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						North Dallas Motorsports 1964 Cheetah 8

A Cobra Guy Builds a Cheetah

Editor’s Note: The history of the Cheetah is an intriguing tale, how Chevrolet looked to Bill Thomas, a successful Corvette racer, to create a car that could skin a Cobra. It was a covert program, with financing provided by both Thomas and John Grow, a Chevy dealer in the Los Angeles area. Don Edmunds, lead fabricator for Thomas, sketched the frame design out on the garage floor in chalk, and built a wooden buck for an aluminum body.

Out of the nearly two dozen built in all (sources vary on the exact number), all but two of the bodies were made of fiberglass. The engine was a 327 Corvette, set way back on the frame to provide the weight balance of a mid-engine setup, but using a conventional transmission rather than a transaxle. The set-back was so far, the cockpit was unbearably hot, and there was no driveshaft, only a U-joint between the transmission output and rear differential. The chassis was also bendy (like the 289 Cobra of that era), so handling was unpredictable at best.

Despite these peculiarities, the Cheetah went on to win a number of road races in ’64 and ’65, and few if any cars could touch it on a drag strip. For this brief, shining period, the Cheetah was one ferocious feline. What follows is an account of a modern-day variant in replica form.

Everyone knows that the most iconic car from the Sixties was the Shelby Cobra. It too was one of my favorites, so in 1995 I started out researching Cobra replica manufacturers. Two years later I finally took the plunge and built my first replica Cobra. I bought what was then called a stage III kit. The passion and enthusiasm for the Cobra led me to build several more kits purchased from three different companies over the last 14 years.                                                                           

Upon retirement from my corporate automotive management job I decided to take my passion forward by forming a small business building and selling hot rods and custom Cobras: North Dallas Motorsports. During a visit to Shell Valley Classics in Platte Center, Nebraska I came across a roller kit that really caught my eye, a roadster version of the 1964 Cheetah. Ironically Shell Valley happens to be a well-known and prominent manufacturer within the Cobra replica industry.

I thought the sleek lines and low-profile design of this car would definitely appeal to the bowtie enthusiast. It’s powered by a Chevy 350ci/ 375hp engine with a Tremec TKO500 transmission. This cat sports a bright red paint scheme that really accents its curvy body and sleek lines.

The Cheetah was built as a joint venture between North Dallas Motorsports and Wicked Custom Rods. The fit and finish, and completeness of the kit made the project fairly easy to build with very little modifications needed. The unique look of the completed car was a huge hit when we debuted it at the Good Guys Lone Star Nationals and Cruising the Coast car shows. Needless to say I think we’ll be building more Cheetahs in the future, and possibly compete once again, side by side against Shelby Cobras. 


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Bill Thomas Cheetah