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Shock Your Cobra-Driving Buddies With a Bill Thomas Cheetah

Road & Track logo Road & Track 13/6/2019 Máté Petrány
a yellow car parked on the side of a road: Following a full restoration, Bill Thomas' third prototype, the last of the originally aluminum-bodied Cheetahs is up for grabs. © Hemmings Following a full restoration, Bill Thomas' third prototype, the last of the originally aluminum-bodied Cheetahs is up for grabs.

Back in 1963, Bill Thomas was to Chevrolet what Carroll Shelby was to Ford. With master fabricator Don Edmunds, Thomas set up Bill Thomas Race Cars, which created the Chevy-powered Cheetah to go up against the Cobra. The last Cheetah prototype, chassis #003, is up for sale now with an asking price of $795,000.

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Because Cheetahs weren't originally designed to go racing, these experimental oddballs had no real chance of competing against the well-proven Cobra. At first, the Thomas-tuned 377ci Chevy V-8s kept overheating, while their tubular chassis flexed so much, the wheels would toe in. After the introduction of NASCAR radiators and numerous extra holes on the body, customers had a go at redesigning the suspension, starting with a beefed up chassis. But rule changes for 1964 meant the factory-backed Cheetah project was officially dead by May that year, with Thomas keeping his business open until 1966.

Seen here freshly restored, Cheetah #003 originally had an aluminum body-as did the other prototypes-but was re-bodied in fiberglass like the production cars to save #001 after it got crashed. The seller claims that it was originally fit with an "experimental 1962 early GM Aluminum Grand Sport engine (1st design) with the most exotic induction system of its time, [a] 58mm Weber side draft option." This 1962 #19 GM aluminum engine is on a display cart now, with the seller considering offering it separately.

Wearing the correct hand-painted Bardahl Oil livery as ordered by Alan Green Chevrolet of Seattle in 1964, Cheetah #003 is claimed to have the correct Corvette 327ci block with Thomas cylinder heads, and a lot more desirable goodies from the period detailed here. But at $795,000 from a private seller, that's to be expected.

a yellow car parked on the side of a road: Shock Your Cobra-Driving Buddies With This Cheetah © Hemmings Shock Your Cobra-Driving Buddies With This Cheetah

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