Tommy Lee B Kellison

Kellison Funny Car Re-Surfaces After A 30-year Hiatus

I grew up around hot rods and drag cars, and my dad had a body shop next door to our house my entire childhood. Hot rods, drag cars and custom motorcycles came and went, but one thing that stood out, especially in old pictures, was an old Kellison funny car. This car sat at my dad's shop in the late '80s, and it was essentially useless, because people didn't really understand that an old drag car would someday be valuable. It was still a cool piece and it created lots of conversation, even though it didn't belong to my dad. It belonged to his best friend, Dennis George, who had raced it for nearly a decade.

I was a toddler when Dennis sold the car, so the only memories I had of it were old pictures that my dad had taken. Fast forward nearly 30 years, and I posted one of the old pictures to a drag racing message board. A few days later, I received a reply notification, and checked it to find a picture of the car in its current state. I was blown away, and tried my best to reach out to the fellow who posted the picture. As it turns out, he bought it from Dennis with intentions of using the rear end in another project car, but those plans never worked out, so the car sat untouched for nearly 30 years. It was weathered and worn from many years of neglect, but the car had not been changed in all those years.

After reaching out to the owner to see if he'd be interested in selling the Kellison, he still seemed to be attached to the car. A year or so later, he emailed me back, asking if I was still interested in buying the car. The answer was obviously "yes", so we determined a price and he delivered it to my dad's shop a few days later. My dad and I went in halves on the purchase of the car, and we plan to build an engine for it soon. It will likely get a big block Chevy and Powerglide, but the rest of the car will be in "as found" condition, including the oxidized magnesium spindle-mount wheels and weathered paint job.

Since acquiring the car, I've tracked down the original builder, who sold it to Dennis in the mid-70's. The original builder assembled the car in the late '60s, and raced it for several years in both IHRA and AHRA-sanctioned drag racing series. As it turns out, he built the chassis from scratch and then narrowed and stretched the Kellison body to fit. This is the only one of its kind.

The car has stirred up a bunch of conversations with local racers and gear heads that remember seeing it run, so it has already been a lot of fun to hear everyone's memories and stories about the car. It's a part of my childhood, because it's in the background of lots of old pictures from my youth, but I'm more excited about it being a part of our collection. As soon as it arrived at the shop, Dennis George stopped by to check it out and he's ready to see it run again. We're hoping to have it on the track again in 2015 for the first time in more than 30 years.

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