1964 Bill Thomas Cheetah Prototype, GM’s Answer to the Shelby Cobra, Now Available for Purchase

1964 Bill Thomas Cheetah Prototype, GM’s Answer to the Shelby Cobra, Now Available for Purchase

The sleek and snarling Shelby Cobra prowled many a racetrack in the 1960s, establishing its legend with wins that let American automakers know they had claws to match any foreign feline. But did you know there was another beast in Chevrolet’s jungle, conceived to challenge the Cobra on its turf?

The Bill Thomas Cheetah may have been rarer than its famous foe, but in conception, it was just as wild. A nimble and powerful prototype, it was GM president John F. Gordon’s secret weapon—or so they hoped. Alas, while the Cheetah crept closer to production, fate had other plans. The Cobra maintained its dominance of the hunt.

Now here is a chance to claim one of the early Cheetah prototypes that never got to fully stretch its legs. Own a piece of automotive mystery and “what if” history. Feel the heartbeat of a secret speed machine, brought to light once more. This GM prototype may not have roared, but its stealth still haunts the shadows of muscle car lore. The hunt is on—will its reawakening be your triumph?

Bill Thomas was no stranger to the Chevrolet garage. As a champion racer, he’d helped the fledgling Corvette burst out of the starting blocks and onto victory lane. GM soon recruited his magic touch, whether coaxing more speed from the Chevy II and Corvair, or unleashing animals like the legendary 409 cubic inch V8.

So when Shelby’s Cobra struck like a viper to crush Corvette’s dreams of racing domination, Thomas was the man Chevrolet called for revenge. Drawing from decades of two-wheel master class, he conjured a new serpent slayer – the Cheetah. Sleek, savage, and swift, it would dethrone the Cobra where the Corvette failed.

1964 Bill Thomas Cheetah Prototype, GM’s Answer to the Shelby Cobra, Now Available for Purchase

Though few prowled the streets, the prototypes packed the potent potion of Thomas’ racing religion. One such belonged to GM royalty, a president with a passion for performance. Now seeking a new pride, could this prototype recapture the glory denied so long ago? For the discerning driver, an opportunity to unleash the untamed and complete the prophecy of the patron saint of Ponies – Bill Thomas.

Bill Thomas joined forces with legendary mechanic Dan Edmunds to craft a racing serpent worthy of the Cobra. They christened it the Cheetah, wrapping its sleek bones in a chrome-moly tube frame with an agile 90-inch wheelbase. At each corner, independent suspension poised to pounce, while NASCAR-bred drum brakes stood ready to clamp its fury.

Deepest in the tubular chassis prowled the heart of the beast – a 327 cubic inch Corvette V8. Fuel-injected and snarling with an 11.25 compression ratio, it unleashed a mighty 360 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of twist. Lightweight at just 1750 pounds yet powerful as pride, the big cat engine roared through a Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed onto a solid axle rear.

Outfitted for the hunt with three fuel tanks to sustain its chase, the Cheetah slinked from Thomas and Edmunds’ lair. Would its racing reflexes, at last, dethrone the king, fulfilling the vision of the masters who conjured this prototype predator from pipes and passion? For one discerning driver, the opportunity awaited to unlock its wild potential.

1964 bill thomas cheetah prototype rear three quarter

This mighty hunter prowling the auction block bears the serial identity 126364002 – the second prototype to emerge from Thomas and Edmunds’ revolutionary workshop. While its production successors wore fiberglass fur, this early example retains its original aluminum pelt, a testament to its place at the vanguard of the species.

Commissioned by none other than General Motors itself, the mighty automotive clan initially bequeathed this prototype to its chief, President John F. Gordon, to evaluate upon his private proving grounds. There from December 1963 through April 1964, engineers observed its every move, refining its primal skills.

Briefly, the cat then stretched its limbs in competition, displaying the lethality its creators had imbued. Now for the first time since 1969, fate has freed this seminal specimen to again roam free upon the auction plain. Who will prove worthy to now claim dominion over this icon of American iron’s unrealized potential? After so long in the shadows, its reemergence could rewrite history.

While Thomas’ vision spawned sixteen hunters, far greater numbers were needed to fully qualify the species for the chase. In 1963, a mere hundred would suffice – yet rules were reworked and demands skyrocketed to a thousand the next season.

GM, kings of production, balked at backing such a massive program. Without the auto giant’s backing, the dream died in its infancy. Most Cheetahs would never prowl beyond blueprint and prototype.

Of the rare realm that did materialize, this very specimen reigned supreme – the second born, retaining its rare aluminum hide. Combined with its tenure in Gordon’s care and brief competitive career, its mythical pedigree and pristine preservation demand a fitting two million price.

Cobra money for a Cheetah indeed, but one glance confirms its incomparable nature. The nicest remains, perhaps forever, this remarkable survivor from racing’s ashes. For the discerning collector, a unique hunt is almost won.