“I’d rather be lucky than good…”
That’s what I’ve always said, and fortune has favored my meeting some folks over time who have become great friends too. That’s exactly describes how I feel about collaborating with Bob Peterson. I first introduced you to Bob in an article about his Kellison J2. Click here to read about Bob’s Kellison restoration in progress.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, Bob has agreed to help us extend our knowledge and appreciation of Kellison sports cars. In today’s story, Bob is going to give us a bit of background on Jim Kellison and introduce his 1960 catalog. With that, let me turn it over to good friend and Forgotten Fiberglass Kellison Correspondent….Bob Peterson.
Bob Peterson: Forgotten Fiberglass “Kellison Correspondent”
For those Forgotten Fiberglass fans who don’t know me; I’m Bob Peterson of Cedar Rapids, Iowa who’s been a fiberglass fan since the mid 1950’s. I was a young teenager interested in cars and in particular all things fiberglass. I’ve continued my interest in fiberglass-bodied cars to this day.
In May 2011 I submitted a story about my Kellison J-2. It was published here and I volunteered to be the Forgotten Fiberglass correspondent for all things Kellison. I’m the owner of a Kellison J-2 Coupe (1962), which is in the process of restoration. In the near future there will be an update on my restoration project.
Kellison Engineering and Manufacturing Company
This is a brief overview of the man, Jim Kellison, his fiberglass creations, his company-Kellison Manufacturing, and his 1960 catalog. I’ll be submitting other expanded articles on Kellison in the future. The information presented here comes from www.kellisoncars.com, published articles, Hagen Hedfield (Kellison Registry), and other sources.
Jim Kellison The Man: (November 25, 1932 to September 30, 2004)
Jim Kellison, California, was a brilliant engineer, fiberglass body designer, and entrepreneur. He served in the military as a Korean War fighter pilot. Aircraft engineering studies at UCLA show in his ‘J’ series of body designs. He was man of many talents, interests, and a friend of many. He was one of the most successful manufactures of fiberglass bodies in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
I wish that I could have had the opportunity to listen to some of the stories that only Jim Kellison could tell. Jim, we’ll keep the light on.
Kellison’ Fiberglass Sports Cars
Kellison manufactured dozens of different fiberglass car bodies over the years. The Kellison company may have manufactured the greatest number of fiberglass bodies than any other company. The best estimate to date lists 1,000 Kellisons and about 1,000 other bodies by Kellison. He closed the business in 1969.
Kellison’s first fiberglass body was offered to the public in 1957. Jim Kellison was far ahead of other fiberglass body manufactures in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s with his designs. Are they pure Kellison originals? Most likely they are not. Every auto designer is influence by the vehicles and designers of their time and years past.
Jim had to be a sports car fanatic in order for him to even think of designing and manufacturing his own sports car bodies. I’m very sure he was aware of the Zagato design firm in Italy who specialized in designing cars for Ferrari, Fiat, Abarth, and others. He had to have seen the 1957 Ferrari 250 Zagato and the 1958 Fiat-Abarth 750 Zagato.
Because his J-1 and J-2 have Zagato styled double-bubble roof lines. The double bubble refers to the two bulges in the roof of an auto to give the driver and passenger more headroom. Zagato’s design trademark is the double-bubble roof. Many modern exotic cars use the Zagato roof style today, including the new Corvettes, Aston-Martin, and others.
The double-bubble style of roof by Zagato or others, continues to this day at 54 years and counting. I like Kellison’s double bubbles better. Pininfarina, another major Italian auto design company that does a lot of design work for Ferrari, and others has used a bit of Kellison design in their cars. See the below listing, 1981 Fiat.
The best complement a body designer can have is how his original work influences others in later years. You better believe Jim Kellison’s ‘J’ series of bodies has influenced other designers. Consult the 1960 Kellison catalog that I’m using in this article and compare Jim’s designs to the following cars:
- 1962-1980 MGB (front end and headlights)
- 1970 Datsun 240Z, 260Z, and 280Z
These are excellent copies of Kellison’s ‘J’ series designs. I don’t believe that Datsun ever acknowledged the Kellison design source. This is not the first time Datsun directly copied another auto manufactures design. In the early 1930’s they used the body design of the British Austin 7. Austin received no compensation.
- 1974 TVR 2500M (British), (front end and headlights)
- 1981 Fiat Spider Pininfarina (front end and headlights)
- Lamborghini front ends, I’ll bet they knew about Jim Kellison’s designs
- Many others (look and see what you can discover)
Maybe this can best be told by how a design stands up to the test of time. When major designers or manufactures such as MG, Datsun, Fiat, Pininfarina, and others are directly influenced by your work, you did it correct. Simply said, Jim Kellison did it right in the 1950’s and 1960’s and Jim was not schooled as an auto designer.
Kellison, His Catalog
The 1960 Kellison catalog (8-1/2” x 11”) is 24 pages long, and stands out as being professionally created – one of the top catalogs the industry had at the time. The fiberglass bodies presented in the 1960 catalog lists the following cars:
- J-1 Coupe
- J-1 Roadster
- J-2 Coupe
- J-2 Roadster
- J-3 Roadster
- J-4 Coupe
- J-4 Roadster
- J-5 Coupe
- Formula Junior
Let’s have a look – from start to finish.
And… as with every image here at Forgotten Fiberglass, remember to use your mouse and click on the image to make it appear larger on your screen.
Kellison information sites:
Here are additional resources for Kellison sports cars:
3402 Valley Creek Circle
Middleton, WI 53562
Kellison Information And Research
If you have additional Kellison photos, info, etc. please forward copies to me for my Kellison files. I will be writing more Kellison articles here at Forgotten Fiberglass in the future. I prefer hard copy material.
3232 Vine Avenue SE
Cedar Rapids. IA 52403-3153
Great stuff Bob! Kellison produced a wonderful variety of cars at a very high level of build. Very impressive!
Thanks again to our Kellison Correspondent, Bob Peterson, for his work in presenting the information today.
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
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