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Kirkham Motorsports

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  • 1 Post By Grubby
  • 2 Post By john chesnut
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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 08-28-2018, 02:52 PM
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Default Looking for opinions on offering a Cheetah kit

Hello Everyone, I know that I'm taking a risk by posting this on a Cobra site.🙂 Ever since I was a kid I loved Cobras. I still do. But, I tend to want to do things different. Seems this has been true in all aspects of my life.

Over the years I've built a number of cars. I used Corvette C4 suspension for most of them. And, C5 suspension in some of them. I've always used Chevy power. I even put a Cobra body on a frame that I built and used an LS6 engine, T56 Transmission and C5 Vette suspension. It's the car that I owned the longest. One day I was at a small meet with some Cobra guys. I saw a few of them making thumbs down gestures when they saw the Vette parts. I decided then that my next buid would have a basis in Chevy history.

I knew a little about the Cheetah. Bill Thomas and Don Edmunds built them in the early 60's with the intention of racing them. It was a wild looking car. But, it was a pretty extreme design. All were built as coupes. I like Roadsters. It's a tiny car with a 90 inch wheelbase. The engine was so far back that the transmission bolted to the differential with a single Ujoint. This made the seating position very tight and the footboxes tiny and hot. All of them had holes cut in the hood to let air escape out and for the induction/air cleaner to stick through.

If I was going to build a Cheetah I would have to modify the design to fit me (6"2), the C4 suspension (which is wider than the C2 suspension the Cheetah used), make it a roadster, fix the air flow through the radiator, and cover the engine components. In short, I wouldn't be building a replica. I would be building a car inspired by the Cheetah.

I started by purchasing Cheetah body shell from Mr Bruce. He's well known on this forum. The body I purchased was a perfect starting point. I was very happy with Mr Bruce's body.

I have a build thread on this site that's documented the steps and modifications that I've gone through to build my Cheetah. I've kept the car pretty tiny. It has a 93 inch wheel base. It's shorter and lower than a Cobra. I moved the engine forward and use a short drive shaft. (12 inches with the Richmond T10 I'm using). The seating position is great and the footboxes are a good size. The headers exit in front of the footboxes so heat shouldn't be an issue.

There was 1 Cheetah that had had its roof cut off to create a Roadster. I could have copied how it was done but I wasn't a fan of how it made the driver look like he was sitting so tall in the car. So, I sculpted the rear deck differently. This along with my seating position being lower results in the occupants sitting low. (42 inches to the top of my roll bar).

I've designed my frame so that it comes to a V in the front. The radiator sits in front of this V. The frame is skinned with aluminum. (Similar to FF). The air is ducted along the outside of the frame and out the side. None gets int the engine compartment.

I molded in vents and an engine bulge into the hood. I was imagining the Jag XKE's hood bilge when I shaped mine. (Mine is not an exact copy.)

I made my body very simple. It's just 2 pieces. The front fully tilts up. I molded in the rear bulkhead of the hood. The tub has the dash, cockpit, bulkheads, and firewall molded in. It comes out of the mold and sits positively on my frame. The hood and tub seam mate perfectly right out of the mold. (I hope&#128578

My Cheetah uses the windshield from the MGB. I think the width, height, and contour work really well for my car. The MGB, I think, came out in 1962. The frames and glsss are readily available for very reasonable money. DOT legal. And the wiper system works too.

I'm excited to get the first body out of the molds (Oct) and finally build my car. I can't wait to drive it.

I built my Cheetah for myself, the way that I wanted. I had to have molds made to get a body for myself. I built a number of frames to get a final version that I was happy with. I've built a good jig from it so that it can be reproduced. Now, I'm trying to decide what to do with the molds and jigs.

My options:
- Just finish my one car and enjoy it. Don't make any more.
- Buid another complete Cheetah at my leisure and sell it when done.
- Offer a body/frame kit. I could use the fiberglass company that is making my molds and first body to make more. I would have to find someone to build my frames. I'm not in good health and I can't see myself doing production work.
- Try to find someone that's in the kit car world to take my car over.

I have had a few people ask me about getting a kit. I think there might be a small market for it. But, who knows. Is any one building kits any more?

I wish that I was younger and in better health.
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Old 08-28-2018, 03:41 PM
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I've never been accused of offering an opinion, even if it isn't likely what you want to hear.

My advice: Simply finish the one you have and be done with it.

As a business venture capitalist the first question I would have to ask is "If this were a viable business, why wouldn't have someone tried it already?" Second, and I'll not be going out too far on a thin limb here, I would expect serious buyers would want a true replica, not a rebodied Corvette.

Without a volume manufacturing facility and a solid business plan and a helper or two, you might finish another one on your own and find a buyer, but probably sell it for much less than you have in it (see "why hasn't this been done before" above). By the time you're done with #2 you'll be done with that hobby and #3, if there is one, will stretch out well past any buyer's tolerance.

