Back in the early 1960’s Chevrolet was looking for a way to compete against the Shelby Cobra on the racetrack. They wanted a car that was lighter, handled better and had a near 50/50 weight distribution. To accomplish this feet Chevrolet enlisted the help of Chevy performance guru, Bill Thomas and designer Don Edmunds. To get the performance numbers necessary to compete with Shelby, Thomas and Edmunds constructed a car that weighed in at just over 1500 lbs, had a wheel base of only 90-inches, a mid-engine fuel-injected design and a top speed of over 210 mph – in 1964! Another element of the Cheetah that is pretty amazing is the absence of a traditional drive shaft. You see the engine was set so far back in the chassis that the transmission was bolted directly to the rear end by way of a u-joint. That meant that the driver was basically sitting on top of the cars exhaust and back wheels at the same time. Not an overly comfortable place to be if you ask me.
Unfortunately the Cheetah was never able to reach its full potential on the racetrack due to a fire in Thomas’s shop which destroyed the original plywood buck that was used to shape the Cheetah’s complex bodywork. Combine that with the fact that Chevrolet decided to pull their factory support, and well, you got the demise of one of the coolest 1960’s race cars to have ever been created.
Plywood car buck shown created by 3D Engineers.