Formula Vee (F1200) has such a right history. So many manufacturers have come and gone over the past 60 years, including Caracal, Fitti-Vee, Mysterian and Autodynamics. Kellison is also one of those long-gone car constructors who deserve to be remembered.
James Frank Kellison, better know as Jim, was born on November 23,1932. During the late 1940’s and into the 1950’s, like a lot of teenagers from that era, Jim became very interested in hot rods. He modified his own coupe and began to take it road racing. Because of the talents he developed in auto shop and working on his own car, he took to body and fender work.
After a stint in the Air Force, Jim returned to California and took a job at Macario Motors, working as a body and fender man, and later landed a job working on the flight line at Travis Air Force base in Fairfield, California. There, he was exposed to one of the new wonder materials of that era, fiberglass. In a small garage adjacent his home, Jim began work on his very first car design, the J-Car series.
Jim decided to quit his job at Travis Air Force Base and open his own shop. Jim purchased a tow truck and did body and fender work as a way to make ends meet. Any free time was used to pursue his growing passion, the design and building of his own cars. Jim continued to develop new car designs and began to make molds and work in fiberglass as the means to create car bodies based on his designs.
The J car series brought Jim his first taste of national exposure. He advertised his cars in many of the country’s leading hot rod magazines and received media coverage for the unique designs. He persevered and outgrew his first shop, and moved to Lincoln, California in 1964.
Jim found a perfect match for his growing company’s needs. What had once been a two-story grain warehouse in the small Sacramento valley town fit the bill perfectly. The move proved fortuitous as the business began to grow. By this time the Kellison Fiberglass Manufacturing Company was offering multiple car products made from the lightweight material, including Formula Vee racing cars, dune buggies, bucket T’s, dragster bodies and frames, ski boats, hot tubs and shower stalls to mention a few, all made out of fiberglass.
Working 6 days a week at a newly expanded shop, 1966 was both the zenith and eventual downfall of the Kellison Car Manufacturing Company. By 1970 Jim’s company was embroiled in a lawsuit with the IRS. The combination of the lawsuit along with the stress from years of both building and managing his company had left Jim tired and burnt out. At the conclusion of the lawsuit he took a much needed hiatus from the fiberglass business.