Bring a Trailer auction preview: Recently exhibited at The Quail. Obsessive build details featured on one of the best looking Kellisons you'll find!
1960 Kellison J-4X Coupe
VIN – 1960J4EX10
Exterior Color – Cotswold Blue
Interior Color – Red with Blue Plaid inserts
Engine – Chevrolet 283 V8
Transmission – 5-Speed manual
Current Miles – 2,200 (TMU)
Current Owner – Purchased in 2014
Owner miles – 2,200 miles
It’s 1960. You’re young, you have more attitude than money, and you’re looking for a unique sports car. You want a monster V8 engine and a bone-crushing manual transmission – something that will make you write bad checks. Something so low to the ground, you’ll be staring at the waitresses’ kneecaps at the drive-in. No boulevard Corvette or delicate foreign job for you, you’re looking for the future. The car you want is the J-4X Kellison.
Well, you’re in luck, because that’s the car Jim Kellison built for you and a lot of other performance junkies who craved speed and daring. Cutting his teeth in the Air Force, Kellison earned expertise with fiberglass early on, becoming a pioneer in fabrication offering a wide range of coupe and roadster bodies as well as tubular chassis designs for his low-slung sports cars. Also offered as the Astra and in different iterations under the Allied Fiberglass brand name throughout the 1960s, Kellison cars were seen at drag strips, sports car tracks, and at custom shows. All the top dogs ran the V8s. The (alleged) ease of build, lightweight fiberglass construction, and impressive looks made Kellison J-4s seem ideal for a wide range of performance applications.
Though many molded body kits were manufactured and put into quick use, Kellison also offered largely complete builds incorporating their own specially made chassis. Most kit-based home builds proved rudimentary at best, cobbled together in carports over beer and TV dinners atop ill-fitting mass produced frames, their interiors fitted with shag carpet remnants and with mismatched woven vinyl lawn chairs used for seating. Occasionally, however, a qualified builder would complete a car to a high standard, get featured on the cover of the latest magazine, and entice yet another dreamer to build one themselves. Critically, Kellison did not set out to create a hot rod initially, but a European-type GT sports-racer: That much higher bar meant that well executed examples were extremely rare when new and remain even more so now. A well-built Kellison is a mythic beast, captured by jesters of dystopian conviction. Today a few remaining visionaries continue to seek the build Valhalla where V8 power, jet-age GT style, and American bravado converge. Only in the Kellison J-4X.
History and Build Details of This Car
This example was formerly under the ownership of founder Jim Kellison. As to the duration of his ownership, it’s possible that it was a remaining project from Kellison’s personal hoard or an orphan retrieved from a frozen dream state by a prior, less than motivated, owner. In any case by 1987 Kellison liberated his ownership for the sum of $1,250 including the “body+chassis+running gear” as defined on the bill of sale. As the bill of sale importantly indicates, this car is one of the desirable Kellison factory-built chassis and body combinations. Recalling that both kits and assembled vehicles were available through Kellison, this car was built using a Kellison specific square and round tube frame designed by Chuck Manning. The boxed frame included construction details to support the suspension, brakes, V8 engines, inner fender wells, and firewall. Most critically, it also allowed the body to sit properly over the chassis, unlike the awkward, tail-high orientation of garage builders’ much more common C1 or C2 Corvette-framed examples. Kellison assigned the “EX” series numeric sequence to this chassis indicating Experimental, also referenced in the bill of sale. The car wears the final evolution of Kellison’s two-headlight J-4 coupe design, which would go on to be sold by Kellison partner and later rival Allied as the Astra X300-GT through the rest of the 1960s.
California musician and sports-car enthusiast Skip Snyder rescued the car from a junkyard, reviving it to a drivable-hot rod level consistent with most period builds. From Snyder the car passed through Fantasy Junction in 2014 to longtime magazine editor and Lemons event organizer Jay Lamm, who set out to completely re-execute the example in the European GT vernacular originally envisioned by Kellison. First the car was completely disassembled. The body was repaired and in critical areas reinforced by Andy Schank, while Walnut Creek’s Schaible & Newman addressed multiple weaknesses in the layout and construction of the factory Kellison chassis, including adapting the bolt-in 1950s Chevrolet sedan front and rear suspension modules to fully reversible independent front suspension, Watts link rear end, four wheel disc brakes, and rack-and-pinion steering assemblies.
The period 283 Chevrolet V8 would remain, suitably refreshed and refit with a custom high-clearance wet sump featuring baffles and windage tray, hidden behind which now sits a modern clutch controlled by a full Tilton competition pedal set ahead of a fresh TKO 5-speed transmission. The interior was remade in a mix of waterproof oxblood marine vinyl (there are no rollup windows, remember); Lamm’s version of the famous Ferrari mousehair; and custom alloy competition seats recovered in black leather with plaid 1950s GM cloth inserts. Final assembly, tuning, and setup were performed by Canepa veteran John Ficarra of Ficarra Classics, whose work included revisions to the suspension geometry, fuel-cell structure, a one-off all-alloy high-capacity radiator, and more.
