The Kelmark is a cross between...
The Kelmark is a cross between a Ferrari and a concept Corvette and enjoyed a limited run in the early ’70s
Competing at last year’s Northeast Replicar Challenge against a bevy of new or relatively young Cobras, Daytonas, Lotus-types, and GT40s was a 30-year-old kit from another era—a Kelmark. Looking and acting as young as its counterparts, this Ferrari-esque racer made all the competition sit up and take notice at last year’s NERC in Louden, New Hampshire.
Kit pioneers Jim Kellison and Randy Markham began building Kelmarks in Okemas, Michigan, in 1969. Inspired by the Ferrari Dino 346, the Kelmark was graceful and aerodynamic and combined the looks of the Dino with a Corvette concept car of the late ’60s.
The front end has been lowered...
The front end has been lowered for better aerodynamics. Its suspension comes from a ’68 Kharmann Ghia.
Most Kelmarks wound up with VW running gear, but Kelmarks generally were powered by various V-8 combos. Some owners opted for Corvair transmissions. Soon, the kit Ks were seen around America, boasting 700hp ZL1 big-block Chevys that propelled the sleek beasts in excess of 200 mph.
The Kelmark ceased production in all forms in the mid ’90s, and possibly only a few dozen exist today. Like the Bradley GTs, Fiberfab Avengers and Aztecs, and Kellisons of that era, it is difficult to find running and competing Kelmarks in the 21st century. But find one we did—Raymond Tartaglia’s K-car.
The PPG Ferrari Red beauty...
The PPG Ferrari Red beauty sits firmly on a ’68 Volkswagen chassis.
Raymond, of Stewartstown, New Hampshire, purchased the car in 1998 and constantly updates it. He bought it to road race and autocross race, and saw it as a good progression from his previously modified cars—a Corvette, a Miata 3000GT, and an MR2. Raymond has been racing for 13 years, so it was no surprise that he won the four-cylinder road course competition in his Kelmark, which has a genuine VW flavor to it.
This gracefully aging beauty sits on a VW chassis, to which Raymond added a 3/8-inch steel floor pan. The rear is off a stock ’68 Volksie, and the car has a ¾-inch front rollbar. The front suspension is from a Kharmann Ghia, the steering box is stock VW, the front brakes are Ghia discs, and the gas tank is a stock VW 10-gallon tank. Raymond lowered the front chassis for better handling and aerodynamics. He also added KYB front and rear shocks and BFG Viper tires—GR 60/14s in front and GR 50/15s in rear.
Four-tip Monza mufflers produce...
Four-tip Monza mufflers produce a powerful purr when Raymond takes his Kelmark Dino out for a spin, at the track or around the neighborhood.
The engine utilizes VW again, with a ’99 1,835cc Volkswagen V-4 powerplant, bored out from a stock 1,600cc engine. The engine works in concert with Hi-Carbon pistons, double-thrust bearings, a Melling HV oil pump, an Engle cam, heavy-duty adjustable swivel lifters, a Bosch 65-amp alternator, and Gex International heads. A Gex manifold and dual Webber 40mm carburetors accompany a Bosch 009 electronic ignition, wires, and coil. Four-tip Monza mufflers finish the system that produces 115 hp at 5,000 rpm and 85 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm; there’s plenty to propel this 1,800-pound kit racer to a top speed of 105 mph.
Raymond had the car painted PPG Ferrari Red by Norm Robertson of Piti, New Hampshire, with black upholstery and carpet finishing off the interior. The white rear portion is of unknown origin.
The engine is a 1,835cc VW...
The engine is a 1,835cc VW V-4 that pops out 115 hp. While you may not think that’s a lot of pop, it moves this 1,800-pound kit racer into triple digits around the track.
Raymond has won seven car show trophies and two road races in his GT and uses it as his daily driver as well as an instruction car for would-be racers. All in all, this car has maintained its looks and appeal, and it certainly belies its age…30 years young and looking fit and sassy.