Even the most casual car enthusiasts know about the Shelby Cobra, but very few have ever heard of the Bill Thomas Cheetah. The Cheetah was a Chevy-powered race car that could have been a 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, paired the Corvette's suspension with a tube-frame chassis and a 520-hp small block Chevy V8. The , while later ones used fiberglass instead. The Cheetah only weighed around 1700 lbs, which made it amazingly quick, but with a short wheelbase and all that horsepower, its handling was unruly.
Interestingly the engine, gearbox, and differential are all bolted directly to each other—this car has no driveshaft or torque tube. That meant this front-engined car put the majority of its weight over the rear axle, a recipe for unusual dynamics to be sure.
Initially, Chevrolet invested directly in the Cheetah project, but the automaker pulled out in 1965 as a result of its company-wide ban on motorsports participation. That meant that the Cheetah's tricky dynamics were never honed in, and mass production of the wild machine never came to fruition.
This new video profiles a team that just finished a painstaking Cheetah restoration, and will enter the car in the Goodwood Member's Meeting later this month. Perhaps at Goodwood in 2017, the Cheetah will finally challenge a Cobra as originally intended.