By Steve Temple

Photos by John Chesnut     

Some car designers say that there’s nothing new under the sun since most body shapes are derived from previous cars in one way or another and are simply revised and reworked. So if that’s the case, why not simply start with an earlier shape and modify it to suit your tastes?

That’s what John Chesnut has done over the years. He once bought a Cobra body and built his own frame for fitting in Corvette parts. And his Dragon design was actually inspired by a Lister but also modified to run modern Corvette parts. Following this same formula, his new Quest now in the works has a Cheetah-style body that is wider and taller than the original.

Shown here is how John built a plug for the body molds, which are now completed. His plan is to have a running car by sometime this Summer. The initial Quest will be outfitted with a high-performance Chevy 350 crate engine. The estimated weight of the car is only 1,800 pounds, so the power-weight ratio should be in the extreme range. Just as the original Cheetah was a Cobra-beater on the drag strip, so too will the Quest be an “anti-Cobra” — but with a twist.    

“I’m not trying to create a replica,” he maintains. “I’m imagining if the car had continued and a street roadster had been produced. … I’m taking a race car and trying to create a street version.” 

Moreover, he wants it to have the simplicity of a dune buggy to build, but with high performance and classic roadster looks in a car that doesn’t cost a fortune. And it has one other key aspect: “A design that everyone will wonder what it is when they see it.”

Why did he choose the Cheetah as his initial inspiration? “I just happen to think the Cheetah was badass looking, and it used Corvette parts,” he explains. “I’ve built all of my cars using Corvette parts. Seemed like a natural project for me to do.”

Indeed. Rather than going into great detail on the entire buildup, though, we decided to focus mostly on the body molds, in case other car builders have similar conversion projects in mind. So don’t think you have to reinvent the wheel. Just spin it in a different way.