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Fiberglass Class: 1959 Kellison J2

Here we meet another car enthusiast with enough conviction to stake his future on a dream of a car. Jim Kellison served as an air force pilot during the Korean War – a vocation that suggests a confident personality. Always interested in aircraft and autos, Kellison opened a body repair shop in the early 1950s and soon moved on to creating his own designs. His entrepreneurial urge coincided with the refinement of fiberglass, a perfect medium for small auto manufacturers. Like many of his peers – LaDawri, Devin, Fiberfab – he was influenced by a stew of fantastic artists working all over the world – from Zagato in Italy to Harley Earl at Chevrolet. His first cars were the J-series kits, a series of coupe and roadster bodies built for a variety of chassis. Here on eBay is a 1959 Kellison J2, situated on a ’59 TR3 chassis, bid to $5000, reserve not met. This car is located in San Jose, California and the title is lost. The seller has owned his Kellison for over 25 years.

The running gear is from a 1959 TR3A, which means a 1991 cc in-line four-cylinder with dual Stromberg carburetors and about 100 hp, backed up with a four-speed manual transmission. The list of recent work is exhaustive: highlights include rebuilt carbs; new radiator, starter, electronic distributor, brake parts, water pump, and fuel pump; and the fuel tank has been cleaned out with new lines installed. The fuel gauge was subsequently re-calibrated – who does that! On the negative side of things, the brake and clutch master cylinders were drafted into service from a motorcycle. The reservoir volume is not sufficient even for this little four-banger, so these should be upgraded. The seller also notes that after changing the head gasket the valves need adjusting, and the tires and shocks are over twenty years old.

The gauges, lights, and other electrical items all work. The oil pressure/water temperature gauge (Smith’s, probably) is new. The windshield is cracked but the seller has a new one; the part is from a TR3. The Triumph hubcaps are new.  This car is tiny. The limiting factor is knees against the lower edge of the dash. The small-diameter steering wheel might not look as elegant as a larger wood wheel, but it’s what allows a guy 5’8″ into the car! If you’re taller than that, best to shop for something else.

There is a trunk! Ok, the spare tire can’t fit in there, but a bit of luggage will. The paint is holding up well despite the passage of several years since the spray job. There is no top, and no doors are cut into the body. The seller believes this means the car is a very early production example – maybe the first or second. The current bid price is on the low side for this fun fiberglass classic.  Anyone up for miles of smiles, and a car that might fit in the living room?


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Looks like fun to me. Measures out about the size of a Bugeye Sprite. Looks like they thinned down the driver’s seat to get more room but I don’t see a way to get more knee room without modifying the dash board. Hope they don’t run that engine without adjusting the valves and changing that copper pipe from the radiator into a flex hose will do wonders for saving the new radiator from cracking. Engine needs 180 degree thermostat to run properly. Don’t know why they took it out. 100 hp in what is probably a 1,500 lb car should be fast and fun.

    Like 6
  2. Rick

    Those carburetors look like they’re SUs, not Strombergs.

    Like 0
  3. PRA4SNW

    I didn’t know that this type of kit car existed all the way back to the late 50s. Must be an early example.

    Like 0
  4. PRA4SNW

    Made it to $5,100 but ended with Reserve Not Met.

    Like 0
  5. Eric_13cars Eric_13cars Member

    Very nice write-up, Michelle. Wish the car was as good. If it’s a 59, the front pre-dates the C3 Corvette’s Mako shark front end (unless the designer saw a concept car from GM). Interesting isn’t it. The rest of the car is a hard pass.

    And as to the question of the carbs, they sure look like Strombergs to me, but I thought that the TR3As used SUs. Could this be a mod done to this vehicle? Frankly, the car looks like a prototype that needed a lot of design work done to make it a real car. At least it’s not based on a VW chasis and engine (apologies to VW lovers, but having worked on several hundred or so over the years, I’m not a fan).

    Like 2
  6. 64 Bonneville

    Knew a guy back home, years ago that had a bored and stroked 283 with 6 deuces in a 59 Triumph. Had the engine opened up to around 352 cubes if I remember right. This guy was a hard core hot rodder, but to mess with guys he wore a tweed sport coat with leather patches on the elbows,
    and one of those English looking driving caps, hung a pipe from his mouth that looked like Sherlock Holmes. just to mess with guys. ” I do say old chap, would you care to wager on an acceleration run?” Easy $20 bucks for him.

    Like 3

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