Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history - Team Camaro Tech
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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old Oct 19th, 09, 08:09 AM Thread Starter
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Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history

Another legend in Chevy high performance history has passed.
Bill Thomas of Bill Thomas Race Cars in Anaheim California.

Bill Thomas was one of the guys working the with Chevy in their underground racing support in the 1950s thru 1970s.

Thomas worked with Chevrolet engineering on many special built racing and high performance projects. The list includes racing Corvairs, HI PO Chevy II projects, Dan Gurney’s 1961 Chevrolet road-race 409, modified Corvette Fuel Injection systems, 409 and Z-11 drag cars, the Cheetah, Dick Harrell drag cars, 427 Camaro conversions, early Camaro speed equipment, and many other projects.

Some interesting projects Bill designed include a conversion kit to swap a V8 into the early Chevy II. This was done before the V8 was a factory option.
A Hot Rod magazine article documents his 1962 360 HP FI 327 and 4-speed into a brand new Chevy II using this kit.

Bill also built “Bad Bascom” a road racing 62-63 Chevy II with Corvette IRS and 377 cu in FI SB Chevy. Later sold to Dick Harrell for drag racing use.
Thomas began building a fiberglass Fastback Chevy II for road racing but they were later converted to drag cars.

He built the famous Cheetah.

Bill Thomas Race Cars also developed lightweight straight-axle Chevy II parts that Hot Rod Magazine called the “Instant Funny Car Kit”.

BT was right on top of things when the Camaro hit the streets in 1967.
He was already selling BB Chevy headers and engine mounts to install the BB Chevy into 55-57 Chevys and early Corvettes so was probably one of the first to market the first BB Chevy Camaro headers and other drag racing parts.

Bill worked on the Hot Rod Magazine 67 Camaro BB Chevy conversion. Engine was said to be larger then 427 cu in and the car ran mid 11 sec ET.
One of my favorite Camaro magazine pictures is from this article. The red Camaro with deployed drag shute is a great picture and was reused a few times by Hot rod over the years.

Bill Thomas Race Cars also sponsored some 1st gen Camaro race cars and did 427 street car conversions with Nickey Chevrolet.

RIP Bill Thomas
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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old Oct 19th, 09, 08:17 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history

a few non Camaro Bill T. pictures
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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old Oct 19th, 09, 02:02 PM
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sIcKyIcKyMiCkY
 
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Re: Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history

Bill Thomas came right after the Grump on my Hero List,,, I loved the Cheetahs ever since I was a Teenager, there was a company in the central part of Omaha, Neb that reproduced his Cheetah bodys , I think it closed up in the 70z I found a Cheetah body getting work done at a body shop on So 24th street about ten years ago, and struck up a conversation with the owner of the body shop and he had no Idea what it was, it was going on a old Nostalgia tube frame Dragster, I know where it is now, the project never got very far..

I love my Vette them Cheetahs are FREAKIN TINY...
I thought my Vette was hard to get out of...

Ive got a bunch of Cheetah pics to post... I gotta get em on my photobucket first...
AND THEY JUST STARTED REPRODUCING THEM DA&%$...

1968 Camaro PRO STREET 406 Brodix .645 Roller Glide brak Dana 60 5.38 Ladr bar 32.16.5
1989 Vette Z-51 357 Dart ,Billet Specialties
1986 IROCZ- 468 400
2003 Roadstar
2003 GMC 4X4http://s452.photobucket.com/albums/q...guy/?start=all
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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old Oct 19th, 09, 02:14 PM
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Russ
 
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Re: Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history

I'd love to see your Cheetah pics. I watched a couple of them go around Laguna Seca in the mid 70's and was hooked ever since. I swear I was deaf for 2 days after standing by the sidepipes when the guy fired one up. Bruce Canepa a local racer and classic car dealer in Santa Cruz had a real one for sale in the mid 90's, wanted $750,000.00 for it and I think he got it.

Russ (RJ)
The Garlic Capital, Gilroy,CA

(sold June 15,2014) 1968 RS convertible that is not quite stock
Pics: my drop top driver
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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old Oct 19th, 09, 03:10 PM
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Re: Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history

He was one of the Chevy legends. Along with Smokey, Don Yenko, Nikey and others,
They will be missed but, NEVER FORGOTTEN.
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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old Oct 19th, 09, 06:59 PM
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Re: Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history

I spent a lot of time at Bill Thomas Race Cars in the early '60's. I worked with Jimmy Caruthers, his dad, and Don Edmonds at the back of the shop working on the Caruthers Midget. The Chevy II's with the Vette engine and suspension were my favorite, as I was involved with USAC oval cars and road racers. The Chevy II fastback looked cool, and they drove one to New York to ship it to England to run against the Jaguars.

I saw the Cheetah's designed and built. I hate to say this, but even as a teenager I was not impressed with the design. They were nicely made by Don Edmonds with the basic chassis design from a Sprint Car. It just looked wrong and when you sat it one your feet were between the block and the headers and the headers also ran ablove to your knees, with very little other than sheet aluminum to protect from the heat. I was able to drive the Prototype very briefly around the block. They did run a two or three in road races, but had to run in the prototype class and were no match for a McLarens, etc. The steering broke several times, and no driver could keep it at 9/10's without breaking something or crashing. Later, someone stuffed a Hemi in one and was sucessful in drag racing.

I remember the new Stock Car "Mystery" motors stacked up aginst one wall. I could not afford one but when I asked why some were Chevy orange and a few were red, the answer was the orange were the factory race motor @ $500 each, and the red ones were the specially prepared @ $1,000.
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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old Oct 20th, 09, 07:20 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history

Jack, very interesting that you were at Bill Thomas Race Cars in the early '60's.

