The 1961 Coachbuilt Kelly Corvette No One Has Heard Of
Before unibody construction, dozens of custom coachbuilders existed. 34 were once alive and kicking in the United Kingdom alone. Some of the most beautifully designed and built cars came from Italy, however. Bertone, Pininfarina, Scaglietti, Zagato – these guys were the big boys. In fact, a couple of them are still around. Some of their best work, too, was done with Ferrari throughout the 1950s and 1960s, creating some of the most beautiful bodywork you’ve ever laid eyes on.
The pairing of some of the best coachbuilders in the world to cars like the forever favorite Ferrari 250 does have a drawback. The one unfortunate side-effect is the overshadowing of lesser known or forgotten car-builds. Ones like this 1961 Kelly Corvette Coupe.
Gordon Kelly was a no-name industrial designer from Wisconsin who just wanted to see his own car get built. After laying his design to paper, Kelly headed off to Italy to find a coachbuilder to make his dream come true. He found Vignale, a company who had found success coachbuilding Ferrari, Alfa, and Maserati automobiles. Kelly’s car was constructed using a late-model C1 Corvette chassis, and sent off to be shown at the Paris Motor Show. The car was also given some love in print and even graced the cover of Car and Driver in 1961.
There isn’t a sharp line on the Kelly Corvette. It is smooth from its oval-shaped egg-crate grille to its bulbous hindquarters. One thing I noticed right away were the flush door handles and frenched-in taillights. Small details shown in the interior, like two-tone window crank backing plates, add to the special one-off feel.
The car is currently in the hands of John Breslow, a man of discerning taste. John has thoroughly enjoyed the Kelly Corvette and has put a few miles on the odometer. And, that’s a good thing! It means he’s keeping the car in perfect working order and not hiding it away from appreciative gawkers like you and me.