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						Kelmark Gt 2
Big Cubes in a Kelmark GT

Kelmark GT with big-block Olds 455 power

As told by Bob Anderson

Back in 1978, my former interest in Pro Stock drag racing came to an end, but I still had the itch for performance driving. That summer, a Kelmark GT drove into the dealership I worked at. It was Chevy V8-powered with a Corvair transaxle. I talked with the owner a bit, and he showed me sales brochures of various V8-powered Kelmark’s. Of the 1,000 to 1,200 bodies that were built, the majority were installed on VW platforms — a great car, but I was looking for something different.

After some research, I found out that blue prints for a V8-powered Kelmark chassis could be bought from Oldsmobile engineer Bill Porterfield of Mid-Engineering. So I bought the blue prints and a body kit from Kelmark, chalked it out on my garage floor and proceeded to cut and weld with the help of my friend Lou Santor. Building and welding up the frame was pretty straight forward — mostly 4 x 2 rectangular steel tubing which made for a very strong platform for the fiberglass body.

Kelmark Gt 8

The next piece of the puzzle was the Oldsmobile driveline, and I soon purchased and assembled an engine with help from my drag racing friends, Bob Lambeck and Dave Smith. A .060 overbore brought the 455 up to 468 cubes, and we topped it off with Edelbrock aluminum heads, dual quads, an Isky cam and a few other goodies. The transaxle was also sourced from the Toronado, a Turbo-Hydromatic 425 with a couple modifications. The engine and transaxle assembly is mounted on a sub frame, which makes service work very easy. Simply unbolt the sub frame, and the body can be lifted off.

It wasn’t until 1993 that the project was nearing completion for the first time. Life and all its interruptions kept deferring the project, and that was before I found several areas on the chassis that I wanted to improve. The blue prints called for a VW front axle assembly, and the rear suspension showed a Corvair control arm assembly. I found what I thought was a better front axle, an MG assembly with all the front suspension, steering, shocks and brakes. Great idea, but the only adjustment for the front end was toe-in. Freeway driving was a bit touchy, so in April 2012 the MG front assembly came out and I built a custom cross member with Mustang II parts, rack-and-pinion steering and adjustable QA1 coilover shocks.

The rear suspension uses Corvette C3 control arms with QA1 adjustable coilover shocks. An upper link was added to the Corvette control arms because the Toronado transaxle does not use the axle half-shafts to support the suspension, like the Corvette does. The axle half-shafts are heavy-duty male/female drive shaft yokes.

Keeping the 468 ci Olds motor cool was a concern with all the twists and turns and distance to the radiator up front — I was asking a lot from the factory water pump. I contacted Mattson’s Custom Radiator here in Orange County, and they built a three-pass radiator with dual Spal fans enclosed in a shroud. A Stewart Components electric in-line water pump also assists coolant flow during those long stops at intersections. Now the engine runs cool in all types of driving.

Bodywork on the original Kelmark fiberglass was minimal aside from a few functional modifications. I added a pair of air ducts on the B-pillars, clear headlight covers and taillights from an Opel GT, instead of the factory recommended truck trailer lights. Also, adding dual quads to the engine made it necessary to cut out the panel between the two lids, and then bond it onto the forward lid.

The body was painted Corvette red in November 2012, and you’ll notice that I blacked out the rear panel like Chevrolet did on all their big block Camaros and Novas back in the day. I also blacked out the area around the windshield and into the A-pillar and doors. This gives the Pinto windshield a larger look and downsizes the look of the oversized A-pillar. 

The wheels on the Kelmark are Street Lite wheels from Billet Specialities, 15 x 7 in front, and 15x10 in the rear. The rear tires are Mickey Thompson P275/60R15 in a soft compound, as the previous BFGoodrich tires went up in smoke with a hit of the throttle.

Kelmark Gt 11

Driving the Kelmark GT is a fun experience with the modified B&M TH-425 transaxle and manually controlled switch-pitch torque converter. Long trips are easily made, but due to the small fuel tank, (11 gallons) fuel stops are always in the plan. The Kelmark has yet to take a back seat to anyone though, and driving it reminds me of what Jay Leno said about his McLaren, "It’s like having a loaded handgun in your hand."

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