Do you remember the Mickey Thopmson Corvettes that ran at Daytona Speed week 1963 with the 427 Mystery engines?

Jr Johnson drove one of the Corvettes and Jr (and others) also had a 1963 Impala at Daytona with the 427 Mystery engine.

Did Bill T. work on these 427 Mystery NASCAR engines?
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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old Oct 25th, 09, 08:24 AM
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Stefano
 
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Re: Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history

Quote:
Originally Posted by DZ302 Chevy View Post
I spent a lot of time at Bill Thomas Race Cars in the early '60's. I worked with Jimmy Caruthers, his dad, and Don Edmonds at the back of the shop working on the Caruthers Midget. The Chevy II's with the Vette engine and suspension were my favorite, as I was involved with USAC oval cars and road racers. The Chevy II fastback looked cool, and they drove one to New York to ship it to England to run against the Jaguars.

I saw the Cheetah's designed and built. I hate to say this, but even as a teenager I was not impressed with the design. They were nicely made by Don Edmonds with the basic chassis design from a Sprint Car. It just looked wrong and when you sat it one your feet were between the block and the headers and the headers also ran ablove to your knees, with very little other than sheet aluminum to protect from the heat. I was able to drive the Prototype very briefly around the block. They did run a two or three in road races, but had to run in the prototype class and were no match for a McLarens, etc. The steering broke several times, and no driver could keep it at 9/10's without breaking something or crashing. Later, someone stuffed a Hemi in one and was sucessful in drag racing.

I remember the new Stock Car "Mystery" motors stacked up aginst one wall. I could not afford one but when I asked why some were Chevy orange and a few were red, the answer was the orange were the factory race motor @ $500 each, and the red ones were the specially prepared @ $1,000.
Very cool to have been there back in the day! Keep the stories coming.

We have just finished restoring the Bill Thomas af/x "Novel Nova", Funny Car Kit, Chevy II.

We restored it just like it was when it was released to the public in the mid 1960s.

It will be unveiled at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals this November 21st and 22nd.
It will be under cover until the official unveiling when the cover gets pulled off.

There will also be an official licensed and authorized BTM Cheetah on display.

Bill Thomas' son Bill Thomas III plans to fly in for the unveiling of the car his dad built.

Stefano Bimbi
NicKey
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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old Oct 25th, 09, 12:07 PM
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Rich
 
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Re: Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history

Anybody looking at this factory L72 Harrell Team Wagon on Ebay?

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eB...K%3AMEWAX%3AIT





Rich
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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old Oct 26th, 09, 07:03 AM
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Re: Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history

That wagon is a very special car! Factory L72 with original docs. Cool indeed. I found the car burried in a shed 8 miles from my house in storage for 33 years.
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post #11 of 24 (permalink) Old Oct 26th, 09, 11:09 AM
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Re: Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history

Tell us more!
Orig Engine? Was Dick actually involved in the car or jusy Harrell Ent?

Rich
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post #12 of 24 (permalink) Old Oct 26th, 09, 12:54 PM
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Re: Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history

The car is in fact an original L72. It has the original protecto plate and I was the third owner. It was a special order car through Shukei Chevrolet in Waterloo, IA where I live. The car was assembled in Janesville, WI. There are only believed to be 2 of the Kingswood wagons in existence with the L72. The other car is in the GM collection and is the same color combo as this car. I was contacted by a GM rep who told me so. Tom Akin bought and drove the car originally for the Dick Harrell Performance Team. It has an original letter from Mr Chevrolet himself welcoming Tom to the team, stating for Tom to get his headers modified by Doug Thorley and stating for Tom to get the Dick Harrell crest painted on his car. The letter in on Dick Harrell Performance Center letter head and is signed by Dick himself in pen. Extremely documented car both on the DH side and the factory side. It does have additional Harrell documentation as well as pictures of the car sitting in the pits with the rest of the DH team cars. Car won a National championship. Very rare and unique car with a fantastic history. Tom, the original owner loves to tell stories about the car and kept a scrap book with over 500 pieces of documentation that covers its entire racing history. The car is a bargain at that price.
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post #13 of 24 (permalink) Old Oct 26th, 09, 01:08 PM
sYc
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Re: Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history

How much will a new owner be asked to pay Valerie to leave DH on the side?

As with most Harrell cars, no doubt that has played a major part in this car's inability to sell.
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post #14 of 24 (permalink) Old Oct 26th, 09, 01:39 PM
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Re: Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history

Are you fixated with Valerie .Do you keep going after her because she rejected you I'm not getting it? 5 or 6 of your members own Harrell cars your not helping their cause ?
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post #15 of 24 (permalink) Old Oct 26th, 09, 02:19 PM
sYc
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Re: Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history

Quote:
Originally Posted by MUSCLECARMAGMAN View Post
Are you fixated with Valerie .Do you keep going after her because she rejected you I'm not getting it? 5 or 6 of your members own Harrell cars your not helping their cause ?

I would like nothing better then to see this nonsense stop and the Harrell name regain the respect it deserves.

Hopefully some day Valerie will realize that by constantly badgering owners of Harrell cars, whether for $$$, or saying the color is wrong, or the car was restored wrong, or threatening to take with legal action against owners, even to the point of causing a scene at a major car event, whatever, has reflected badly on her dad's name. You can blame me, whoever, but the fact is, Valerie and Pulde have not done her dad's name and legacy any favors.


BTW, Bill Thomas, JR who recently passed away, was the one who built DH cars as well as the Cheetahs, and it is Bill Thomas, III who has carried on that tradtion, building motors, etc, and I believe coming to the MCACN show to see the unveiling of the restoration done on one of their cars.
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