The Kool Kellison J-4: Griffith Borgeson on Hot Rods (Fawcett 1959)

What A Menacing Look For The Front Of A Sports Car. Damn This Thing Looks Fast!

Hi Gang…

How many of you have seen a Kellison before?

It’s one of the better known fiberglass sports cars of the late 1950’s and 1960’s, and I’m still searching for the first article that appeared on one of these cars.  Today’s story appeared in 1959, but I’m sure there are earlier articles too.  Time will tell.  In any case, the author Griffith Borgeson was “mighty excited” about this car and his new found buddy – Jim Kellison.

If you aren’t familiar with Kellison, this is a great first article on the man and his car.  And be sure to checkout the pictures of Jim next to his J-4.  He was one happy young man showing off his newly minted Corvette-powered sports car.

And now…here’s the Kellison article for your review.

The Kool Kellison

“For looks that are sleek, brutal, sexy, and suave, the Kellison J-4 Grand Turismo coupe is second to none.  It’s a magnificent beast and it’s claimed to have the strongest, the best stress-engineered shell in the whole plastic car body field.  And it’s one of the quickest for the do-it-yourselfer to complete.  The base body price is $365 and the complete body – including door liners, hinge boxes, inner fender panels, firewall, cockpit liner, instrument panel, and hood – sells for $605.

The Interior of the Kellison J-4 Coupe Looks As Nicely Designed As Any Production Sports Car of the Era. Dashboard is Custom Design by Kellison.

Designer-builder James Kellison developed the ideas behind this terrific body while working as a missile engineer.  To get into the production plastic body business, he needed a source of income, so he opened a conventional body and fender shop to pay expenses and haul the freight.  Behind the scenes he worked on his real ambition – to develop a line of plastic-body kits of which the J-4 is just one example.

Kellison also markets a smaller coupe and two sizes of aerodynamic roadster.  He’s one of the swingingest guys we’ve ever met: watch him for brilliant new ideas.  All Kellison bodies are built of two ounce fiberglass matte sandwiched between ten ounce cloth.  A 250 lb man can walk on them and do not harm; he can sit on the coupe’s top and it won’t deflect.  The coupe, complete with all inner panels, hinge boxes and doors weighs just 160 lbs.

The body is not the cheapest in its field.  Superior strength is one reason; finish is another.  The window openings have built-in flanges so that the glass can be installed with no additional work on the part of the man who finishes the body.  The door parts are built so that a complete door can be assembled in about 90 minutes.  Headlight recesses are designed so that any seven-inch, sealed-beam assembly drops right into place.  To install and aim a headlight on the J-4 takes about 20 minutes.

Large and small Kellison coupes (either will accept big Chrysler engines) are designed to use windshields from ’50 through ’52 Studes.  The back glass is ’49 Buick, Cad, or Olds, body number 5007.  The doors are built to accept ’49 to ’52 Dodge, Plymouth, or De Soto upper door hinges.  These components can be bought anywhere, inexpensively.

Here The Caption of the Photo Read, “J-3 Roadster Has 98 Inch Wheelbase and Sells for $520.”

A person of average manual and mechanical ability can have a Kellison car on the road in about 130 man-hours.  This includes mounting body on chassis, assembling and installing doors, installing glass, instruments, and lights.  The bodies normally come in clear plastic finish but can be ordered in pigmented red, blue, white, or black.  Says Kellison, “Pigmented plastic is fine for boats or bath tubs.  For cars we recommend a quality paint job for color.”

Kellison’s small coupes are built for wheelbases from 84 to 90 inches, while the J-4 ranges from 98 to 102 inches.  The J-4 will accept 800 x 16 rubber at the rear and 760 x 16 at the font – if you’re for big rubber – and still will allow at least 4 and ½ inches of upward wheel travel.  Any wheelbase within the above ranges can be accommodated by trimming the wheel cutouts to fit.

One thing Kellison coupes do not come with is bucket seats.  Due to compactness of passenger space, room for seating is critical and limited; seats are to be tailored  to their users. This is completely logical for a completely individualistic vehicle.  You wear a Kellison coupe as you do a suit of personally tailored clothes.  Individuality, anyone?  Here it is, plus much more, at a price that’s almost absurdly low.”


Rumor is that the car pictured in this article still exists.  I’m waiting for confirmation but signs are that it has survived which raises hopes for other missing cars such as the BMC, Savage, Vale, and recently reviewed Sorrell 190 Coupe.  As Fox Mulder said in the retired TV series “X Files”….”The Truth is Out There” gang and I’d like to add to Mulder’s statement that “so are the cars.”

Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…

Glass on gang…



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The Kool Kellison J-4: Griffith Borgeson on Hot Rods (Fawcett 1959) — 1 Comment

  1. I love your sight. I picked up a J5 in 2006 (not running). I have done little to restore it but I have been gathering period drivetrain components and plan to restore it to vintage race class specifications. I visit yours and other websites to keep me motivated. Thanks for your efforts.

    Do you know anything about tire and wheel sizes on original vehicles?

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