My Kelmark GT was handed down to me by my father, who built it just before I was born. It had been mothballed for many years, due to crash.
Complete Kelmark GT Parts List
Complete Kelmark GT Instructions Part 1
Kelmark GT Complete Instructions Part 2
Building the Kelmark, "Weekend 1"
This was part of a binder that was given to Kelmark owners in about 1975.
Building the Kelmark GT, "Weekend 2"
Building the Kelmark GT Weekend 1 - This was part of a binder that was given to Kelmark owners. Circa 1975
Do You Like Kit Cars?
I really like kit cars.
One reason is that if I had a Dino 246 or a Porsche 904 I would be loath to modify it at all. But with a Kelmark, I could really let my imagination run wild, because I could do whatever I wanted to it, without ruining its value.
This Was My 1972 Kelmark GT
My Kelmark GT (NOT for sale) was built by my father many years ago. Originally it was blue (the other original options being white and yellow), but later I painted it yellow.
Kelmark Engineering produced these kits in the '70s and '80s. What distinguished Kelmarks from other kit cars was that Kelmarks had roll-up windows and working doors. They were modeled after a few racing cars of the day, including the Dino 246 (related to Ferrari) and possibly the Porsche 904.
Most Kelmarks had a stock Volkswagen Type I engine, the same one used in the Beetle. Not mine!
The Story of My Kit Car
My car started as a 1972 VW Beetle that my father purchased to start a business. The idea was that he would build these in the area and sell them at a profit. The building of the car went great, the selling - not so much. No one would buy it.
It featured a Type IV engine, the same engine used in the Porsche 914 as well as the 1976 VW van. It was a rear-mounted engine, which when someone asks "what's under the hood?" you can expect to have an interesting conversation.
The Kelmark turned into my father's daily driver for many years. Sometime in the 1990s, it was mothballed at the Mazda dealership that my father worked at.
I bothered him continuously, once I was old enough, to bring it home and allow me to work on it.
Finally, he did. It was in remarkable shape, all things considered. Yes there were pits in the completely fiberglass body, but nothing some bondo and block sanding wouldn't fix.
Amazingly, with some fresh gas, the engine would still turn over and start.
Plans for the Kelmark
I had amazing plans for it. Lofty plans, that looking back, were quite ridiculous. I was going to put it on a Subaru chassis, add all-wheel drive, swap in a flat 6 engine, and turbocharge it.
Something that, frankly, would never happen.
Instead, my current plans are to restore it to what it was. Yes, I might make some changes, but nothing wild like that. When I have the time, I I plan on converting it to an all-disk brake system (only the front are disks now, Karmann Ghia disks, I believe). Maybe some interior work, since the cloth and leather are all old, or gone. Maybe some air conditioning, or at least a fan to blow air. Living in Florida, driving the Kelmark could be a miserable experience. And something for the windshield fogging up when it rains. Fogging nearly caused me to crash, I was basically driving blind until I learned to pull over when it started raining.
I Spent Many Hours Working on the Exterior
I put bondo in the pitted and chipped areas, and block-sanded my baby for hours. My dad helped me replace the clutch, which was actually quite easy, all things considered. The engine is so light, you can balance it on a floor jack and move it away, to access the clutch. It has a progressive Weber carburetor right now.
We would have liked to do classic silver or even black, but considering the amount of damage the exterior had, that would not be an option. My father suggested that yellow seems to hide imperfections well, so the plan was to paint it yellow, with eventually a black stripe down the center.
The Kelmark Became My Daily Driver
I drove the Kelmark to college at USF, and it was remarkably reliable, aside from the aforementioned fogging.
It was quite a rough ride, but handled well. The manual Porsche transaxle was a blast to drive, and it was responsive.
How the Kelmark Went Into Retirement
Unfortunately, one day I put some engine cleaner in it. Apparently, this knocked some gunk loose, causing it to stall. I pulled apart the carburetor and cleaned it. I ran it a while at the house, just to make sure.
I was halfway home, stopped at a light, when my engine stalled again. The light turned, and my engine wouldn't start. I turned on my emergency flashers.
It was no use.
