Bill Thomas' Cheetah

by Chris Webb



Bill Thomas was a racer who specialized in Corvettes. From 1957 to 1962 his cars were all but unbeatable in SCCA A/Production class. Things changed in 1963 when a former chicken rancher, Carroll Shelby, came out with his Cobra. The Cobras were just too light and powerful for the Vettes to keep up so Thomas set out to design a car that would beat them.

The Cheetah

The design he came up with was the Cheetah. The car used a tube frame to which all Corvette running gear was attached. The engine was a 327c.i. (cubic inch) unit that had been bored and stroked to 377c.i. The original Rochester injection was "tweaked" to produce around 500h.p. Because these cars only weighed 1500 lbs. they were very fast. Unfortunately, Thomas needed to make 100 cars to qualify for the production class to race against the Cobras. After less than thirty were completed, his shop burned down taking any hopes of beating Shelby's cars with it.
The cars that did race had to do so in the C-Sports/Modified class going up against rear- engine cars like Chaparrals, Elvas and King Cobras. In 1964 they enjoyed some success winning eleven races that year. As development of the rear engine cars continued, the Cheetah became less and less competitive.

The kit

I chose to build this kit by George Turner Models as a street legal car. Thomas did, after all, build a few streetcars.

To the basic kit were added M.V. Products lenses for the headlights, brakelights, and turn signals. Wheels and tires are from the Testor's '32 Hi-Boy diecast kit with the tire decals coming from a Porsche 917 kit.


Seatbelts and a fire extinguisher were added to the interior. I find that 1/48th scale seatbelts from photo etched aircraft detail sets work well. Paint is just basic black lacquer from a can with a couple of coats of clear lacquer on top of that, also from a can.


The interior was painted with a few different shades of black to give it a more realistic look. The chromed exhausts were painted with Gunze Sangyo clear smoke blue to give the effect of burned chrome. The trailer seen in some of the photos is an all metal kit by Esdo. It was painted with the same black paint as the Cheetah.

By the way, if any of you want to build one of these Cheetah kits, it may be difficult to find as they are almost as rare as the 1:1 cars! Maybe someone like John Simons (Marsh Models) will release another kit of this car someday. Are you listening John?!

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