Finding a new car you've never heard of is always exciting, no matter if it's, say, an Angolan variant of an Oltcit Cub built under license by Perouda, or something equally uninspiring. But sometimes you stumble on something so remarkable you have no idea how it's eluded you for so long. That's the 1961 Kelly Corvette Coupe.

I saw this car for the first time at ArtCenter's annual car show, where it was displayed alongside a number of other interesting early Corvettes. This one, however, really caught my eye, for reasons that should be apparent to anyone with at least one functioning eye and some sort of gland that secretes desiratonin, or whatever they call the hormone that causes intense automotive desire.

There's not a whole lot of information about the Kelly Corvette out there, but here's what is known. It was built by Vignale for the 1961 Paris Salon de l'Automobile, on a '59 or '60 Corvette chassis. It was designed by Gordon Kelly, who worked for the Brooks Stevens design firm, and who also, I suspect, may have had something to do with the car's name. At least my formidible investigative reporter skills make me think so. Either that or it's an acronym. Maybe "Korvette Elongated Lovely Lines, Yes?"


Design-wise, I think it's remarkably modern-looking for an early '60s car. The proportions are dramatic and take the long-hood-pert-rear formula to its absolute extreme, with great result. The detailing is incredibly minimal, especially at the rear, where the clean, rounded rump with its flush, curved glass and solid rubber bumper blocks could easily have come from a Porsche 25 years later.


The front end has a dramatic egg-crate grille that matches the overall curves of the body, and the entire unadorned form sort of prefigures the Porsche 928. Even those door handles could work on a modern car.

The interior feels a bit more of its era, but it nevertheless quite stunning. The double-decker instrument binnacle is right out of the production 'Vette, but works well in context. The "CORVETTE" lettering on the door panels is a nice touch, as are the two-tone window-crank backing plates.


All in all, I found it one of the most striking cars at the show, and I'm surprised it's not better known. Which is why I wanted to write this, which I've just done.

Mission accomplished!