As the seller of today’s Nice Price or No Dice Cheetah replica correctly states, the racer was Chevy’s answer to the Ford-powered Cobras that were domineering on the track. Let’s see if this completed kit car’s price is the answer to the current question “what is it worth?”
Driving someone else’s concocted car is sort of like wearing another person’s recently discarded underpants. The feeling is a little unsettling if not potentially downright icky. The 1994 Ford Escort GT wagon we looked at yesterday was made up of a number of different models (GT, wagon, Mazda…) to create a car that never really was, and that caused a number of you in the comments to dismiss the car out of hand. That didn’t stop the car from earning a 60 percent Nice Price win, however, since $3,500 is apparently an asking price to be taken seriously on damn-near anything in this crazy car clime.
Yesterday’s Escort was seemingly built because somebody perceived a gap in the automotive ecosystem and chose to fill that space. Today’s replicar 1964 Cheetah, on the other hand, was built because there aren’t enough of the original cars — Bill Thomas’s Cheetah — to go around.
Okay, first off a little backstory on the real-deal Cheetah. Back in the late 1950s, the U.S. federal government started to take notice of car crash deaths and injuries, both on the highways and on the track. The government’s answer to the spiraling carnage was to demand that car makers reduce the reliance on performance as a sales tool in their advertisements. Not in their cars, mind you, just in the ads. That demand along with an antitrust investigation, led by Attorney General, Robert Kennedy, are generally considered to have been the catalysts that caused General Motors to end all of its official racing programs in January 1963.
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Of course, not having an official racing program meant that GM had lots of cash to throw around at independent racing efforts, and should those unofficial efforts result in cars that could beat Shelby’s all-conquering Ford-powered Cobras, all the better. One of those indy shops was Bill Thomas’ eponymously-named Bill Thomas Race Cars company. GM approached Thomas to build a Cobra killer after having been impressed by his earlier work on developing stock cars and drag racers.
For the Cheetah, GM provided a hot 327 straight off the Corvette production line and a heavy-duty four-speed Muncie gearbox. Bill Thomas Race Cars, led by chief chassis builder Don Edmunds, designed a simple tube-frame chassis, which placed the engine ahead of the driver, but well back of the front axle line in the attempt for optimal weight distribution. With the Muncie in place behind the small block V8, that left only enough room for a drive shaft mere inches in length.
Atop that was crafted a fiberglass body in either coupe or roadster style. The former of those seems to have been the more common style, despite the oppressive heat the engine created in the cabin which was exacerbated by the closed car’s cabin. GM supported the Cheetah as an unofficial program until the middle of 1964 when a change in the homologation rules for racing demanded an unachievable increase in production numbers.
After GM ended support and Bill Thomas Race Cars stopped Cheetah production, the body molds were sold to another company that went on to produce a replica of the car as well as bodies for kit and component car makers. Amazingly, the cars are still being built today via a number of component car kit makers.
There are only about a dozen REAL DEAL Cheetahs in the world and due to that scarcity and their rich history, those cars command big bucks. Thanks to that kit car market though, there are plenty more to be had at vastly lower prices due to their only being provenance-adjacent.
This one is said to have been built in 2003 from a Shell Valley kit and is clear-titled, amazingly enough, as a 1964. In place of the real Cheetah’s 327, this replica rocks a 350 SBC. That looks to be a clean install but wears one of the weirdest air cleaner assemblies I think I have ever seen. I’m not exactly sure what to make of the trumpets on top of the baffle housing, but since it does pop through the hood, maybe it’s simply a fashion statement. Also, on another aesthetic note, is that Batman reflected in the dash?
The 350 is backed up with a Richmond Gear six-speed, a heavy-duty — and fairly heavy — manual with an eight-ball shifter. The final drive is by way of a Ford nine-inch rear end.
The ad is very shouty, using all caps for the ad copy and including a “No Bozos” image in the pics. Those pics give a good indication of the car’s overall condition, something backed up by the description which states “THIS IS A BEAUTIFUL LITTLE CLASSIC HOT ROD IN EXCELLENT CONDITION NEEDS NOTHING!”
Well, loathe be it for me to argue that point, but one thing it apparently does need is cold-hard cash in the amount of $37,500 since the seller makes no bones about their refusal to accept a check for the car’s purchase. I’d guess Dogecoin, the family cow, and a left kidney would hence be out of the question as well.
Now, before we all get down to business on whether that’s a deal or not, let’s consider that the basic Cheetah kit upon which this car is apparently based, will set you back $25K alone. And that’s still in the box with no drivetrain components. If you are jonseing for a Cheetah, or at the very least, the Cheetah experience so you can tray and humble all those Cobra kit car neighbors, this turnkey car may just be the deal to have.
What do you think, is this Cheetah a deal at that $37,500 (cash-only) asking? Or, is that too much caboodle for this kit?
H/T to warvette for the hookup!
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