Sadly, I was struck from behind. I was safe, but my baby was damaged, and hasn't really been driven since. The exhaust was bent and broken, the right rear wheel well was cracked, and there was a brake line leaking ... somewhere.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Gearheads Unite! Say Hello!
Subwayco on July 31, 2019:
I think I have an old magazine with a VW Bug that had a V8 engine located where the back seat would be. I believe the chassis was made by Kelmark and it's something I've always thought about. I don't think you can find the chassis for that swap anymore but I would have hoped someone picked up on the idea and still makes a chassis for that V8 Bug swap. I grew up in the 60's in the Bronx and there was a spot where guys would show off their cars down by the Harlem river. I once saw a guy who put a corvette running gear in an Nash Metropolitan and I feel in love with it. It was blue for a while and then painted black with the words "Classical Gas" on the sides. He did all the work himself out of a small garage. Great memories!
Dave on June 06, 2018:
Built mine in 1979-80.. most fun car I've ever owned.. would love to get it back some day..
firstname.lastname@example.org on August 06, 2015:
Love these cars.thats why I bought the molds,so I can help keep them on the road.
Jeff on August 06, 2015:
My name is Jeff,I live in Jackson Michigan,I also own a kelmark that i am building from the ground up..if I can be of any help with your kelmark,I own the original factory molds for the front and rear inner fenders and also the inner and outer molds for the doors,also the 3"drop floor pans...I love these cars.
Devin Gustus (author) on February 12, 2015:
Unfortunately no, not really. I had to pull the battery and place it in my daily driver. I did get it replaced, but haven't put it in yet.
Children, wife, work, and now school are taking up the majority of my time. I will be attending classes to become a registered nurse and get a bachelor's degree for the foreseeable future.
philbo on February 01, 2015:
Real sorry to hear you got rear ended. Those are great looking cars. Thanks for the write up and all the pictures and documentation. Extremely helpful!
So have you worked on it since the accident?
Charito Maranan-Montecillo from Manila, Philippines on June 24, 2014:
Yeah, it does look like Kit of the "Knight Rider"!
Len from Deception Bay on October 10, 2013:
Nice car and well done
anonymous on September 13, 2013:
great efforts here I get.
Devin Gustus (author) on September 11, 2013:
@editionh: It isn't a priority right now, but one day I will drive her again. She is lots of fun to drive, corners beautifully.
editionh on September 11, 2013:
So sorry your car got hit badly, it's a beauty. I hope you get it going soon again.
EzLoanLookUp LM on August 30, 2013:
It stinks to hear about your car, thanks for shar
Stanley Green from Czech Republic on August 30, 2013:
Wow man, you're lucky to own this beautiful carrrrrrr..... It must be wonderful experience to drive it ...
jura on August 25, 2013:
It is a great car .
Angelique from Christchurch on August 25, 2013:
I enjoyed reading your lens, it was quite personal and real. Know nothing about cars or that one could buy a kit car. So have learned something.
Devin Gustus (author) on August 24, 2013:
@girlfriendfactory: I think I am going to have to take the body off to find the leak. I have replaced the brake master cylinder twice, but the brake fluid keeps leaking out. If I can get that straightened out, it's just fitting a new exhaust and buying a battery.
So, hopefully once we get a little better financially, it will be something I can work on.
Devin Gustus (author) on August 24, 2013:
@steadytracker lm: Thanks! They are a lot of fun.
Devin Gustus (author) on August 24, 2013:
@flycatcherrr: I did have some fun in college with it :D
girlfriendfactory on August 24, 2013:
Wow, that brings back some memories! In high school I dated a guy who drove a kit car. I couldn't tell you what kind but it wasn't as nice. It was red is about all I remember. I'm sad to hear you were hit from behind. Too bad people don't pay attention to emergency flashers...I know the experience. I hope you are able to get it up and running again!
flycatcherrr on August 24, 2013:
That Kelmark is truly a thing of beauty - and what a great experience for you, playing around with a hot kit car. I bet you were the envy of all at your college, with a ride like that!
steadytracker lm on August 24, 2013:
Wow, that's a pretty sweet looking ride. I had always wanted to do a kit car.
anonymous on August 23, 2013: