The story of the Kellison Panther Drag Car, which returns after 35 years | Taza Khabre

Key findings

  • This Kellison J-6 Panther Race Car features a fiberglass body on a custom prop chassis and a “Funny Car” drop top.
  • He raced in the 60s and 70s, his chassis was designed by Allbright Engineering, and he holds a personal best of 10 seconds in the quarter mile.
  • The current owner keeps it mostly original, with some patina retained and peeling paint to preserve the car’s character.


Not all drag racers have to be American cars, look like a Chevrolet Chevelle 454 SS, or be a typical nitro monster. Some look like this sleek and beautiful fiberglass car. With looks that could rival a Shelby Daytona replica and a proven chassis underneath, its sports car lines stand out thanks to the thick patina. Its name may escape even a seasoned enthusiast, but Hot Rod Hoarder YouTube Channel there is a little backstory and footage of the resurrected car performance known as the Kellison J-6 Panther.


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Introducing the Kellison J-6 Panther: the sleek Drag Warrior

As Hot Rod Hoarder explains, this is a fiberglass body on a custom drag racer chassis, not a replica. Despite the car’s svelte body, it’s a drag strip warrior, as evidenced by its massive rear wheels, parachute on the back and handlebars. Kellison Engineering is a company from the 1950s that came into the second wave of fiberglass sports cars. They offered different models and could provide a fiberglass frame or something more complete.


While many could drop a J-6 body onto a C1 Chevrolet Corvette, you can also build your own chassis, which is what the first owner of this Panther did. According to the video, he raced in the 60s, but was then banned for over 35 years. Now it’s enjoying the light of day (and the drag strip) thanks to a new owner who bought it from the Zorn estate.

Highlights of the J-6 Panther story

  • The Kellison J-6 Panther is a fiberglass body that has a sleek design unlike most other drag racers.
  • It was a regular drag racer in the 60’s and 70’s that was then parked for several decades and sold with the original owner’s estate after his death
  • It has a custom chassis and naturally aspirated engine, as well as an original and authentic body full of patina

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J-6 Panther is not a “funny car”


Dr. Randall Zorn of Tennessee built this fiberglass convertible, but it didn’t share the same philosophy as some of the mainstream Funny Car competitors. He would compete in the C/Altered class. Hot Rod Hoarder’s video shows a fascinating breakdown of parts and specs, but the chassis was built by Allbright Engineering.

The rear end features a tapered Oldsmobile configuration, and the suspension is a combination of Carrara struts up front and fully adjustable Koni shocks in the rear. The video confirms that the car was raced in the 60s/70s, but there is very little information or media about this particular J-6 Panther. In the original info, he does advertise a 10 second quarter mile personal best at 136 mph.

Kellison J-6 Panther Drag Racer Basic Details

Kellison J-6 Panther

Engine

4.9 L, NA V8 (Chevrolet DZ 302)

Transmission

Engine front, rear


Data courtesy of Hot Rod Hoarder

Conclusions from the section above

  • The DZ 302 Chevy engine is naturally aspirated, high compression and has a “roller cam”; it also has a “turbo clutch” that integrates the clutch assembly into the automatic transmission
  • The original setup included fuel injection, but was later replaced with a carb system as well as a torque converter clutch for the stand alone automatic transmission.
  • According to the specifications in the video, the rear suspension is made for Ford GT40 Grand Prix cars

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More about the Kellison J-6 Panther

Now owned by Robert Walker, also of Tennessee, he sees the world and also hits the drag strip about once a month, according to the video. We don’t know what he paid for it, and reliable averages are hard to come by, but its original owner claimed a price of around $16,000. Today, that’s over $100,000. Classic.com has a list of various Kellison cars – including the J-6 – which sold for less than $30,000 at auction.


The video shows the amazing choice to keep the car mostly original and very few changes have been made; basically upgrades to make the car safe and legal (including new wheels). It doesn’t look like a typical American drag car thanks to Robert’s decision to leave the car in its patina and peeling paint.

Painted motifs add character, preserving the history and soul of this beast. Fortunately, enthusiasts can buy, maintain and keep such cars. Without them, it might just be another classic racer from yesteryear that will end up in the landfill.

Sources: Hot Rod Hoarder, Classic.com

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