Throughout the 1950s and early 60s, international automobile racing was largely dominated by Ferrari. Then Ford teamed up with a little-known race shop owned by a Texan named Carroll Shelby to create the Cobra. Suddenly, an American-produced car started taking center stage in the racing scene. General Motors - clearly envious of Ford’s wildly successful entry into racing - wanted to outdo its rival... and so the Cheetah was born. Radical in appearance, only twenty three (some believe fewer) of these potent machines were built. Very few Cheetahs survive today. On May 10th in New York City, Guernsey’s will be auctioning the most historic, fastest, and most original one.
In the car collecting world, originality is paramount. Today, the majority of vintage collector cars have, in whole or in part, been restored by their owners. As cars change hands from one collector to another, modifications and additional restorative work are often performed. What frequently results is a beautiful looking car made up of rebuilt, refinished or replaced parts.
Devotees of public television’s Antiques Roadshow know full well the importance of originality when it comes to almost any kind of collectible. For example, one would rather have an un-refinished early 19th century chest of drawers complete with nicks and chips and a fine vintage patina than a refinished chest, no matter how nice it looks. And so it is with the Cheetah Guernsey’s will be selling at unreserved auction. It is as original as it can get, and has had only a single owner since 1965!
Built in 1963 as one of the first Cheetahs ever made (evidence suggests that following two prototypes, this was one of the very next cars built, or fourth overall), this was the car chosen to demonstrate the Cheetah’s potential when it raced that same year at Daytona. Clocked at a record-setting, and quite astounding, 215 miles-per-hour, it exceeded the Cobra and just about anything else on four wheels. Powered by a fuel-injected Chevrolet Corvette engine, the car was dynamite. Unfortunately, business decisions within General Motors caused a shift in thinking and the race car project was abandoned.
In 1981, a twelve-page article appeared about the development and history of the Cheetah in Automobile Quarterly, arguably the finest automotive publication ever created. Adorning those twelve pages were many pictures of only one Cheetah, the one that will soon be crossing the auction block. Approaching his 80th year, the Ohio gentleman who acquired this stunning car back when it was just about new, is now parting with it. His Cheetah has meant the world to him, but on May 10th it will find a new owner. For a brief moment more than half a century ago, this fantastic machine demonstrated the potential to change the world of automotive racing. In new hands, it can breathe fire again!
On May 4/5, the Cheetah will be displayed at Lime Rock, the beautiful race course in northwestern Connecticut. It will then be delivered to 93rd Street and Park Avenue in New York City where it will be on view May 10th from 10AM until the 6PM auction.
For more complete information, please visit www.guernseys.com or contact the New York auction house.