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Cheetah Sports Racer

Cheetah on track in the rain at Road Atlanta Walter Mitty 2016.
Cheetah on track in the rain at Road Atlanta Walter Mitty 2016.

At the 2016 Road Atlanta Walter Mitty Historic Races I saw a number of cars that brought back fond memories of the Trans Am, Can Am and sports car racing of the 1970’s. It is hard for race fans of today to believe that back then the Trans Am and Can Am SCCA racing series were far more popular than Nascar. Unfortunately, as fast as their popularity rose it died. Luckily, the historic races of today bring back a small portion of that terrific road course racing.

The Cheetah in its trailer getting a tune and ready to qualify.
The Cheetah in its trailer getting a tune and ready to qualify.

One of my all time favorite sports cars from that time has to be the Cheetah. It was not manufactured in large numbers or made by one of the big race teams nor was it conventional. Arguably, the most conventional part of the car was its Corvette engine. It was this uniqueness and underdog status that most likely attracted it to me.

I love the look of the vintage Cheetah.
I love the look of the vintage Cheetah.

When I spotted one of the Cheetahs on track at the Mitty during practice I knew a trip to the Paddock was in order. I just had to get an up close look at this old legend. It was Friday at the track and the surface was wet from early morning showers plus on and off drizzle. This didn’t stop many of the diehard Walter Mittys from taking their time machines out for practice. Some of the more conservative owner/drivers decided to stay dry and safe in the Paddock and not practice or attempt to qualify.

One of the most unique aspects of the Cheetah is the driver's location directly over the differential.
One of the most unique aspects of the Cheetah is the driver’s location directly over the differential.

The brave Cheetah owner had his car on track and was doing well during practice. My wife and I decided it was time to stroll through the paddock area and visit our favorite cars in their garage area. We were having trouble finding the Cheetah. We kept looking and just as we turned a corner I spotted it in the back of a trailer. The crew was obviously getting it ready to qualify and was working on it inside the trailer to stay dry. Just as we approached there was a roar from inside the trailer and the car began backing out. We stepped aside and with a few blips of the throttle the driver disappeared down the garage area drive and onto the track for some qualifying attempts.

This is the last time we saw the Cheetah in one piece.
This is the last time we saw the Cheetah in one piece.

We continued our visits to other garage areas and eventually found our way into the track restaurant for some lunch. Just as we were finishing I looked up from my sandwich, stared through the window in shock as I saw that beautiful Cheetah go by on a rollback with the entire front end missing.

The damage was significant but hopefully it will be repaired and race again.
The damage was significant but hopefully it will be repaired and race again.

We quickly finished our sandwiches and headed back to the Cheetah’s trailer. As they unloaded the car it was clear that the qualifying attempt in the rain was not a good idea. The driver was not seriously injured but that beautiful Cheetah was not so lucky.

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Selfishly, I missed seeing the car on track the rest of the weekend but I am thankful the driver was ok and the car can be repaired and race again. It is these racers that risk their lives and fortunes to bring us humble fans a glimpse of what we remember and idolize from our youth. Thank you for saving these cars and letting us see them at speed, hear them roar and once again excite all of our senses at the race track!

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Richard

I grew up and lived in Iowa for nearly 40 years before moving to Southern California and now live in Tennessee. I have been into cars since I was old enough to remember. I don't have a brand loyalty although I do prefer American Muscle especially the 1969/1970 NASCAR Aero Cars. (Check our our www.TalladegaSpoilerRegistry.com page) As long as it has four wheels on it I get excited. Few men are lucky enough to be able to share their passion for cars with the woman they love. Fortunately, my wife Katriana is also a gear head and many of our activities revolve around the cars. We have a small collection that includes at least one car from each of the Big Three. Katrina prefers all original cars while I like to modify them so we have a few of each. When we aren't playing with cars we are out with our miniature donkeys. You can see more about that part of our lives at http://www.LegendaryFarms.com.

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