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						65 Cheetah Replica14
The Cat’s Ass — Track-Prepped Cheetah Replica

Track-prepped 1965 Cheetah replica

By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, eBay

Bill Thomas designed the Chevrolet-based Cheetah in the early 1960s with solely American-built components to counter Carroll Shelby’s Cobra roadster on the track, or so the story goes, but that couldn’t be much further from the truth. What Thomas actually delivered was a Chevrolet 327-powered concept car, with a skimpy tubular chassis and the engine pushed so far back, the output shaft of the transmission was attached to the differential by a universal joint. Not exactly an engineered track machine. But of course the Cheetah would take on a life of its own and become a cult classic in the sports car world, exemplified by this stunning Cheetah race car replica currently listed on eBay.

It’s sexy to imagine the Cheetah as a skunkworks bow-tie outlaw coming up from the underground to challenge Shelby’s Cobras, but the actual impetus behind the Cheetah was a bit more practical. Thomas had built a business tuning and modifying Chevrolets and sought to secure work from GM in the construction of concept cars and specialty vehicles. So Thomas and his lead fabricator Don Edmunds came up with the loose design for a Chevrolet-based race car with a curvaceous, closed-top body and a 327 ci Corvette engine. Edmunds worked out most of the details of the car and came up with the final design, while Thomas secured the main components and funding.

That was all fine, but part way through the construction of the prototype, Thomas decided that the car would also be raced on the track for better promotion — a notion not accounted for in the design of the chassis, which lacked sufficient triangulation for the job. As such, finished Cheetah race cars were very flexy, and the chassis would bend constantly and throw off the suspension geometry in most corners. The rear trailing arms were also too light for the task, and they were known to bend outwards under full-throttle acceleration. Furthermore, the cockpits were notoriously hot, considering the exhaust ran over the top of the footboxes (given the front-mid engine configuration), leading several teams to chop the tops off in favor of an open-top roadster configuration.

But the straight-line speed of the Cheetah can’t be ignored, and after some serious teething issues were resolved, the Cheetah experienced success in SCCA and FIA racing by 1964-’65 in the hands of capable drivers like Ralph Salyer and Allen Grant. These performances are remembered still today, as the Cheetah was killed off by changing homologation rules in 1964, and was produced in too few numbers to outdo the Cobra on a large scale. In all, between 10 and 11 complete Cheetahs were built, with another five or six incomplete or in-process cars accounted for as well.

Among the most rare and valuable 1960s sports racing cars, you’re not likely to see a real one turn up other than at the most prestigious concours events and closed auction previews, but great replicas like this ’65 Cheetah replica on eBay provide another way to experience the icon.

The seller is a bit unclear as to the car’s origins, but we’re willing to bet that this is an early BTM LLC body, which has been completed with a custom chassis in (what appears to be) period-correct configuration. It’s powered by an exotic Weber-fed Chevrolet small-block with a Muncie four-speed transmission and Corvette rear differential. The exterior exudes all the proper Cheetah flavor, with the pillarless windshield and period-correct American Racing wheels with Goodyear rubber. The SuperTrapp exhaust may snuff out some horsepower with the baffles in, but the tunability might suit a dual-use car like this well.

Offered as a streetable track car with documentation and just 1,500 miles on the clock, this car is probably one of the most authentic Cheetah re-creations you can buy today. Priced at $109,929, you can find the car here on eBay, or on the selling dealer’s website here.

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