Otherwise, and I don't for an instant think it would be deliberate, but this effort will become another business like the guy in Canada. Don't let it happen to you.

Would you ask your friends and family to put money up front? Would you think that the Shark Tank guys would invest?

Just my 2c.

And a PS: I went through the same process with home construction. I'd been building houses for years, two complete on my own. There was an empty lot in the subdivision and bought it and went and got all the contractors licenses and stuff. Near the end some people started getting interested. I treated them as customers. While I had built the house the way I would want it four us, they wanted changes. Some were good suggestions and enhanced the overall project and fit myself as a fallback consumer, but they were never serious buyers. One however, said he was serious and when I asked him to sign a contract to buy and to put a deposit on the changes, since they involved somewhat of a remodel of already finished work, he wouldn't do it and I never saw him again. Fortunately, I learned that "changes to work already done require money up front" from my dad (who was a builder). I decided that I would from that point on build for me (and live in it for two years and then sell it sans capital gains). Lots easier for a small builder. Then we moved to NV and retired.
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Old 08-28-2018, 04:07 PM
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PS. This forum is back to having reachability and performance issues. The above post took over 5 minutes but did complete. A previous reply with this same content timed out as have several other visits to the forum today.
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Old 08-28-2018, 04:59 PM
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John,

I think the kit car business is really difficult to make a profit in.

The Cobra market is small and the Cheetah market must be tiny.

With that said, maybe you could sell just a body and frame on an as ordered basis. Take a deposit and then have your two suppliers make the pieces.

I came across a need for my Cobra. It was polyurethane motor mounts for an ERA. They are not available. I made up a single use mold to make a pair for my use. Then posted here and offered to sell some. It would require a mold that was good for several shots. About 10 people said count me in.

When the molds were complete I made up 2 extra pairs of motor mounts. Only 1 buyer stepped up and he wasn't one of the 10.

John
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Old 08-29-2018, 01:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john chesnut View Post
My options:
- Just finish my one car and enjoy it. Don't make any more.
- Build another complete Cheetah at my leisure and sell it when done.
- Offer a body/frame kit. I could use the fiberglass company that is making my molds and first body to make more. I would have to find someone to build my frames. I'm not in good health and I can't see myself doing production work.
- Try to find someone that's in the kit car world to take my car over.
.
Just finish your one car and enjoy it. You're not going to make a pot of money off of Cheetah kits. More likely you'll lose your ass and piss off a lot of people in the process.
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Old 08-29-2018, 04:20 PM
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John

I think you're waiting for a roadster body to be pulled off the molds if I've been following your progress correctly. What are the thoughts of doing a coupe like the originals? With one of each you could start the process of looking for a vendor for real. Someone to offer your redesign and use your molds. SEMA might be a good start just to gauge the real interest. Know anybody you could hook up with out there?

Stay well over there on the other side of the lake ! Green MT Cobras are still around !

Tim
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Old 08-29-2018, 07:38 PM
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Don't try to do two models. You'll just sell half as many of each best case
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Old 08-29-2018, 08:09 PM
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If I were in your position I would drive the car and enjoy it. Starting companies is for young healthy people with access to someone else’s money.
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Old 08-30-2018, 03:46 AM
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John,

You have great skill and could probably sell a few, but if you already have health concerns this may not be the time. As Two Shelby's has said, lots of people talk big about wanting something and then get awful quiet when it comes time to pony up the money. I would get your first car finished and then if you want to try to market them, do the Carrol Shelby thing and repaint it often to make it look like you have a to of them. Take money for orders and then slowly start building them...

Jim
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Old 08-30-2018, 01:30 PM
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While its true that all original Cheetahs were produced as coupes, one was converted to a roadster by it's first owner right after purchase in 1964.
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Old 08-30-2018, 04:56 PM
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I remember an ad on eBay about five years ago (referred to here: https://classicmotorsports.com/forum...h/44556/page1/) in which they were trying to sell the rights to build the car. It stayed online for a long time and I don't know if it ever sold. Doesn's seem like a huge market for them, although I loved my Cheetah slot car racer.
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Old 08-31-2018, 02:53 PM
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John,

Here's a thought: https://www.hemmings.com/blog/2018/0...o-restoration/

It certainly would be diffferent!

Tom
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Old 08-31-2018, 04:20 PM
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Quote:
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John,

Here's a thought: https://www.hemmings.com/blog/2018/0...o-restoration/

It certainly would be diffferent!

Tom

Now that is a real gem.....
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Old 09-01-2018, 02:26 PM
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I want to thank every one for their input. Very valid points!

First, I love the Cheetah Transporter. I hadn't seen that before.

