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						1959 Kellison J4 R 9
The SCCA Director’s Kellison Coupe

1959 Kellison J-4 R Coupe for auction

By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, BringaTrailer.com

From the aggressive stance, muscular fenders and ultra low-slung roofline, Kellison J-cars look like nothing else on the road — even today. But consider for a moment that Jim Kellison offered his first J-car to the public back in 1957, two years after his initial design and testing started. What else could you buy in the U.S. in those days that came close to rivaling Kellison’s radical design? Nothing, certainly not the Corvette or Thunderbird, but that was the beauty of small-scale fiberglass production I suppose. Kellison’s J-cars served as a blank canvas for all sorts of street rods and race cars, but this 1959 J-4 R model could be one of the most significant competition Kellisons you can actually buy today.

Kellison’s first really successful model was the J-4, as the other early J-cars were designed for shorter wheelbases and were only produced in small numbers. The J-4 was built on a 98-inch wheelbase and would accommodate several V8 donors, but was most often completed with Chevrolet engines. The standard J-4 could be had as a kit or turnkey car, and was built with inner body panels, firewalls and extra reinforcement in key areas. But for the weight-conscious competition crowd, a special R version of the J-4 could be had as a body shell without the additional inner structure. These competition J-4s were used as drag cars, land-speed cars, customs, or (as is the case with this J-4 R) road racers.

This J-4 R model was purchased new in 1959 by SCCA executive director Don Rodimer, and he enjoyed the car so much that it remained in his possession until his death in 1985. Afterward, the car was purchased by a popular racer and tour organizer named Rich Taylor, who commissioned an entire chassis rebuild by Chassis Dynamics in New Jersey. At this time, it received a NASCAR-type roll cage and extensive safety updates. Tom Lalinsky of Lalinsky Engineering then prepared the party piece under the hood, the 405 ci Chevrolet small-block that churns out 497 hp and 463 lb-ft in competition spec. A Muncie M22 four-speed sends power to the rear, but no rear axle specs are provided. The J-4 was sold to a new owner in 2001, who actually made the car street legal with the addition of a wiper, indicators and taillights.

Today, the Kellison retains its lightweight competition bodywork, evidenced by the ultra-low 39-inch tall roofline, J-4 twin headlights and lack of internal body stiffening panels. The hood scoop opening was never cut open, but a trunk access panel was added at some point in the car's life. It rides on a cool set of 15-inch Torq-Thrust wheels and exhales through Hooker Tuned-Flow mufflers, which can be adjusted with an allen wrench.

So we’re looking at a really rad Kellison with well-documented ownership and some competition history. Despite the fact that she’s a little rough around the edges (as you’d expect from an old race car), this Kellison should command a premium given its specification. But what sort of premium? I’m going to guess right around $35,000-$40,000, and here’s why.

This exact car somehow snuck under the radar at Bonhams’ Amelia Island 2018 event, selling for just $28,000 including buyer’s premium. Historically, that hasn’t been too far off the mark for good Kellison J-cars, especially on BringaTrailer.com, but I’d bet solid money that this marque is on the rise. In late 2020 BaT hammered away the nicest J-6 we’ve ever seen for just under $65,000. That, combined with all the folks who missed the 2018 Bonhams’ sale, has me thinking this one has quite a bit more money in it. Not to mention, it’s plain badass!

Check out the J-4 R here on BringaTrailer.com where the current high bid is $23,000 with two days remaining in the auction.

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Kellison Race Cars