Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history [Archive] - Team Camaro Tech

: Bill Thomas, legend in Chevy Hi Po history


JOE58
Oct 19th, 09, 08:09 AM
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

JOE58
Oct 19th, 09, 08:17 AM
a few non Camaro Bill T. pictures

Vette468
Oct 19th, 09, 02:02 PM
Bill Thomas came right after the Grump on my Hero List,,, :hurray: 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&%$...:noway:

rj68RS
Oct 19th, 09, 02:14 PM
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.

john68
Oct 19th, 09, 03:10 PM
He was one of the Chevy legends. Along with Smokey, Don Yenko, Nikey and others,
They will be missed but, NEVER FORGOTTEN.

DZ302 Chevy
Oct 19th, 09, 06:59 PM
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.

JOE58
Oct 20th, 09, 07:20 AM
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?

Stefano
Oct 25th, 09, 08:24 AM
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.

rich pern
Oct 25th, 09, 12:07 PM
Anybody looking at this factory L72 Harrell Team Wagon on Ebay?

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=200396612229&viewitem=&sspagename=STRK%3AMEWAX%3AIT


http://i.ebayimg.com/14/!BdGjzY!!mk~$(KGrHqUH-EMErNohSV5(BK3bkYQEU!~~_3.JPG


Rich

Clint_69
Oct 26th, 09, 07:03 AM
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.

rich pern
Oct 26th, 09, 11:09 AM
Tell us more!
Orig Engine? Was Dick actually involved in the car or jusy Harrell Ent?

Rich

Clint_69
Oct 26th, 09, 12:54 PM
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.

sYc
Oct 26th, 09, 01:08 PM
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.

MUSCLECARMAGMAN
Oct 26th, 09, 01:39 PM
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 ?

sYc
Oct 26th, 09, 02:19 PM
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.

MUSCLECARMAGMAN
Oct 26th, 09, 02:35 PM
You seem to be the only one complaining.I'm not seeing any Harrell car owners complaining anywhere except for the close friend of yours.I know of 10 cars with the Harrell name and not one of them are disastisfied with owning it.There have been 11 stories of Dick Harrell cars in major magazines with Valerie included and no complaints.Just like you are going after Jeff Leonard from Classic Industries it seems you are the catalyst for people going after people.She rejected you and your po'd.Jeff doesn't recognize you your po'd.He's owned the rights for years and now you want to build your own Yenko 2010 you want people to go after him.Why don't you tell everyone 3 years ago you applied for the rights to the Yenko trademark? Why do you need it it's not yours oh that's right your the protector.Someone needs to ask you who died and left you king? You start all these wars amongst people than stand back and laugh.Fight your own battles use your own money be a man do it yourself.The next time you decide to shove Valerie make sure Dale is there or better yet shove Dale.

motionwannabe
Oct 26th, 09, 05:51 PM
nice wagon :thumbsup:

Clint_69
Oct 27th, 09, 06:31 AM
Tom,
You are one of just a few who share this opinion. Obviously your opinion of the DH name is simply based on your own experience. If I were Val and Dale and someone tried to fake a car that my dad had built such as you did, I would have probably acted in a similar manner as they did. The only difference is you would not have shoved me as you did Val. In addition, Val and Dale had to spend over six figures to keep the rights to the Harrell name while you and Steve S. were helping a non-rightful person to obtain the Harrell name. Pretty funny for a guy that believes that the rightful heirs are the sons and daughters to their fathers name. How nice of you to be named in a lawsuit to take that away from her. Val is the only child left of Dick Harrell's and her and Dale have done a great job preserving the name and legacy of the DH name.

The price I paid to keep the name on the Lead Sled was far less than your plane ticket to New Mexico to assist in the lawsuit to take the name away from Val. If you think the Harrell cars are so de-valued, why don't you attempt to buy a well documented Harrell Supercar such as a 68 DH Chevelle or a 69 DH Camaro and see what you have to pay. As I stated, you think your world is much bigger that it really is. In reality, very few people really care about your quest to discredit the Harrell name. I find it funny that you come off as a person who has the best interest of the Supercar hobby in mind when in reality you are involved in beating down the legacy of one of the most significant Supercar builders of all time. Make no mistake Tom, everybody sees right through you. Good luck in your quest, I dont think you have much support.

Shtgnr
Oct 27th, 09, 04:21 PM
Clint;
That very same Steve S wouldn't be the one and only LVCAMARO would it? Yes it seems that would be the one and the same person. I am glad to see this FINALLY come to light. Seems these guys ran behind the scenes for so long and when their actions were exposed, they screamed bloddy murder that they were being painted in an unfair light. Seems he sure pulled a Houdini and disappeared rather quickly

motionvette
Oct 28th, 09, 07:19 AM
Bill, silence is golden. :) I have e-mails from Val and Dale concerning his "true" position on this topic. :) Won't post those for obvious reasons. This one man crusade against the Dick Harrell name is unwarranted and was done for obvious reasons. The whole thing is sickening. It is an absolute shame anyone has to go through what Val and Dale did. Not only the stress of it all, but the monetary requirements to fund it. Dale sold off most of his hard earned posessions to help Val through this all and supported her unconditionally. I think anyone reasonable could understand both of their intermitent rampages. Until any of us forks over 6 figures such as they had to, we cannot imagine the effect it would have on us. Turns out Rick Hall and Valerie are friends over this whole fiasco now, and Rick feels terrible how it all transpired. I have never seen anyone go to such great lenghts to "save face" and miserably fail. Funny thing is, about a month ago I was talking to a gentleman who has owned the real 1968 funnycar body for 10-15 years!! Documented! He does not do the internet thing, otherwise this could have been put to rest long ago. As far as the "New Yenko", when Matt Murphy was going to produce them, it was the absolute worst idea ever, now for some reason, it is the best idea since sliced bread? How did that happen? I do like the new Nickey Camaro, and plan on having some mods done to my wifes car. I like the stinger hood and the performance parts Steve is using. I drove one, and YES it is a SUPERCAR! :)

Clint_69
Oct 29th, 09, 02:43 PM
Does anyone know how many original build Cheetahs exist? I really do like those cars and would like to learn more about them.

Clint_69
Nov 2nd, 09, 02:24 PM
Does anybody else have any more historical information on the cheetahs? Has anyone seen any in the last few years at some of the major car shows? What are the trading values of these cars?

MUSCLECARMAGMAN
Nov 2nd, 09, 03:16 PM
Clint there are originals,reissues and current cheetahs.Originals which are extemely rare can run from $250 and up.Reissues or repros run from $60-70 and up.The guy in Arizona still sells and builds them.

http://www.cheetahcars.com/history.htm

http://www.billthomascheetah.com/

motionwannabe
Nov 2nd, 09, 04:13 PM
Clint there are originals,reissues and current cheetahs.Originals which are extemely rare can run from $250 and up.Reissues or repros run from $60-70 and up.The guy in Arizona still sells and builds them.

http://www.anrdoezrs.net/image-3270226-10546635http://www.cheetahcars.com/history.htm (http://www.anrdoezrs.net/click-3270226-10546635?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cheetahcars.com%2Fhi story.htm)

http://www.billthomascheetah.com/
thats the first time I have ever seen a cheetah. Thats a strange machine. Pretty cool though:thumbsup: