This is a Kellison J-5, a rare low-production American sports car that debuted in 1960. It’s not known exactly how many were made but numbers were low, and they’re becoming increasingly sought after by collectors.

The Kellison J-5 shown here is based on a 1961 Corvette chassis, it’s fitted with a 348 cubic inch V8 sending power back through a 4-speed manual transmission to a Chevy rear end. The masterful paintwork by Phil Leonard is said to be worth $30,000 USD on its own, and the car is being sold out of San Martin, California on eBay.

Fast Facts – The Kellison J-5

  • Jim Kellison was born in Seattle before moving to California where he joined the burgeoning hot rod scene. He joined the USAF in his late teens and after discharge he started his own body and fender shop at the age of 22.
  • Kellison would spend the rest of his life as an entrepreneur in the automotive world, first repairing cars before branching out into car design himself, and selling fiberglass body kits as well as complete cars.
  • The most famous cars built by Jim were the Kellison J series vehicles, they ran from J1 through to J-6 – their styling was remarkably advanced for the era and well ahead of their time.
  • The Kellison J-5 debuted in the early 1960s featuring a distinctive Jim Kellison-design body with buyers choosing to use their own chassis or buy the Chuck Manning-design chassis offered by Kellison.

The Kellison Car Company

James “Jim” Kellison, a former Korean War fighter pilot and engineer, founded Kellison Engineering in the late 1950s. With a keen eye for design and a love for automobiles, he sought to create sports cars that combined engineering, speed, and style. His background in aeronautics and engineering fueled his passion for car design, culminating in the creation of his first production kit car, the Kellison J-4.


Image DescriptionThis is Jim Kellison with one of his creations. Many Kellison J series cars went racing and achieved excellent results in the early 1960s.

The Kellison J-4 was essentially just a fiberglass body, with doors, a hood, floorpan, driveshaft tunnel, inner fender panels, firewall, and a dashboard. The rest of the car had to be sourced by the resourceful owner, who would typically opt for a rolling chassis from a production sports car of the day.

Other models would soon follow including the J-2 and J-3 which could be fitted to the chassis of smaller European cars including those from MG, Triumph, Austin-Healey, Porsche, and Volkswagen. Roadster versions of the J-4 were also released which proved popular, and Kellison began offering their own in-house designed chassis.

The first Kellison chassis was a simple ladder frame design with beam axles front and rear, this design was quickly succeeded by a more advanced tubular steel X-frame design that offered independent front suspension – often sourced from period Chevrolet cars.

Kellison cars quickly became a force to be reckoned with in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) sanctioned races and in the burgeoning world of drag racing. They could be built exceedingly light, and if paired with a good chassis and suspension, decent brakes, and a punchy engine they were more than capable of embarrassing the established American and European marques.


Image DescriptionMost Kellison bodies were sold via advertisements like this in the back of car magazines in the late 1950s and 1960s.

The J series cars would remain in production from the late 1950s well into the 1960s. Kellison would diversify his product line to include Formula V cars, boats, dune buggies, hot tubs, and more.

The Kellison J-5

The Kellison J-5 was released as the successor to the J-4 in 1960, it had very similar styling to the earlier car which made a lot of sense given how popular the J-4 had been, but the wheelbase was extended out to 102″ to offer a little more interior room.

Many J-5 owners opted to use the Corvette chassis and running gear as they could be bought relatively cheaply, and they were originally designed for the specific purpose of having a fiberglass body fitted on top.

Using a Corvette donor car also meant that you already had the brakes, suspension, and drivetrain in place, and the process of installing the body, then plumbing everything in could be done in a matter of days by experienced builders.

Kellison J-5 Interior 2

Image DescriptionThe interior of this car has just the bare essentials: a steering wheel, a shifter, three pedals, and some gauges to make sure you don’t blow the engine.

The J-5 would later be succeeded by the Kellison J6, which was another evolution on the pioneering Jim Kellison-body design that had first debuted back in 1957 on the J-4.

Surviving examples of original Kellison cars are now relatively rare, though they do come up for sale from time to time. The car shown in this article is by far the tidiest example we’ve seen in recent memory.

The 1961 Kellison J-5 Shown Here

The car you see here is a Kellison J-5 that’s based on 1961 Chevrolet Corvette underpinnings. It’s powered by a 348 cubic inch V8 which is bored 60 over and topped with three double barrel carburetors.

Kellison J-5 Engine 2

Image DescriptionThe engine is a Chevrolet 348 V8 topped with three double barrel carburetors, power is sent back through a 4-speed manual T10 transmission to the Tri-Five Chevrolet rear end.

Power is sent back through a 4-speed T10 manual transmission to a Tri-Five Chevrolet rear end with a 3:55 final drive ratio. Inside the car things are relatively spartan as you may have expected, it has a full roll cage, two bomber-style seats, and a dashboard with Stewart Warner gauges.

The car rides on Torque Thrust alloy wheels and it has an incredible paint job by Phil Leonard of Syrarum Color Studio that’s said to be worth $30,000 on its own. The eBay listing notes that the car has won multiple awards for its paintwork, and that it’s currently part of a large collection.

If you’d like to read more about this unusual Kellison J-5 or place a bid you can visit the listing here on eBay. At the time of writing there have been just under 20 bids, and it’s being sold out of San Martin, California.

Kellison J-5 Kellison J-5 10 Kellison J-5 Engine Kellison J-5 Interior Kellison J-5 7 Kellison J-5 6 Kellison J-5 14 Kellison J-5 5 Kellison J-5 4 Kellison J-5 13 Kellison J-5 12 Kellison J-5 3 Kellison J-5 2 Kellison J-5 1 Kellison J-5 11 Kellison J-5 9

Images courtesy of eBay Motors

Published by Ben Branch -