(first posted 12/16/2011) There are two very powerful and recurring dreams that males with a certain proclivity are prone to: to manufacture cars with their name on it, and to build one’s own personal car. Thanks to the miracle of fiberglass, starting in the nineteen fifties many of these dreams were acted upon. Note that I didn’t say “fulfilled”; there’s an important distinction between the two. But when that acting upon actually reached true fulfillment, the results could be quite astounding, like this 1967 Kellison X-300 GT.
Fiberglass made it possible to be your own Pininfarina or Dutch Darrin. Make a mold, get a chopper gun, and…well, it wasn’t always that simple, unless you were the persevering sort. The golden years of fiberglass are roughly 1951 to 1957, and all the remarkable things that a surge of creative energy during those years resulted in are legendary. If you want to do more than dip your toes in the deep waters of that era, here’s the best place to start: forgottenfiberglass.com. Just don’t get lost there; I almost did.
Fiberglass opened up a huge world of possibilities, in that era when interest in everything from hot rods, Bonneville, road racers and just unique boulevard cruisers was sky high. Fiberglass cars could be original creations, or molds taken from the finest designs. Even the little Italian Cisitalia 202 coupe was reproduced in ‘glass. I can’t begin to do the era justice, but let’s take a look at one of the relatively more prolific and enduring ones, the Kellison GT.
Jim Kellison returned from the Korean War with the dream of building his own fiberglass car, but not just a one-off. He was one of the pioneers of the kit-car market, which made fiberglass cars much more accessible, in principle. The reality of building the whole rest of the car after a body shell arrived was another reality.
All historical evidence indicates that the Kellison GT, which first appeared in 1957, is an original design, inasmuch as anything is. It certainly is dramatic, and low slung. Its very low stance and small frontal area made it appealing to both road racers,
Bonneville speed record chasers,
and drag racers, like the notorious Tijuana Taxi.
The earlier Kellisons (usually) sat on a proprietary frame, and used either tubular solid axles, or Chevrolet units. And first, the J4, was offered either as a kit, or a completely assembled car with full interior. Priced at a stiff $7600 in 1960, very few were sold that way. It came with the obligatory Chevy 283 and four speed. The $365 starting price for a kit undoubtedly whetted a lot more dreams.
For some reason, Kellison kits were marketed under the Allied name by the mid sixties, and this car is technically an Allied Astra X-300 GT. One of its improvements was to raise the roof by a couple of inches to make it slightly more functional. This one’s interior is probably about as well kitted out as these cars get. Which is not to say that it’s a place I’d like to make a longish trip in. Highly functional.
It has an attitude, no doubt about it. Kellison went on to make a large range of fiberglass bodies; everything from a Meyers Manx dune-buggy rip-off, to a Ford GT-40 kit, an XK-E body, and a raft of others to fit VW pans or front engine chassis. His final car was the Stallion, one of the first Cobra replicas. Someone out there is still making it, I believe.
It’s nice to see that someone’s dream came true.