The Kellison J6 Is The American Muscle Car You Probably Didn't Know Existed

The Kellison J6 is a road panther that you might not see coming because you probably won't be able to tell what it is in the first place. Most supercar automakers start out small, and not all of them end up becoming renowned for making the fastest cars in the world. The Kellison Manufacturing Company started out similarly in a small town garage with big dreams of automotive stardom. After being honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force, Jim Kellison started his own body and fender shop before eventually working for other auto shops just to make ends meet, according to the official website.

However, that didn't stop Kellison from crafting new car designs with fiberglass during his spare time, leading to the creation of the J Series. His time at the Air Force inspired him to base his car designs on the sleek contours of jet planes. The result was a kit car series that put Kellison on the map. These J Series cars soon graced magazine covers and were featured in television shows, earning Kellison national recognition in the process. Now, the Kellison J6 stood out as the most refined car in the series. Not only was it the final iteration, but it also came with various improvements over previous generations as well. It's easily one of the most captivating cars that many probably never heard about, but if you think it looks familiar, there's a good reason for that.

What is a Kellison J6 Panther?

While the Kellison J6 Panther might look similar to another big cat of a car, as in the '60s Jaguar E-Type, it's actually based on the frame and engine of a Chevrolet Corvette from the same era. Of course, the body itself was still something Kellison fabricated out of fiberglass himself. One of its early buyers claimed that purchasing a J6 straight from the automaker allowed customers to customize it to their liking (via Hemmings). Despite the buyer opting for a factory 1961 Corvette frame instead of a custom-built drag-racing one, his 1963 Kellison J6 Panther was still quite fast. How fast?

Well, a compact car with fiberglass components that weigh next to nothing will likely be quick, but his particular example was later fitted with a small block Chevrolet 350 crate engine. This gave the Kellison J6 an estimated top speed of over 180 mph. Keep in mind that Kellison J6s were kit cars, which lets owners build and customize things like, obviously, fitting in a bigger engine. Another Kellison J6 owner — TV personality Danny "The Count" Koker — was able to install a more modern Chevy LS3 engine, as seen in this YouTube video. In that case, the Kellison J6 Panther could probably go even faster. The question is, should you even be doing that in a car that's as delicate as it is valuable?

How much is a Kellison J6 Panther worth?

Kellison J6 Panthers might have been filling up the streets and race tracks back in the day, but now, they're becoming rarer than ever, with only a few examples being sold on the market. If one does happen to show up, it won't come cheap. In 2018, an incomplete build of a Kellison J6 went for sale on Craigslist (via Barn Finds). Despite that J6 Panther being basically a non-functioning shell of a car, it still had a steep $14,000 price tag, even in its bare-bones condition. However, in 2020, a more recent example was sold on Bring a Trailer for a whopping $64,928.

That particular model was a 1968 4-speed manual J6 Panther running on a 306ci Chevy V8 engine. It also had a custom 1955 Chevrolet grille, 1965 Mustang turn signals, 1951 Studebaker windshield, and C1 Corvette taillights. Although it might sound like a shoddy frankencar, it does channel the spirit of the highly customizable Kellison kit cars of its era, which comprised an eclectic array of parts from various manufacturers. This goes to show that, given the right restoration work, custom parts, and that same aggressive attitude Kellisons are known for, the J6 Panther can undoubtedly command a high price.