Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth
About a year ago TTAC ran a two part piece of mine on Carroll Shelby’s Cobra and Bill Thomas’ Cheetah, which some say could have been Chevy’s parry to Ford’s Cobra. The formula was pretty much the same, put a big block engine in a lightweight tube frame car, covered in a minimal but viscerally sexy body. The Cheetah is derivative. I see elements of E Type Jaguar, Devin, Cobra Daytona Coupe, and maybe some Corvette, but it works very well for me and is a very distinctive shape. Thomas, though, didn’t originally intend the Cheetah as a racer, but rather as a boulevard cruiser, so the frame and suspension weren’t really up to competitive racing. While the Cheetah won eleven SCCA races, it never developed a racing pedigree like the LeMans winning Ferrari vanquishing Cobras. Then GM stopped selling Thomas engines and he decided to walk away from the project.
A few replicar companies today offer Cheetahs in various stages of construction. The car has a bit of a following because of plastic models and slot cars back in the 1960s. Unlike the other firms building Cheetahs, Robert Auxier established a relationship with the late Bill Thomas and was licensed by Thomas to build up to 100 “continuation” Cheetahs, made by BTM in Arizona using the original molds and fixtures. For safety reasons, the original’s spindly frame was replaced with one made of larger tubing that is 33% stiffer, brakes were upgraded to modern units and the suspension was made fully adjustable. Auxier made a run of 31 cars before the severe recession put a damper on all kinds of car sales, not just hand fabricated high end replicars. It’s not clear if he’ll make any more but don’t worry, recently two of those 31 cars have come up for sale on eBay, a coupe and a convertible, according to Autoblog. Sorry if you had your heart set on a Cheetah roadster, the convertible has been withdrawn from sale but the coupe is still available. I know, I saw it in person this afternoon.