Tony mentioned "Shark Tank". I've been fortunate to invent a few simple things that have sold well. I invented coin banks in the shape of Dinosaurs and others that "eat" money. I took them to a craft show in 1993 and sold 970 of them. Since then over 1 million have been sold. It's because of them that I've been able to "play" with building cars. (Big Belly Banks)

I also invented a fishing system for my children that I sold on the shopping channel QVC. I sold up to 5000 of them every 8.5 minutes I was on live TV.

I realize that selling a Cheetah kit probably isn't a significant money maker. As far as I know there are 3 companies selling Cheetah kits. BTM in AZ I think still sells true replicas. I think they are around 100K.

Evolution Cheetah sells a body in white package. It's a frame/body roller for $45K. I think they will build a complete car for around 100K. Their Cheetah, as their name implies, isn't a replica. It's their vision if the Cheetah car had evolved. I personally like the look of their car.

Shell Valley has a Roadster Version. Their kit is about 20K. I really like Shell Valley. The former owner, Rich Anderson, was a great guy and kind to me. Dana continues to work there and he's great. Unfortunately I'm not a fan of the look of their Cheetah.

I think that I could sell a body/frame kit for $9900 or less. This would include the aluminum skins, steering components, a parts list and build video. All parts would be readily available. I wouldn't offer any custom changes or build cars.


The good thing is that i don't need money from investors, friends, family, or customers. I don't need to make money from selling kits. (I don't want to lose money though.)

I've had a couple of heart attacks. One they call the "Widow maker". And, I'm having complications from Diabetes. It's depressing that I'm only 62. I still want to build things and be busy. I'm easily bored. One of the reasons for thinking about doing some kits is to be involved in something.

I'm going to wait until I have finished molds and finished bodies to make my final decision. I have a couple of friends that want to build one. I'll have the bodies made for them and build their frames. (I'll tack weld the frames and have a certified welder finish them.) Then I'll have a body made and left in the mold. And, build a frame and leave it in the jig.
As long as I'm healthy enough I probably will build and sell 1 kit at a time.

Tim, I hope that you are doing well. I really enjoyed getting together with the VT Cobra guys. The group was welcoming to me.



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Old 09-02-2018, 10:20 AM
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John,

I worked for Dow Chemical for 38 years, until the company sold the business I worked for, a couple years ago. So I am now a bit free to speak my mind and name the company.

Herbert Dow founded the company in 1897. When I hired in, in 1978, some of his family still sat on the board of directors, and the family held enough stock to have impact on the board. That has long since changed and is another story, but let me just state: it was a totally different company then. I felt privileged to work for such a company.

There was once a bronze plaque that was a quote of Herbert Henry Dow, that I saw at many plants within the company, perhaps all of them had one. I will have to paraphrase, as time has not been kind to my memory.

"I can easily find a 100 men to tell me an idea will not work. I am looking for the few who can tell me how it can be made to work."

I have noticed through life experience that Herbert Dow must have been an optimist, as he should have said he could easily find a billion men to tell him it won't work.

I think it may be a good thing that so many have been negative minded throughout history, otherwise everything would have certainly already been done long ago, and it would be a boring world with no purpose today.

The negative minded are also quite useful, as they give you tips on what to be careful of and to look out for, but there advise should never be taken.

Many people, who love and even worship the Shelby Cobra today, would have advised Mr Shelby, AC Bristal, and Ford, all not to do it.

People will tell you that you cannot be successful despite the fact that other people are already successfully doing that very thing.

But make no mistake, unless someone tells you how to be successful, you must learn on your own how to be successful, or you will fail for certain.

The surest way to learn how to do anything is to try it, fail and learn from the failure. Repeat until you succeed. The easiest way, is to learn from the failures of others.

I really cannot advise you. All I can do is offer my thoughts. You are in a unique position. You do not have to succeed to survive. Perhaps your survival depends on trying and not success. From what you have said, this may be the thing that brings you happiness and gives you purpose. Only you can make the decision, and you are in the best position to understand your situation. There are always consequences, so give it all do thought.
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Old 09-02-2018, 04:08 PM
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The notion of choice in this is largely an illusion. It's emotion. Choice demands reason. Reason can suck the energy out of emotion. And dreams.
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Old 09-04-2018, 02:34 PM
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I think if, while "retired" you can satisfy your business/creative needs making a very cool product like your cheetah, sell it only to people who share your enthusiasm for this project, and not lose money, all while enjoying yourself immensely, then whats the downside?? Go for it!! And keep us posted with pics/details!!!
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Old 09-06-2018, 12:52 PM
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Quote:
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I think if, while "retired" you can satisfy your business/creative needs making a very cool product like your cheetah, sell it only to people who share your enthusiasm for this project, and not lose money, all while enjoying yourself immensely, then whats the downside?? Go for it!! And keep us posted with pics/details!!!
Perfect! Thank you all.
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