Through the late 1950s, Bill Thomas ran the dyno shop at C. S. Mead Chevrolet in Pasadena, building and tuning Chevy engines for many of Southern California’s amateur and professional racers. In 1960, Thomas relinquished the dynamometer shop to none other than “Dyno” Don Nicholson (who went on to fame for racing and engine building, but that’s a story for another time). Thomas opened his own shop near his home in Anaheim, a stone’s throw fro om Disneyland. Bill Thomas Race Cars (BTRC) specialized in building engines and race cars, and doing special projects for the Chevrolet Division of General Motors. The project that he is best known for was in response to one that had come out of another race shop just a few miles away: Carroll Shelby’s Cobra. When the new ’63 Corvette couldn’t outrun the Cobra on the street or on the track, Chevrolet encouraged Thomas to build a Chevypowered car that could. As part of the deal, Chevy gave Thomas and BTRC’s master fabricator, Don Edmunds, full access to the GM parts bin.
That car would be named the “Cheetah,” and it was meant initially as more of a street cruiser than a serious race car, but the plan was to build the 100 required to homologate it for the GT class in which the Cobra competed. Edmunds sourced the main Cheetah components from the Corvette: its fuel-injected 375-horsepower 327 small-block V-8, Muncie 4-speed transmission, and independent rear suspension, bolstered by miscellaneous race-bred suspension components. There was no CAD back then; Edmunds laid the components out on the shop floor and used chalk to come up with a 90-inch wheelbase chassis in which the transmission was linked directly to the solid-mounted differential with one universal joint—no driveshaft! That left the engine set more than 2 feet behind the front spindles; this was definitely a mid-engine coupe, which left the driver sitting snugly beside the engine and between the rear tires. Once the lower half of the chassis was completed, they sketched out a crude drawing of their body design and built a plywood lattice buck and BTRC’s master fabricator, linked directly to the solid- and built a plywood lattice buck over the chassis. California Metal Shaping made the body pieces for the first two prototypes out of aluminum; subsequent bodies were made by Fiberglass Trends—and later Contemporary Fiberglass— using molds pulled off the original metal body. Aircraft Windshield Company made the Plexiglas windshield and rear window.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
RALLY CAR REVOLUTION
30 YEARS THAT REINVENTED THE SPORT OF RALLYING
THE COMPLETE BOOK OF CORVETTE: EVERY MODEL SINCE 1953
The Corvette is known the world over as “America’s Sports Car.” With eight generations spanning seven decades, the Vette has a lot of history behind it and there is much to learn— and much to celebrate—about this iconic machine. As the title of the book by Mike Mueller makes plain, The Complete Book of Corvette: Every Model Since 1953 is here to help readers do both. Newly revised and updated to include the 2020 C8 Corvette, this volume provides excellent context on how the Vette has evolved into the world-class supercar that it is today.
Maisto - 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
A mid-engine makeover makes the C8 great
JOHNNY LIGHTNING DOES REAL MUSCLE IN MINIATURE
I had plans well underway for the big “Bargain Muscle Cars” feature story in this issue (p18) when I saw this lineup for the new Muscle Cars USA 2020 Release 3 from JL. I already knew I would be talking about the Dodge Dart GTS and AMC Rebel Machine, so I figured I’d just plunder those two cars from this set for that story and be all set. But then my conscience kicked in. Both because the other four cars in the set deserve their moment in the sun, and because they are all based on actual cars from the 2019 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals show it just makes sense to talk about them together.
HOT WHEELS LIFE SIZE
Hot Wheels has been having full-size versions of its iconic 1:64 diecast cars made since 1998, and lots of fans have gotten to see them at various car shows and events like the Hot Wheels Legends Tours. But most of those appearances were static displays. About a year ago Hot Wheels decided to give fans a chance to see what it was like to drive the cars in its Garage of Legends by teaming up with MotorTrend’s streaming network to produce a series of episodes highlighting six of the most popular—and outrageous—creations.
BARGAIN MUSCLE CARS
The evolution of affordable performance
GT Spirit - LB Works vs Roush Stage 3 Mustangs
Form vs function for Ford’s muscle car icon
AUTOART - 2018 TOYOTA CENTURY
1:18 | $230 | no. 78762
THE Z-CAR A TO Z
50 Years of Nissan’s Quintessential Sports Car
The '55 Chevy Gasser is not slowing down
It seems the old adage “The more things change, the more they stay the same” still rings true, especially for the Hot Wheels `55 Chevy Gasser! The Gasser has been in the spotlight continuously from the moment it was released, and it shows no sign of slowing down. First released in 2013, this high-riding 1955 Chevy Bel Air was designed by Brendon Vetuskey.