The J car series was the crowning achievement in
Jim’s career, in so far as it involved the automotive and fiberglass business. The designs in this series were the
first to garner him national and ultimately international recognition. These cars have developed a loyal following consisting of past and recent owner’s and appreciative car buffs alike. Many of the items associated with the Kellison Manufacturing Company, including the cars themselves, are still collected and sold on the open market today.
This series of designs include the J1, J2, J3, J4, J5 and J6. The bodies were designed in stages over time and at different sizes to fit on different frames. They were modified to add more leg and headroom, to instill additional aerodynamics and to create both coupes and convertibles. This was a fluid and ongoing process beginning with the very first design. Jim stated that he drew some of his design inspiration from the jet planes that he was exposed to while in the Air Force. He really had an appreciation of those sleek and aerodynamic plane designs and envisioned a car that would embody the same kinds of characteristics. He was also an avid reader of the car and hot rod magazines of the day and would keep up on all the latest developments in design by poring over every issue he could get his hands on.
Jim began work on his first J car while he was living in Vacaville, California in 1957. In a small garage next to his home he started to work using steel tubing, wire mesh and plaster of paris to build up and sculpt the body. At the time he was working at Travis Air Force base as a civilian employee and this may be where he received his initial introduction to fiberglass as a working material. That is not known for sure, but when he quit to open his shop on Sutter Street in Folsom in 1958, a number of elements were ready to coalesce into the J car series.
It was in Folsom that he turned his first designs into molds and developed, refined and then released the J series cars. He began to hand lay in the fiberglass mat over gel coat and turn out completed bodies. At some point during the Folsom period he added the chopper gun technique to lay-in the “glass” more efficiently. Jim’s new J car designs started to receive recognition in a number of the popular road racing magazines of the day. This is also the time he began to advertise nationally and make use of mail order to sell his products.
From his initial start up until around 1961 Jim operated under his own sail. His success brought the dilemmas of many small business owners in the start-up mode, capital for expansion. This may be what prompted him to enter into a mutually beneficial business arrangement with Max Germaine. Mr. Germaine had an established fiberglass shop in Sacramento. This arrangement has caused some confusion with J car enthusiasts but the net result is that Max’s business, Allied Fiberglas, began to manufacture and sell the J car series bodies under the name of Astra. Max and Jim eventually severed ties and under an agreed upon arrangement with Jim, Allied Fiberglass continued to sell the J cars under the Astra brand name throughout the 1960’s. Kellison Manufacturing Company continued to sell the J cars but they were by then only a small portion of the many products that Kellison's offered as evidenced by the catalogs from the mid 1960's.
Today the J cars are still avidly raced, collected and appreciated by car enthusiast the world over. Among all the many products that Jim Kellison produced and sold over the years and the different businesses he founded, the J cars have withstood the test of time and remain today as his
A beautifully detailed and refurbished J car roadster.
Jim's personal J-6 was painted a metallic sky blue with black leather upholstery. This view was airbrushed for use in sales literature.
The original J-4 905 as it appeared in a show in late 50's.
A stunning J car up for auction at Rick Cole's auto auction.
©Jim Kellison 2016