1959 Kellison J5 Coupe
Inspirational Californian designer and 1950s-60s hot rod legend Jim Kellison supplied his dramatic J Series of cars to be married to an interesting spectrum of power units. But if the great man was still with us today, we’re certain he’d have regarded this Chevrolet V8-powered example as everything he aimed to achieve:
Low-slung beauty, heart-stopping performance, and – in this case – a standard of finish, fit and presentation far in excess of even the finest ’50s customs.
To say Kellisons are an unknown quantity outside the US – even much beyond the West Coast – is no exaggeration. You’ve simply got to come and see this awe-inspiring car before you even think of a Corvette, Mustang, Jaguar, TVR or Gordon Keeble if you’re after period individuality mixed with deep-throated, tarmac-tearing grunt.
The J5 is, of course, the fifth version of Jim Kellison’s aircraft-inspired two-seater line, and this 1959 Coupe had been in the same ownership for many years before we acquired it and undertook a huge restoration over 18 months. The result is utterly glorious in its lustrous Opalescent Gunmetal grey (a great Jaguar colour), with an interior that adheres faithfully to Jim’s original design. The bucket seats, dashboard and transmission tunnel are beautifully re-trimmed in 4in diamond-pattern black Nappa leather, and we’ve commissioned bespoke aluminium panels for the rear luggage platform that perfectly match Jim Kellison’s original inner door panels. With its all-new glass and Perspex glazing and weather seals, the cockpit looks and feels fantastic, affording a great view down an impressively long bonnet.
During the restoration, we carefully lifted the high-quality glassfibre body to restore the tubular steel chassis below. It’s been blasted and powder-coated in satin black.
The beating heart of the car is a Chevy 350ci V8 with TWR flat-top pistons, a reworked cylinder and with gold roller rockers. The robust Holley carburettor is complemented by a Weiand Alloy four barrel inlet manifold, and the strong power delivery is backed up by 8mm yellow silicone HT leads and a electronic Mallory distributor.
The gearbox is a Borg Warner four-speed manual and the back axle has a limited-slip differential, Brake system, fuel tank and exhaust system are all brand-new and custom-made. We also commissioned a brand new wiring loom, which is a huge unseen boon behind the wonderful period Stewart Warner instruments, complete with a ’59 Corvette speedo.
This car is fully in the showman spirit of Jim Kellison. With its very light overall weight and excellent power-to-weight ratio, it’s got ample V8 performance on tap, but its swoopy lines and low, low build height is also garnished with lovely design flourishes mixing ‘50s custom car pride with sports car styling. The windscreen finishers and sill covers are aluminium and unique to the car, and the Rocket Racing five-spoke alloy wheels with grey centres set this purposeful machine off superbly. Californian glamour at its rakish best. It looks pretty cool under the bonnet too, the fully-detailed engine bay boasting a custom-built aluminium bulkhead cover.
It’s raring to go with full MoT and new tyres, and this J5 comes with a huge file detailing its history and recent rebirth. Have a look at the photos below that chart its restoration from start to finish, and then come and try this amazing American icon for yourself.