Hall's Chaparrals

Introduction

In 1961, race car builders Tom Barnes and Dick Troutman approached Texas-born race driver Jim Hall about a sports racer they had designed. Although initially called the "Riverside," that was the beginning of the Chaparral legacy.

[All photos from Chaparral: Complete History of Jim Hall's Chaparral Race Cars, 1961-1970
by Richard Falconer and Doug Nye. Motorbooks International. Osceola, WI: 1992]
Chaparral 1
Jim Hall and the Chaparral 1 at Riverside 1961

The Chaparral 1 was a Chevy-powered, front-engined car that had a common heritage with the Scarab rear-engined racer that was previously designed by Barnes and Troutman. Its first race was at a Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) race at Laguna Seca, California in June 1961. Jim Hall brought his new Chaparral 1 to a 2nd place finish. Hall raced the Chaparral three more times in 1961, with a 3rd place at the October Riverside L.A. Time Grand Prix and DNFs at another Laguna Seca race and at the Nassau Speed Week main event. Jim Hall drove the Chaparral 1 to victories at the Road America Sprints in June 1962 and the Road America 500 in September 1962.

U.S. Road Racing

The next incarnation of the Chaparral was originally intended to be a coupe-bodied sports racer patterned after Chevrolet's Corvair Monza GT concept car of 1962. The eventual open cockpit Chaparral 2A, however, maintained the pointed nose and other design elements of the Monza GT.

The Chaparral's first race, at the 1963 Riverside L.A. Times Grand Prix, ended in a DNF for Jim Hall. but this was to be the beginning of one of the most successful, if short-lived, runs in American unlimited sports car history. Running in the U.S. Road Racing Championship and a series of Pacific fall races (which included races at Riverside and Laguna Seca), Jim Hall and Hap Sharp took their Chaparral 2s to an incredible 7 1sts and 7 2nds in 16 races in 1964, and 16 1sts and 9 2nds in 21 races in 1965! Among the 1965 victories was the 12 Hours of Sebring, a race that saw Jim Hall's open cockpit racer beat Carroll Shelby's coupe-bodied Cobras and GT-40s, although the skies open to flood the race track during the early evening hours.

Chaparral 2A
Hap Sharp and the Chaparral 2A at Riverside 1965

Jim Hall was known for innovation, and that innovation started to show itself in the Chaparral 2C, an upgraded version of the Chaparral 2A that included a hydraulic rear spoiler that the driver could raise in the turns and lower for less drag in the straightaways. The next evolution of Hall's racer, the Chaparral 2E made it's debut at the Can-Am race at Bridgehampton, New York in September 1966. This unique racer had a huge, high-mounted wing that, like the 2C's spoiler, was hydraulically operated to shift its angle depending on the track conditions. The Chaparral 2E and a later development versionn called the 2G had short racing careers, competing in 17 Can-Am races during 1966 through 1969. Although the car was unbeatable, it had reliability problems that resulted in many DNFs. The Chaparral 2Es and 2Gs actually only scored 2 Can-Am victories and 6 2nd place finishes.

Chaparral 2G
Jim Hall and the Chaparral 2G at Riverside 1967

Jim Hall's driving career came to an unfortunate and almost fatal end in November 1967, when his Chaparral 2G struck the back of Lothar Motschenbacher's McLaren and was catapulted into the air. The car landed on its tail and flipped over on its back, resulting in Hall suffering two badly broken legs and a dislocated jaw. Despite the end of his driving career, Jim Hall continued to create innovative open-cockpit sports cars.

The 1969 Chaparral 2H was originally designed to be a streamlined coupe, with the driver in a prone position looking through a plexiglass nose. However, John Surtees, the driver hired by Jim Hall to drive the car, convinced the team to open the cockpit for a more conventional appearance and driver position. Although the innovative design may have eventually proved successful, differences of opinion between Surtees and Hall resulted in the Chaparral 2H never living up to the team's expectations. The car's best finish was a 4th at a race in Edmonton, Canada. To appease his driver, Hall even purchased a McLaren M12 for use in the 1969 Can-Am series, but that car's best finish was a 3rd place finish at the Mosport Can-Am race.

Chaparral 2H
John Surtees and the Chaparral 2H at
Laguna Seca 1969

The last U.S. road racing Chaparral was the 2J, a boxy design that hid an innovation so potentially successful that it resulted in the car being banned. The Chaparral 2J, affectionately known as the "Sucker Car," sported a snowmobile engine attached to two fans that sucked air from the bottom of the car and pushed it out the back. This created a vacuum that held the Chaparral 2J to the track like it was on rails. Although it raced only four times, not long enough to work out some of its "bugs," the 2J gave warning to competitors that it would be unbeatable when its reliability problems were solved. Unfortunately for Jim Hall, however, the FIA, the international race sanctioning body, banned the 2J because it used "illegal moving aerodynamic devices."

Chaparral 2J
Vic Elford and the Chaparral 2J at
Laguna Seca 1970

FIA Road Racing

In 1966 and 1967, Jim Hall decided to take his successful Chaparrals to Europe to compete in the FIA World Sports Prototype Championship, going up against the world's best, including Shelby's GT-40s, Ferrari, and Porsche. The car used for the 1966 FIA season was the Chaparral 2D, a coupe version of the 2A that was very similar to Hall's original design for the Chaparral 2A. The resemblence to the Chevrolet Monza GT concept car is unmistakable. With drivers Phil Hill and Jo Bonnier, the Chaparral 2D managed a victory in the 1000 Km race at the demanding Nurburgring in Germany. The car DNF'd in three other FIA races that year.

Chaparral 2D
Phil Hill and the Chaparral 2D at Le Mans 1966

Although the 2D also competed in the first two races of the 1967 FIA season (Daytona and Sebring), the main entrant was the new Chaparral 2F, a coupe version of the high-winged 2E. Although the car was competitive, Phil Hill and Mike Spence only finished one of the eight FIA races in which it was entered. At least the last race (also the car's last race) resulted in a victory in the 500 Km. race at Brands Hatch.

Chaparral 2F
Phil Hill and the Chaparral 2F at Monza 1967

Jim Hall's Chaparrals didn't win any international championships, as Carroll Shelby's Cobras and GT-40s did. But Jim Hall and his Chaparrals dominated unlimited class sports car racing in the United States during the mid-1960s. To this day, very few race cars, of any type, have included and successfully demonstrated the aerodynamic innovations that Jim Hall built into succeeding versions of his Chaparral. The "Texas Road Runners" are truly a part of American racing history!

The Chaparrals
Jim Hall and four of his "Texas Road Runners"

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