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|Chevrolet-Powered Cheetah, Then and Now|
|Written by Rich Truesdell|
|Friday, 02 October 2009 09:27|
With my current preoccupation with all things Chevy, I've unearthed a gem, the Cheetah, once designed to do battle with Shelby's Ford-powered Cobras.
At last Sunday's 2009 Coronado Speed Festival I had the great pleasure of seeing and photographing Fred Yeakel running one of the original Don Edmunds-designed, Bill Thomas-marketed 1964 Cheetah sports cars. Thomas, well-known in Chevrolet tuning circles in Southern California at the time, arranged for assistance from Chevrolet allow him to obtain the engine, transmission and rear end for the uniquely styled sports cars. The cab-reward aluminum body was wrapped around the mechanicals by California Metal Shapers. The engine was installed in an arc-welded chassis was fabricated using drawn-over-mandrel cro-moly tubing. The engine, in this case a 377-cubic-inch Chevy V8, was mounted so far back in the chassis--contributing to its legendary heat issues for the driver--that the output yoke of the transmission connected directly to the input yoke on the differential. The Cheetah lacked a conventional drive shaft. While it was designed to be a Chevrolet-powered answer the Shelby-Ford question, it never gained the race results of its Shelby competitor. Never the less, the reported 23 cars built before a factory fire ended any hope of a larger production run, the Cheetah remains to this day one of the most seductive shapes ever to grace an automobile.
For those enthusiasts wishing to relive and recreate this era the 40-plus year wait is finally over. What ended in a factory fire back in 1965 has risen like a phoenix with a series of continuation cars from Cheetah Continuation Turnkey Collectibles. This modern day Cheetah is not a kit car, not a tribute, but an actual all-new version of the legend authorized by Bill Thomas himself. From its hand-laid fiberglass body, Muncie 4-speed M-20 transmission to its Stewart-Warner full gauges, the Cheetah has been rebuilt entirely around the original concept, specs and drawings. The only changes from the original are updated safety modifications. At a price of just under $100,000, and eligible for many sanctioned vintage racing events, it's an alternative to the virtually priceless originals.
For a great read on the original Cheetah, visit the Cheetah Continuation web site for an eight-page article previewing the car from the March 1964 issue of Hot Rod.