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						Kellison J 5 8
Double-Bubble Barn Find

Olds-powered Kellison J-5 barn find

By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, Facebook Marketplace

Aside from the hidden potential disguised by dust, bird droppings and bias-ply truck tires, one of the most exciting things about a barn find is uncovering something that’s been hidden for decades. A once cherished and valuable thing that was largely forgotten, and could have disappeared forever if not for that one person who stashed it away. The thrill of finding and resurrecting such a vehicle has been a common thread in car-guy dreams for decades.

Heavy on the dust and bias plys, but lacking on the bird dirt (thankfully), this Kellison J-car has all the charm you could ask for. The seller states that in addition to being a legitimate barn find, the car was a race car in its former life.

Stashed away for decades, the J-5 hasn’t been spoiled over the years by any modifications to its period-correct configuration. Mag wheels, a flip-open gas cap and era-correct interior touches are signs of the time, and will hopefully be retained in the car’s next life. But the real treat is the somewhat unconventional engine under the hood.

Forget the small block Chevrolets and Flathead Fords, as this J5 sports an early Oldsmobile V8, an unusual, but appropriate engine selection for a budget 1950s racer. The seller calls the engine a 1956 Olds 348, but no such engine was produced by Oldsmobile at that time. More than likely, we’re looking at a 324 ci Oldsmobile “Rocket” V8, produced from 1954 to 1956. By 1956, Olds had bumped compression up to 8.5:1, and the four-barrel 324 made 230 hp and 340 lb-ft., making it a serious performer in its day.

While the seller notes that the engine will need a rebuild, you can’t beat the hairy-chested performance offered by an old V8 like this Olds. Forget the LS swaps and modern plug-n-play tom foolery, I want to hear this Rocket V8 sing through a pair of exhausts, while wrestling with a heavy clutch, massive steering wheel and rowing the gears with that white-ball shifter. Speaking of which, you’ll probably have just three forward gears to work with (assuming an aftermarket option wasn’t installed), as Oldsmobile’s four-speed manual transmission wouldn’t come for roughly a decade.

One other interesting feature of this Olds-powered Kellison is the roofline. Beyond its low-slung, Kellison J-car nature, the roof sports a pair of bulges for additional clearance in the cockpit. We’re aware of “double bubble” roof option on some of the smaller J-cars, like the J-1 and J-2, but we’ve never seen it on a larger car like the J-5. Is it possible that the bubbles were added to create extra room in the low-slung J-5? Yes, but with the lack of documentation surrounding these early fiberglass cars, it’s hard to disprove their originality also.

Either way, I’m totally into this J-5, and I’d love to see the car sympathetically restored while retaining as much of its originality as possible. The seller is asking $13,000 for the car here on Facebook Marketplace in Harrisville, Michigan.

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Barn Find Kellison