1974 Kelmark GT1 Mk III

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The low-mileage 1974 Kelmark GT1 Mk III is apparently the only know survivor.
The low-mileage 1974 Kelmark GT1 Mk III is apparently the only know survivor.
The low-mileage, V8-powered 1974 Kelmark GT1 Mk III is apparently the only know survivor.

The Pick of the Week is a rare piece of ’70s history that’s pretty much forgotten today, even though it made quite an impression at the time.

The Kelmark GT is mainly remembered as a Volkswagen-powered fiberglass kit car that could turn a standard beetle into a hot-looking Ferrari-esque sports coupe. This was an affordable way for a handy guy to build his own exotic car for driving fun and awing onlookers, especially members of the opposite sex.

The fiberglass-bodied Kelmark is said to be completely restored.
The fiberglass-bodied Kelmark is said to be completely restored.

But Michigan-based Kelmark Engineering had a more muscular reputation than that, producing its own hand-built turnkey GTs with a variety of powertrains and configurations. The 1974 Kelmark GT1 Mk II being advertised on ClassicCars.com was the high-performance culmination of the lineup.

With its one-piece fiberglass body sitting on a hand-crafted tubular frame, the 2,500-pound Kelmark is powered by a performance-upgraded, 400-horsepower Chevrolet 327-cid V8, which must deliver stunning acceleration.

This is the last one of the 10 GT1 Mk III mid-engine super coupes built by Kelmark. The owner, a classic car dealer in Sonoma, California, believes it to be the only one still in existence.

The seller cites period magazine reviews of the Kelmark GT1 MkII. Car and Driver said the car achieved the “fastest documented speed ever attained by a street machine.” Car Craft Magazine called it, “Undoubtedly the closest thing to a street-driven Can Am car on the road today.”

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The 400-horsepower V8 is nestled behind the seats.
The 400-horsepower V8 is nestled behind the seats.

According to the seller, this Kelmark was something of a barn find, discovered after being stored for more than 20 years by a manufacturer’s representative. The car has only 20,000 miles on its odometer and has been lavishly restored at a cost of $70,000, with just 100 miles added since, the seller says. So the asking price of $45,000 seem like a lot of exotic car for the money.

Among the car’s special features are a pair of “Gurney Built” carbon/kevlar seats developed by All American Racers, full race-harness seat belts and a built-in roll bar.

With aggressive mid-engine styling that looks similar to the Ferrari 206 Dino GT, or to some eyes like a Porsche 904 race car, the Kelmark would be a unique entry for car shows or track days, depending on whether you’d prefer to show off its distinctive appearance or its sparkling performance. Whichever, it should really shake up the DeTomaso Pantera guys.

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

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