This is one of just 11 prototypes of the Teledyne Continental Cheetah that were ever made, the vehicle was developed for the US military to fulfill the role that would ultimate be assigned to the somewhat similar-looking Humvee.
Interestingly this vehicle is said to have been developed from the Lamborghini Cheetah of the late 1970s, an off-road military-style 4×4 that had been developed in the hopes of winning a lucrative US military contract.
Fast Facts – The Teledyne Continental Cheetah
- The Teledyne Continental Cheetah was one of just three designs to make it to the prototype phase for the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) vehicle project specified by the US military for a new Jeep replacement in 1979.
- The HMMWV contract called for a 4×4 vehicle that was significantly larger than the outgoing Jeep, with a much higher payload and the ability to be built in a number of different configurations including TOW missile carrier, ambulance, armament carrier, troop transport, and more.
- Teledyne bought the rights to the abandoned Lamborghini Cheetah design from 1977, a design that had been completed in the USA by Mobility Technology International, or MTI, on behalf of Lamborghini.
- The Teledyne Continental Cheetah was developed with a tubular steel chassis, an aluminum body, independent front and rear suspension, a 4×4 drivetrain, and it was fitted with three engines over its development – initially a Chrysler 5.9 liter V8 which was later replaced by a Volvo inline-six diesel, and finally an International 6.9 liter V8 diesel.
The Cheetah: Son Of Lamborghini
The Lamborghini Cheetah was a mid-engined 4×4 intended for use by the US military. It was developed by American company Mobility Technology International (MTI) under contract for Lamborghini in the late 1970s, who hoped to attract lucrative military sales with the new vehicle.
Above Video: This four and a half minute promotional film showcases the Lamborghini Cheetah, it was recorded in 1977 and it describes the vehicle’s specifications and shows its impressive off-road ability.
The design of the Cheetah was likely influenced by the earlier FMC XR311 prototype from 1970, the XR311 was in turn likely influenced by the Meyers Manx dune buggy from the 1960s.
The Lamborghini Cheetah was developed with a tubular steel frame, a rear-engined configuration, a fiberglass body, independent front and rear suspension, and four-wheel drive. It bore a close resemblance to the earlier XR311, which attracted threats of litigation when Lamborghini unveiled their new 4×4 at the Geneva Motor Show in 1977.
The Cheetah ultimately wouldn’t go into production, it suffered from poor handling due to the heavy, rear-mounted Chrysler V8 and the US military was unwilling to consider a foreign supplier for such a critically important new vehicle.
Lamborghini would sell the design to Teledyne Continental, an American company, who would develop it significantly into the Teledyne Continental Cheetah.
All was not lost for Lamborghini however, they would later develop the uber-luxurious Lamborghini LM002 “Rambo Lambo” using many of the lessons they learned as the Cheetah had been developed.
The Vehicle That Was Almost The Humvee
The Teledyne Continental Cheetah was developed on the abandoned Lamborghini Cheetah project of the 1970s.
As an American company, Teledyne Continental had a far higher likelihood of winning an American military contract, and their engineers had set to work significantly improving the various flaws in the original Lamborghini/MTI design.
The Teledyne Continental Cheetah would be given a tubular steel chassis with a body made up of aluminum panels. The engine was now mounted up front in a more traditional location, sending power back through a Chrysler A727 3-speed automatic transmission to either all four wheels or just the rear wheels.
Like the Lamborghini Cheetah the Teledyne version also had independent front and rear suspension, disc brakes all around, and a Chrysler V8 engine – although this was soon changed out for a diesel. Initially a Volvo inline-six diesel was used, this was then replaced with a considerably more powerful International 6.9 liter V8 diesel.
11 of the final prototypes were made, they weren’t selected for the military contract and they were soon either scrapped or mothballed – relegated to history as the vehicle that could’ve been just as famous as the Humvee is today.
The Teledyne Continental Cheetah Shown Here
The vehicle you see here is one of the original 11 Teledyne Continental Cheetah prototypes, it’s one of the later versions powered by the International 6.9 liter V8 mated to the 3-speed automatic transmission.
It’s exceptionally rare to see one of these come up for sale, and this example appears to be in excellent condition throughout. It’s finished in Olive Green, with Black fabric doors, and Black fender flares, inside it has seating for four, and a cargo area in the rear.
The alloy wheels fitted to the vehicle appear to be an aftermarket addition, it’s unlikely they were ever intended for military use, but otherwise this Cheetah appears to be in original, somewhat spartan military condition.
If you’d like to read more about this unusual military prototype or register to bid you can visit the listing here. It’s due to roll across the auction block with Mecum in January and it’s being offered with no reserve.
Images courtesy of Mecum
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