Teledyne Continental Cheetah (1982) Auction

A super rare prototype is going under the hammer at Mecum Auctions in the USA. The "Cheetah" almost won the US tender for the HMMWV ("Humvee").

At first glance, the car looks like a Hummer fan hand-built their favorite car in the garage, and not bad at all. But the story behind the Teledyne Continental Cheetah, which auction house Mecum will auction in Kissimee, Florida in January, is much more interesting. And even the Italian sports car manufacturer Lamborghini plays an important role in it.

Tender for the US military

At the end of the 1970s, the US Army began bidding for a multi-purpose off-road vehicle to replace the outdated stock of aging M151s, direct successors of the WWII Jeep Willys. The prospect of lucrative military contracts brought numerous US companies into position, which started with sometimes more, sometimes less competitive SUVs. In 1981, the Army finally asked 61 of these companies to respond to the catalog of requirements for a "High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle", which had changed several times over the years, with specific models. With this tender, the abbreviation "HMMWV" was born, which later mutated into "Humvee" in army parlance and was finally continued with the name "Hummer" by AM General.

Teledyne Continental was one of the companies involved and entered the Cheetah in the competition, which had been designed by Mobility Technology International (MTI, a former Chrysler subsidiary) on behalf of Teledyne. In 1982, after the first test runs, three companies remained in the tender, each of which had to deliver eleven prototypes for the final tests: Chrysler, AM General and Teledyne Continental. The rest of the story is fairly well known, AM General won the race and snagged the initial order for 55,000 units of the Humvee, valued at $1.3 billion.

Someone else won the race

Of course, Teledyne itself stopped all further development work on the project, the traces of the built prototypes were lost. Most recently, only one original copy was known, which is located in the US Veteran's Memorial Museum in Tennessee, in rather deplorable condition. All the more sensational (at least for those interested in military vehicles) is the example that has now appeared at Mecum Auctions, which is one of the prototypes that was later obviously redesigned to be a little more civilian in private ownership.

The Teledyne Continental Cheetah now up for auction is already equipped with the final engine of the development series, a 6.9 liter V8 diesel from the US commercial vehicle manufacturer International Harvester.Previous prototypes had been tested with a 5.9 Chrysler petrol V8 (180 hp) and a Volvo truck diesel, a 140 hp six-cylinder.

Significantly wider than high

The dimensions of the Cheetah correspond to the catalog of requirements of the military at the time, which is why the model looks so similar to the AM General Hummer. Extra wide (2.16 meters) and not tall (1.65 meters), the vehicle should on the one hand be able to drive in wide tank tracks and on the other hand offer a "silhouette" that is as inconspicuous as possible in open terrain. At 4.62 meters long, the Cheetah is also shorter than it looks.

The V8 diesel is connected to a three-speed automatic, transmission is handled by a transfer case with switchable all-wheel drive and off-road reduction. According to the pictures, the previous owner obviously invested a lot to make the Cheetah a little more comfortable. A completely new soft top with fabric doors has obviously been created, wheel arch extensions and a common wheel-tire combination have been installed, and details such as the seat covers or the radiator grille have also been changed.

And what about Lamborghini?

In order to draw the link to the Lamborghini brand mentioned at the beginning, an exciting detail of the excited back and forth of the numerous companies that applied for the lucrative military contract must be mentioned. Lamborghini had also gotten wind of this and also hoped to be able to do good business with such a modern military vehicle outside of the sports car building business. On behalf of Lamborghini, MTI (see above) built a prototype, also named Cheetah, which the Italians presented at the 1977 Geneva Motor Show. However, the Chrysler V8 used in rear-engine design made for rather abnormal and by no means brisk driving dynamics and meant that it remained with this one prototype.

Lamborghini then made a second attempt on the subject with the LM001 based on the Cheetah, again with a V8 rear engine (this time from AMC) and again with adventurous driving behavior. Also only one example ever built. It then went on with the LMA002, and from there it got interesting. The prototype, which also only existed in one example and was presented in Geneva in 1982, gave Lamborghini hope for a major order from the Saudi army (it didn't work out) and above all it finally had a befitting drive system, the 340 hp V12 from the Lamborghini Countach. Above all, however, it was the direct route to the later LM002 from 1986, the first super sports car among the SUVs and a real off-road legend to this day.

Auction in January

So much for that, a closing word on the Teledyne Continental Cheetah: It will be at the Mecum auction in the Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimee from January and is also interesting for another reason: There is no reserve price.


No matter how you feel about the military: If you are interested in off-road vehicles, you have a rich field of activity with really strange constructions thanks to the developments for the olive green department. When a prototype like this, which was in the final round for the most famous military vehicle of modern times, is up for auction, that's something special. Even if you are probably not even allowed to use it in the visitor car park at the Concours d’Élégance.


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