1969 Volkswagen Kelmark GT
Kelmark Engineering was founded in 1969 by Russ Keller and Randy Markham. After years of development they introduced the “Kelmark 1” which was unveiled in 1974. The car was a cross between a Ferrari 246 and a popular corvette show car that was making the rounds at the time. It was available in both VW and V8 versions. In addition to the VW based model there were also 2 mid engine versions with ladder frames and VW front ends. One model utilized the VW transaxle while the other was a corvair transaxle. The major differences between the first version of the Kelmark and later models was smaller side windows and air vents above the door handles. After realizing that the original Kelmark was difficult to build they shut down operations, redesigned, and re-introduced the Kelmark as the “Kelmark 2”. The changes in models included re-engineered doors, and deck lid. The “Kelmark 2” was offered in 2 models. The “Independence” and the V8 “Liberator”. In addition to the Kelmark they also offered a car called “The Sleeper”. It was a mid-engine V8 chassis with a VW Bug Body, a V8 conversion for the corvair, and chassis kits for other popular handcrafted cars of the day. Sometime in the mid 1970s the “Independence” was renamed the Kelmark GT.
For consignment, an homage to the Ferrari 206/246 Dino of days gone by looking very racy white its black and red stripes over white. While the sporty looks are there the recoiling of your wallet in horror maintenance costs are not thanks in part to the underpinnings and drivetrain being pure Volkswagen Beetle. In need of some TLC but still a drivable car, you’re sure not to lose this in the field of Corvettes and Mustangs at the next car show.
In 246 Dino style, the racy low front end has black covered aero headlights. A long low front end races rearward to a tinted swept back windshield, (it’s from a Ford Pinto in case you were wondering), and to the standard swinging doors with their glass sourced from an Impala of the era, (the glass is actually inverted rear door glass from the Impala). To access the engine and rear storage compartment, twin flip up doors are on with a small air scoop on the engine cover lid along with louvers for heat extraction. The back panel angles sharply but gracefully down and inward for more aero looks and hovering above is a racy 2 pedestal rear spoiler. A trio of Dino style chrome trimmed round tail lights are on either corner. All the fiberglass is bathed in white with red highlighted black racing stripes that begins below the front grille eventually forming a stripe that runs through the center of the car. More striping, in a red with black highlighting accentuates the rockers and wheel flares. A small tinted vertical glass window on the back has deep “flying buttress” B pillars to frame it on either side. Like new staggered width tires wrap 20″ Ruff Racing multi-spoke alloy wheels on all 4 corners.
Keeping it simple and lightweight for the interior, we see black racing bucket seats with white piping and white rectangular inserts in the center. Slightly faded black carpeting covers the floors and also this racer has a black headliner although it is sagging. Upfront a wood laminate dash panel houses a tachometer, speedometer and a few other gauges all courtesy of VDO with black faces and yellow lettering. On the sides are seat matching door panels which are also covered in black vinyl with white highlighting and have a clean black armrest and black window crank. Another interesting aspect of this car is that while appearing small the interior is quite roomy and can accommodate my slightly portly frame with ease as well as this being the original Kelmark interior which has held up nicely.
A 1776cc VW 4-cylinder engine is on the back and has an auxiliary cooling fan mounted to the right side. A single Weber 2bbl carb feeds this engine and a 4-speed manual transmission and 4.125 final drive work together to make this racer look-alike move with ease.
Underneath us very clean, solid steel flooring, rockers, and the VW steel framing. Now on are front disc brakes working with rear drums and a dual exhaust with tubular piping and stock style mufflers. Giving the racy ride is an independent front suspension working together with a rear independent swing arm suspension. All clean and very solid down below.
It starts right up and after a bit of a climb in it was off to the test track. Here it’s performed like well…A VW! Nice handling, and just a fun driver you’ll feel like you are ready to take on the Scuderia at LeMans. Nice fiberglass that will never rust, and the reliable VW 4-cylinder, is racing on a low cost for gas budget. A few frowns were noted during my time behind the wheel. The passenger’s door is locked and won’t open, the driving and signal lights do not work, the right headlight doesn’t illuminate, the horn does not toot and the temperature gauge is non functional.
An interesting build looking like the Ferrari 246 Dino, all fiberglass, and a sweet looker for a fraction of the cost!
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Location: Morgantown, Pennsylvania, United States