look closely it’s not exactly like either. Rather, the Green Dragon (featuring a hand-made cloisonne emblem stating such) is it’s own classic sports car shape. 

Nor was the work just cosmetic–as you can see in this picture, not only was the frame shortened from 112″ to 100″, it was boxed for rigidity and strength as well. You can see the care that went into the fabrication. After it’s completion, or at least as far as a car like this is ever completed, it was stored for more than 40 years. Now it’s on the road again, and a single electrical switch to operate the overdrive is the only item needing to be fixed on the car.

While I can’t say either bumper is a thing of beauty, they are certainly functional. By the way, those are 1953 Studebaker wheel covers. You can see the backs of the hand laid fiberglass seats in this shot as well.

Here’s the functional interior. Well laid out, if a bit sparce. The windshield folds down for aerodynamic purposes if desired.

I can’t get over how “right” the proportions are of this car. And just look at the detail of those louvers in the fiberglass hood. If I’m not careful I’ll try to sell something to pick this one up. Anyone want a 1956 Standard Vanguard Sportsman? Today?

The original Studebaker engine powers this 1650 pound special (someone was thinking the way Colin Chapman did–simplify and add lightness!) and I’m sure performance is quite adequate. New tires and rebuilt brakes finish this package. Darn it, I’m almost convincing myself to buy it!

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Comments

  1. GT6Driver Member

    Wanting the Sportsman and being able to pay you for it are two entirely different things. I would even be willing to go pick this one up for you if you gave me a test drive.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      In case you are wondering, the previous comment was left by my son-in-law, who thinks I shouldn’t list the Sportsman for sale. Watch me, Alex!

  2. Dick Johnson

    Neat.

  3. Beatnik Bedouin

    Interesting piece of American automotive history and definitely worth preserving.

    A Vanguard Sportsman? Now that’s a rare beastie..! Cool…

  4. Metoo

    $8500.00 is giving it away

  5. Fred w.

    Only one thing I don’t like, and that’s the headlight bracket setup. What a fine piece of engineering the car is.

    • Metoo

      Buy it and change anything you wish. That’s the nice thing about a obscure oneoff. Who’s gonna know?

  6. Alan (Michigan) Member

    Cool.
    When I first saw the listing, I thought: “Man, that looks heavy.” Was thinking steel fenders and body. Fiberglass? 1650#? Great period sports car. This should be on eBay. Some Stude collector will want this badly. Love the SCCA Wire Wheel logo on the dash. I wonder if it was used in a road rally, or some other competition?

  7. 53MGTD

    This definitely started life as a T series MG. Amazing what people will do to a great car.

    • Rick McKee

      Read the article it started as a 48 Studebaker Champion. I own 2 MGA’s and would love to have this. So tempted…

    • Whippeteer

      Inspired by one maybe, but hand laid up fiberglass and custom made. Also larger if you compare the shot with the driver to someone driving a MG-T.

  8. ccrvtt

    Yes it is amazing how an engineer replaced the rot-prone wooden underpinnings, boxed the frame for rigidity, followed in the sainted Mr. Chapman’s footsteps and added lightness.

    I love MGs of any era. But I’d take this in a heartbeat over any MG.

    Great find. Underpriced. Historic value.

  9. grant

    The craftsmanship is amazing. Just not sure why anyone would turn a Studebaker into an MG.

    • Beatnik Bedouin

      I suggest, Grant, that you pick up some magazines and books on sports cars from the time this Studie roadster was built. There were a lot of backyard builders building their own sports cars, as they (1) didn’t have the money to go out and buy one off the showroom floor and/or (2) wanted to design and build their own car.

      I have a book from 1958, called (surprise, surprise) ‘Sports Car Specials’ by Trend Publications, a.k.a. Petersen Publishing that includes a lot of weird and wonderful machinery.

      I’m sure that there’s plenty of stuff available online if you do a search…

      • grant

        Perhaps I didn’t word that right. I love the result. It’s the starting point I don’t understand

      • Whippeteer

        Exactly. Take a look at nearly any Popular Mechanics or similar magazine from the 50s and early 60s and you’ll find many examples, and even instructions on building your own sports car with junkyard parts.

    • Whippeteer

      Because they could!

  10. John D

    I wonder if this Stude six responds to the same balancing/blueprinting, milled head, lightened flywheel that the Mopar flat head six wakes up with?

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      I don’t know, but I’d sure like to try!

  11. Coventrycat

    Very cool

  12. sluggo

    A piece of Americana,,, Read period magazines and this totally makes sense. For a while I collected old magazines like Popular Mechanics, Scientifica American and other stuff from the 40s-60s.
    Used to love the articles on DIY Speedboat, Soup up your car, Chop your top.
    Seems like only yesterday cruising thru a housing development on Saturday morning seeing home made paint booths in garages and driveways and that smell of Lacquer, Fiberglass and single stage enamels.

  13. ClassicCarFan

    Interesting car, and definitely something that should be appreciated and preserved.

    I agree, it’s a product of a different era where regular guys improvised specials in their back-yard. Many were really amateur efforts, but some were pure genius and the genesis of brands that went on to be major names like Lotus, or iconic individual models like the Cobra or the Sunbeam Tiger (OK, those were backed by more professional outfits, but they still started off with the same spirit of improvised “specials” ).

    at the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man, you do wonder if those home-spun practical, improvisational skills are just being lost entirely. Kids don’t really seems so interested these days ( I can say that as the father of two teen-age boys – if it doesn’t have a touch screen and controlled with two thumbs they don’t show much enthusiasm). Also, modern-day cars with so much electronics and computer controls don’t really lend themselves to back-yard workshop fixes?

    oh – one thing I noticed about the “Green Dragon” special…being of Welsh heritage myself, I wondered if the “Green Dragon” theme was intentional? Did the builder have some Welsh background….the radiator emblem, Green dragon on a horizontal split white/red (I think, not too clear in photos) background is pretty much the Welsh national flag.

  14. Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

    I keep hoping my want of this car will go away. It isn’t. Anyone want to buy the Sportsman?

  15. Whippeteer

    If I win the lottery, I’m driving it home!

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Can I have a ride if you do?

  16. Wolfgang Gullich

    Colin Chapman, revered automotive god, or despicable criminal? Since he bilked British tax payers out of millions of dollars during the DeLorean fiasco… Died before he could be prosecuted.

  17. Jose Delgadillo

    After WWII many racers built homebuilt “specials” to compete in Sports car races. There were some specific requirements that made them somewhat different from tradition hot rods. There was a requirement for adequate fenders and an onboard spare tire. Two of the most famous were AK Miler’s Caballo de Fiero which was raced in the PanAmerican road race and Max Balchowsky’s “Old Yeller.”

  18. Jose Delgadillo

    terrible pic, sorry Old Yeller

  19. Troyce

    Fetched it home on my trailer yesterday. 7500USD. Sweet running thing, but does need some sorting.

    • Alan (Michigan) Member

      Well, that sounds like an absolutely awesome deal.

      I hope you will post some updates on the car, and also that you have a ton of fun with it!

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Congratulations!!!!! Please keep us informed! And can I have a ride someday?

    • Whippeteer

      Post an update article when you’ve got it sorted. I’d love to hear more about it, especially about driving it.

    • A.L. Tripp

      Gotta wonder why the GREEN DRAGON keeps selling every few months…. without being improved!
      Just wondering what the issue could be. Must be pretty major. I look forward figuring it out!

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