Consider for a moment the broad application of the term steering. It is said that a driver steers his car, a CEO steers his company, a captain steers his ship, and a coach steers his team. The repeated use of the term "his" reveals a striking connection between steering and ownership. Passion applied to steering in any context is most powerfully rooted in a strong sense of ownership. In that sense, steering a high-performance car in the right direction with immediate response might be the purest and most exhilarating expression of ownership. "I own this car, therefore it is mine to steer, shift, stab, and stop."
Ownership can be a rewarding, solitary experience. However, an alternative, higher-road approach uses items owned as a path to shared vision and teamwork. Ed Zinke, owner of the Ecocat, has taken this more intelligent track. Zinke's vision of a lightweight Cheetah sporting modern turbocharged technology was not an immediate sell to his peers ("...what's a Cheetah?"). Yet the marketing genius not only sold the idea, but also created a shared vision for the project, inviting others to participate in the build of this very special Shell Valley (800-356-9198) 1963 Cheetah replica.
A car builder doesn't have to own a car in order to have ownership in a project. From that perspective, Lance Nelson of Nelson's Custom Paint (815-466-0077) has been granted and enthusiastically taken ownership in the Ecocat project. He has been given the wheel to steer this car firmly on a course to go beyond our wildest expectations for a top-shelf end result. A stickler for detail, Lance is the master of the mock-up. Tasks that might have gone unattended until final assembly have now been incorporated into the car prior to paint and bodywork. Defining the Ecocat's goals and objectives with Zinke has produced a heightened anticipation for the completed product.
The Cheetah's primary objectives are lofty: create a legitimate option for Chevy guys alongside the Ford Cobra for the kit car world, and build the legendary '60s road racer using lightweight, modern technology for broad, cross-generational appeal. Based on the Thom Taylor rendering, there is no question that the Cheetah certainly has the styling pop to grab attention. Historically, the Chevrolet-based Cheetah not only captured the hearts of many Bow Tie fans at the racetrack during the '60s, but also at home on the slot car tracks. In some form, it may happen again. The Cheetah's sensuous styling definitely merits a staying power badge. Might there come a day when replica sports car track days include Cobras and Cheetahs mixing it up on the road course?
Since our last brake installment, the Ecocat has returned from Hahn Racecraft (630-553-6830) to relocate the turbo to gain hood clearance. Because of the area needed to clear the 2.2 Ecotec Turbocharged motor, Lance decided to eliminate the original cowl induction-style scoop in favor of a power bulge that will be shaped into the hood. Shell Valley came to the rescue and supplied a second nose for the Ecocat to provide a clean sheet of paper for the reworked hood. The windshield posts will be eliminated to produce a killer Thom Taylor speedster look up front. Additionally, pieces from the original nose will reshape the rear wheel lip arches and valence area to better coordinate with the front grille and valence.
Mock-up included a concentrated focus on making the car a strong and comfortable driver. Serious time was spent optimizing driver position, pedal location, and steering comfort. The RCI seats, mounts, and harnesses sourced from our friends at J. C. Whitney (800-603-4383) minimize overall weight and fit very well in the driver compartment. The excellent Wilwood pedal assembly offers the ultimate combination of flexibility and pedal placement. However, the tilt column necessitated something other than the supplied stationary column. A quick call to Flaming River (800-648-8022) brought about a perfect solution to our ergonomic enhancement problem.
A few factors played into an upgrade from the good folks at Flaming River. First, the driving position had to be adjustable to allow various drivers to get behind the Ecocat's wheel in order to spread the Cheetah gospel. Second, past experience with Flaming River steering components and linkages has demonstrated the huge improvement they offer over standard components. Third, the Flaming River D steering wheel and mill stainless steel column look spectacular. Fourth, the collapsible steering shaft featured on the Flaming River linkage prevents the standard column from entering the driver's compartment and impaling said operator. Avoiding impalement has always been high on our list.
Follow along as we make the Ecocat roadworthy with the state-of-the-art Flaming River tilt/telescopic steering column and linkage.
Lance Nelson of Nelson's Custom...
Lance Nelson of Nelson's Custom Paint is working on the Ecocat build's final mock-up stage. The dashboard was cut out to give optimum placement for the new steering column.
The Flaming River tilt/telescopic...
The Flaming River tilt/telescopic steering column may prove to be the single greatest addition to the Ecocat to insure excellent driver position options. Of course, ease of driver entry and exit is greatly improved. The column features five-position tilt and 2 inches of linear telescopic movement.
All Flaming River columns...
All Flaming River columns are made from 304-grade stainless steel in a paintable mill finish or high-luster polished finish. The Ecocat's column features the subtler mill finish. The columns will never rust, are chemically clean, and can be painted with only minor preparation.
The Flaming River column is...
The Flaming River column is pre-wired for easy plug-in installation. A large variety of electrical plug-ins and hardware are available from Flaming River.
All the parts necessary for...
All the parts necessary for complete installation are available from Flaming River. Because of the wide range of applications, Flaming River offers various installation kits and individual components in order to tailor to specific needs. Pictured are the steering shaft, forged true needle bearing universal joints, FR horn button, machined aluminum swivel floor mount, floor mount firewall cover, and necessary hardware.