Skip to main content

1963 Cheetah Coupe news, pictures, specifications, and information
 
'Cheetahs Always Win' -- The Cheetah was manufactured by Bill Thomas Race Cars of Anaheim, CA. The company was known for building Chevrolet race engines while Don Edmonds designed and built the frames. This is the fourth car built of 23 and is one of seven survivors. The original owner, Budd Clusserath, raced it for eleven months and it was one of the CroSal Team Cars. The current owner has raced it in SCCS from 1965 to November 1970. The 327 cubic-inch engine develops 475 horsepower and has allowed the Cheetah to run 215 mph at Daytona and 165 mph at Road America.
Road Racing categories have always been exciting and competitive which often bred many unique and creative racing machines. The 1950s was particularly exciting as road racing specials, kit cars, and modifieds seemed to roam the tracks one circle at a time, turning heads and winning trophies. The European cars were dominant for a while, then lightweight specials powered by American muscle began to turn the tides. Mainstream manufacturers such as Ford and Chevrolet found their nitch with the Cobra's and the Corvettes. The modified Corvette's had been highly competitive in the SCCA production until the big three American Companies agreed not to race during the close of the 1950s which meant there were not Works teams. Loopholes in the agreement were exploited, and Ford was able to make sure appropriate funding made it to the Shelby Cobra project, unofficially of course.

Bill Thomas approached General Motors with a similar proposal, requesting funding to build a series of modified vehicles based on Corvette components that could be worthy contenders of the might Cobra. The proposal was accepted and the 'Cheetah' was born.

SCCA Competition had homologation requirements for various classes and categories of racing; the category where the Cobra ran required at least 100 examples be created before it could qualify for racing. As the beginning of the 1964 season came into sight, Thomas had nowhere near that many, and had to race in the specials class which pitted his front-engined machine against some very highly-developed mid-engined race cars.

The Cheetah had a tubular spaceframe chassis and powered by a Corvette V8 small-block engine bored out to over 6 liters. Thomas was restricted to only Corvette parts, so all components were stock or modified Corvette materials. The Cheetah had a tuned-version of the Rochester fuel-injection system which helped produce over 475 horsepower. The positioning of the engine was done to improve performance; it sat very far back in the engine bay resulting in the driver compartment moving rearward. The engine was mated to a Borg Warner T-10 four-speed gearbox and sent the power to the rear wheels. The rear wheels were a mere inches behind the driver. Corvette drum brakes were placed on all four corners which would prove to be unworthy to handle the massive amounts of power produced from the engine. The entire package was clothed in a lightweight aluminum hand-formed Coupe body featuring exotic gullwing doors.

Theory never guarantees success. After much planning, building, tuning, and modifying, the Cheetah was brought to the track. Its performance was less than adequate and disappointing. Teething problems are to be expected from any new race car, but some are just too difficult to overcome. The doors blew off the vehicle while at speed, its brakes were inadequate, and the cockpit had poor ventilation making it unbearably hot for the driver. The heat problem was solved for at least on car whose top was cut off. The first year proved to be a valuable learning experience.

SCCA regulations were changed for the 1965 season, now requiring a minimum of 1000 cars to race in the GT category. This would be a very difficult, if not impossible, target to achieve, especially considering Thomas' factory had been damaged in a fire. Thomas had no recourse except to terminate the project.

Around ten examples of the Cheetah were ever produced, with only eight making it to modern times. Many of the remaining cars are still used in historic competition.

By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2008
LEGENDARY RACERS TURN BACK THE HANDS OF TIME AT ROAD AMERICA DURING ELKHART LAKE VINTAGE FESTIVAL
ELKHART LAKE, Wis., Sept. 4, 2013 - Vintage racers from across the U.S. will take to the track September 6-8 as Road America hosts the Vintage Sports Car Drivers Association (VSCDA) Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival®. The annual celebration of vintage and historic sports cars attracts nearly 300 cars to the famed four-mile, 14-turn road course and the fan-friendly paddock is open to spectators for close-up views of amazing racing machines prepared to era-specifications all weekend. Two sp...[Read more...]
Focused Under Pressure - GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series
Prior to the start of the ninth race of the 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Road America, there were no outward signs of pre-race jitters. In fact, the confident and relaxed demeanor of the drivers speaks volumes about their ability to remain calm and focused under pressure, especially as the season titles come within reach. 'I'm coming here to Road America with the same mindset and same attitude I have going to any race,' said Andy Lally (Northport, N.Y.) driver of the #44 Mag...[Read more...]
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to Host 2014 SCCA National Championship Runoffs
MONTEREY, Calif. (July 10, 2013) – The Sports Car Club of America today announced the host sites of the next three SCCA® National Championship Runoffs®, including the first visit for amateur road racing's top event to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2014. Daytona International Speedway, in 2015, and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, in 2016, will also hold events over the next three years. The return to the west coast and Monterey's Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca comes 50 years after the inaugural ...[Read more...]
MULTI-YEAR PARTNERSHIP NAMES MAZDA OFFICIAL CAR OF SCCA
 Sports Car Club of America and Mazda North American Operations have announced a multi-year partnership that names Mazda the Official Car of SCCA through 2015. Mazda Director of Motorsports John Doonan and SCCA Vice President, Marketing and Communications Eric Prill made the announcement on Tuesday morning during the Mazda Motorsports pre-season media day at the company's headquarters in Irvine. Mazda will be utilized as the official pace car at key SCCA events, including the SCCA National ...[Read more...]
Classic Road America Grand-Am Battle Puts Two Porsches In Top-10
Porsche entered today's two-hour Rolex 250 Driven by VISITFLORIDA.COM at Road America with high expectations. The quartet of Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entries used the lower-aerodynamic drag nature of the venerable 911 design to be at or near the top of the speed charts all weekend. The fight for the GT class victory was forming to be an extension of this. Ultimately, in classic Road America form, the battle divided the fortunes of the team's in half. The legendary No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche 911...[Read more...]

Coupe

© 1998-2016. All rights reserved. The material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.