In a colorful stroke of genius, a very fitting Cotswold Blue coat of paint was applied with white numberless meatballs. A set of Hankook Kinergy 225/70R15 (rear) and 205/65R15 (front) radial tires were installed in 2020. Other historically critical details include a 1949-52 Studebaker windshield, freshly rebuilt all-electronic Smiths instrumentation from both Triumph TR2 an MGA Twin Cam models, and a set of wheels that appear to have been with the car since inception. In yet another courageous and bold moment of tenacity, in 2022 Lamm successfully completed the 30th New England 1000 vintage rally with the car. This Kellison has also been featured in the December 2022 issue of Collectible Automobile magazine, and in August of 2023 it was shown at The Quail—unquestionably a first for the marque.
Today this Kellison presents in excellent condition offering a unique American design and robust V8 power, resulting in a very dynamic and colorful outcome. The Cotswold paint is glossy and properly prepared with excellent coverage throughout the body and very nice workmanship evident in the often-unforgiving fiberglass body panels. Thoughtful detailing is quite nice in the door jambs and under the hood, areas where cars of this origin often result in “homebuilt” finishes of lesser quality. The hood and doors have surprisingly good panel gaps and proper fitting to the body, opening and closing with ease, here again, a feature regularly absent from hand-built fiberglass cars. The exterior brightwork is limited to a light garnish highlighting the side opening, Kellison branded wheel center caps, and a singular hood emblem, all of which are fittingly minimal and welcomed in this design. Body details include a slight cutback to the rocker edge allowing for side exhaust exit, a small hood scoop, and rear fender openings to invite the faint possibility of cooling to the rear brakes. In fact, the more time spent looking over the car, the more you begin to realize that Lamm and his restoration team have prepared a thoughtful and curiously well-resolved car. The side glass, unique to this car, and lower turn indicator lighting are two further examples of clever design resolutions without succumbing to aftermarket or billet malaise often seen in restomods or customs.
The interior conveys a clever series of design motifs with vintage racing as a general theme. The material choices and colors are risky but well resolved with dark red tufted vinyl stitched into the doors and console, red carpet, and bucket seats contoured in black leather and plaid fabric. A set of Safecraft competition seat belts are installed with rear support bar anchors and center hub quick-release clasps. The dashboard panel is in excellent condition covered in unshaved beard of Zeus fur, which feels strangely in harmony with the interior vibe. The main gauges and flanking smaller instruments have excellent color and beautiful chrome bezels. The odometer indicates just over 2,200 miles, all of which have likely been daringly amassed with Lamm at the wheel and 1000 of which were acquired amidst the dappled light, timed stages, and sudden rain squalls of The New England 1000. The rear storage area features just enough space for a few deli sandwiches, while the remainder of the interior real estate is appropriately consumed by much needed roll bar and side intrusion protection.
Under the hood, the V8 engine and engine compartment have been nicely refurbished in keeping with the remaining quality of the car. The engine delivers raw cast alloy appearances with vintage finned valve covers, Kellison emblems, alloy side panels, heat wrapped tube headers, tidy wiring, and a nice combination of modern fixtures with thoughtfully resolved details that, once again, have been completed to a cohesive level. The overall finish is tidy, nicely detailed, and tastefully refined, in keeping with the integrity of the original build, but far beyond what even Jim Kellison might have imagined 60 years ago. The underside is in very nice condition, remarkably so and here too reflective of thoughtful build details and modern considerations. The robust boxed main frame rails have a durable cross member main section and typical hard lines for brakes and fuel have been professionally prepared including a fuel cell, disc brakes, heat shielded exhausts, downdraft auxiliary electric fans, and front coil-over tubular A-arm suspension.
The driving experience is consistent with the visual impression you have upon seeing it. The look of it is inviting but in practice, the actual entry, adjustment, and eventual realization that you will be piloting this car is a bit intimidating. The engine kicks off with a sonorous bark. The cockpit is immediately engulfed in a competition between aluminum reverberations and fiberglass humming, all merely in service to the engine idle. Any hope of sonic relief is overtaken by the rapid increase in volume as revs climb, kidneys shriek, buttocks clench, and you find yourself grinning from ear to ear. All this before you’ve even caught second gear. Sure, it’s raucous, rumbling, and a handful to control, but the horsepower is put to good use, the brakes are suitably matched, and within a very short period, you realize what mad geniuses Kellison and Lamm have been. Together they built a completely foolish car which meets every childhood vision of what a powerful sports car should be. And in this world of creepy voiceless SUVs capable of awakening in the night fortified with software clever enough to empty your 401k without you knowing, it’s nice to have a car that shuts off mechanically but keeps you 100% emotionally charged just sitting in your garage.
Items Included with the Car
This Kellison is accompanied by a set of knock off center caps, spare emblems and Kellison decorative pieces, spare plaid material, a Hurst shifter handle, misc. files with receipts for services, a notebook with photos and build reference materials, a spare rear view mirror, a commemorative plate from participation in the New England 1000, and a catalog and statuette commemorating the car’s acceptance and display at The Quail in 2023.
The above vehicle information is complete and accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time it is posted to this website. Corrections or additional information is always appreciated. All advertised prices exclude government fees and taxes, any finance charges, any dealer document preparation charge, and any emission testing charge. Vehicles are subject to prior sale. All advertised to be true but not guaranteed. We assume no liability for errors or omissions.
Fantasy Junction • 510-653-7555 • 1145 Park Ave, Emeryville, CA 94608