Even the most casual car enthusiasts know about the Shelby Cobra, and very few ...
Even the most casual car enthusiasts know about the Shelby Cobra, and very few have ever heard of the Bill Thomas Cheetah.
The Cheetah was the Chevy-powered race car that could have been the true competitor for the Cobra, had it not been handicapped right int the middle of its development.
First built in California by Bill Thomas Race Cars in 1963, a Cheetah paired the Corvette’s suspension with a tube-frame chassis and a 520-horsepower small block Chevy V8.
The earliest Cheetahs had aluminum bodies, while later ones used fiberglass instead. Well, the Cheetah only weighed around 1700 lbs, which made it amazingly quick, but with the short wheelbase and all that horsepower, its handling was unruly.
Interestingly the engine, gearbox, and differential are all bolted directly to each other—this vehicle has no driveshaft or torque tube.
That meant this front-engined vehicle put the majority of its weight over the rear axle, the recipe for unusual dynamics to be sure.
Initially, Chevrolet invested directly in the Cheetah project, and the automaker pulled out in 1965 as the result of its company-wide ban on motorsports participation.
That meant that Cheetah’s tricky dynamics were never honed in, mass production of the wild machine never came to fruition.
This new video profiles a team that just finished the painstaking Cheetah restoration, and will enter the vehicle in the Goodwood Member’s Meeting later this month. Perhaps at Goodwood in 2017, the Cheetah will finally challenge the Cobra as originally intended.
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