This Prototype Was GM's Shelby Cobra Competitor. Now You Can Own It

1964 bill thomas cheetah prototype
GM's Cobra Competitor Is For SaleHemmings

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The Shelby Cobra is one of the most iconic racing cars of all time, and played a key role in establishing American automakers as serious contenders on track. That said, you might not know about the car that Chevrolet helped develop to take on the Cobra, known as Bill Thomas Cheetah. Significantly rarer (and less successful) than the Cobra, you now have a chance to take home an early Cheetah prototype previously owned by GM president John F. Gordon.

Bill Thomas is a familiar name to the Chevrolet faithful. The racer spent time helping the Corvette make a name for itself on track during the sports car’s early years. General Motors would ultimately contract Thomas and crew to increase the performance of machines like the Chevy II, the Corvair, as well as engine projects like the Chevy 409 and fuel-injected setups for the Corvette. When the Cobra started to beat up on the Chevy sports car following its racing debut, Thomas got to work developing his own sports car to take on the famed Texas chicken farmer.

1964 bill thomas cheetah prototype v8

Thomas worked together with Don Edmunds to create the car, which became known as the Cheetah. The car is centered around a chrome-moly tube-frame chassis, which provides a 90-inch wheelbase. All four corners feature an independent suspension setup, with four-wheel drum brakes sourced from Chevy’s NASCAR stock. Mounted far back in the chassis sits a 327 cubic-inch V-8 engine out of a 1963 Corvette, complete with Rochester mechanical fuel injection and a 11.25:1 compression ratio. The mighty V-8 provided the Cheetah with 360 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque, which is quite a lot in a car that tips the scales at 1750 lbs. Attached right to the rear axle sits a Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed manual transmission. Owing to its racing intentions, the car also packs three fuel tanks with individual filler caps.

This particular car is serial number 126364002, and was the second prototype developed by Thomas. While the remaining run of production cars featured fiberglass bodywork, this prototype is complete with an aluminum skin. The car was originally ordered by General Motors as a test mule for Chevrolet Engineering, with the original owner listed as then-GM President John F. Gordon. The car was utilized at the test site from December 1963 until April 1964 before it went on to have a brief racing career. This Hemmings listing marks the first time that the car has come up for sale publicly since 1969.

1964 bill thomas cheetah prototype rear three quarter

Thomas and Chevrolet would have needed to build 100 Cheetahs to comply with homologation rules in 1963, but a rule change for 1964 saw that figure jump up to 1000 units. General Motors was not interested in supporting a program that large, and ultimately backed out. Only 16 of these cars were ever built, making them an oddity today. Combined with the history of this particular car, it's no surprise that this car currently carries an asking price of $2 million. That might be Cobra money, but this is likely the nicest Cheetah you’ll find.

1964 bill thomas cheetah prototype rear three quarter on road

Via GM Authority

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