|Chaparral 2F Chevrolet|
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While still campaigning their front engined Chaparral racers, Jim Hall and Hap Sharp were already designing a replacement. Unlike their first racing car the new project would be in-house design constructed in their own workshop at the Rattlesnake race track in Texas. Early on in the project it became clear that a mid-engined layout was a necessity to keep up with the European competition. Hall's vast experience of racing a wide variety of racers gave him a very useful insight into chassis construction. He combined this knowledge to design a cutting edge racer.
Much of the development work on the first Chaparral consisted of further strengthening the spaceframe chassis with cross braces to cope with the additional power. It was quite possible to design a strong frame from the ground up, but it would be overly complex making quick repairs the chassis or engine nearly impossible. A monocoque chassis would be more suitable, but no one had tried to construct a mid-engined car with this layout before. Successfully applied in racers like the Jaguar D-Type, the monocoque consisted of sheet metal boxes riveted together.
For the construction of the chassis Hall and Sharp called in the help of former airplane engineer Andy Green. In exchange for his help, Hall would finance Green's racing sailboat business. His vast experience with composites experience was vital as Hall had picked fiberglass as the material to conceive the chassis from. Except for Colin Chapman and his lightweight Lotus Elite, no one had been brave enough to use 'plastic' as the main chassis material. Hall believed that a fiberglass structure would be easier to construct, repair and adapt than a similar aluminium monocoque and would also be strong enough to cope with powerful engines.
While Hall and Green were busy designing and building the first mid-engined monocoque sports car, Chapman debuted the monocoque Lotus 25 Formula 1 racer, which used aluminium for the chassis and fiberglass for the body. Development at the Rattlesnake workshop went slowly because of Hall's busy Formula 1 schedule, but the first car was ready for the final races of the 1963 season. Inspired by Chevrolet's Monza GT concept car of 1962, Hall first designed a closed body for the '2', as the car was known. For various reasons that design was discarded and replaced by a simpler Roadster body.
Although the chassis was highly advanced, Hall gathered well proven parts to bolt onto it. A straightforward double wishbone suspension was picked for the front suspension, and at the rear each corner consisted of trailing arms, a single top link and a reverse lower wishbone. Girling discs were fitted all around and provided for plenty of stopping power. The Chevrolet V8 was carried over from the front-engined Chaparrals, but equipped with four Weber Carburetors and higher compression heads. A Colotti four speed gearbox was chosen, which already had proven its worth in the mid-engined Lotus and Cooper racers.
Just a few months after the first monocoque single seater, the racing world welcomed the first mid-engined monocoque sportscar; great minds really seem to think alike. Barely completed the Chaparral 2 debuted at the Riverside Grand Prix in October. Hall immediately impressed by claiming pole position, but in the race the lack of development and an electrical fire saw him retire from the lead after only four laps. There were two more outings for Chaparral that season with a third place finish as the best result. Hall retired from Formula 1 and completely focused on developing the Chaparral 2 into a race winner.
Over the winter the ties with General Motors were further strengthened and Hall received back door support in exchange for assisting the manufacturer's development team. Impressed by its early performance GM's personnel investigated the Chaparral 2 in detail and decided to build a specimen of their own, but using aluminium instead. It was described as an experimental vehicle, not to break the non-racing agreement of 1957, but it was an obvious answer to Ford's GT40 program, which effectively ended the agreement. The resulting 'Corvette GSIIb' was very light, but by far not as rigid as the similar composite Chaparral. One of the features Hall later adapted for the Chaparrals was the two speed automatic gearbox fitted on the GSIIb.
In March Chaparral commenced their 1964 racing program with two works racers. The most obvious changes were the smoothed out bodywork and the re-routed exhaust system, which now consisted of eight stacks pointed upwards through the rear bodywork. After a second place finish in the season's first race, Hall scored the 2's maiden victory in the next. This was a start of an impressive run in American road races, piling victory upon victory. While Hall recovered from a broken arm, Roger Penske added two victories to the team's tally in the important FIA sanctioned fall races at Laguna Seca and in the Nassau Speed Week.
Hall and Sharp kicked off the 1965 season with a stunning win in the prestigious Sebring 12 Hours. Against America's and Europe's finest the further developed Chaparral took the pole position, fastest lap and overall victory leaving the Fords and Ferraris to bite their dust. It was the start of a second highly successful season in the continent's USRRC and FIA mandated races. In October a more conventional aluminium chassis was debuted in the 2C (the B suffix was skipped to prevent the 2C being confused with GM's GSIIb), which in familiar fashion took the fastest lap and victory at the season opener.
For 1966 the UssRC was replaced by the all new Can-Am Challenge series, which attracted a lot more European attention. For the FIA mandated races Chaparral developed the fiberglass 2A into the fixed-head 2D, which scored the company's first European victory in the Nürburgring 1000 km race. The aluminium 2C chassis was used as a basis for the open 2E Can-Am racer. Jim Hall continued to push the boundaries with aerodynamical revolutions, but stronger competition and stricter regulations prevented the Chaparral team to ever match the stunning 1964 and 1965 seasons.
Following hot on the heels of Ford, Chaparral equipped their 1967 endurance racer with a big block V8. The much more interesting feature of this 2F was the very high, rear suspension mounted aerofoil wing of which the pitch could be controlled by the driver's left foot. On the straights the driver had to push down a pedal, which leveled the wing to minimize drag and during braking and cornering the wing was pitched up slowing the car down and creating massive amounts of downforce. High speed stability was further increased by spring loaded trap door in the nose, that would open at speeds over 140 mph.
The revolutionary machine proved fast out of the box and opened Europe's eyes to the benifits of downforce creating aerodynamics. Soon after all the F1 teams started experimenting with a variety of suspension mounted wings. Sadly the gearbox was the car's weakest link, frequently causing the two cars to retire from a promising position. The 2F recorded four fastest laps and one pole position before going into the final round of the European season at Brands Hatch. It finally came together in that BOAC 500 race as Phil Hill and Mike Spence recorded the 2F's only finish and more importantly only win.
Featured is the only surviving 2F, which is still owned by Jim Hall. It is seen above during the 2005 Monterey Historic Races where Chaparral was the featured marque as well as at the 2006 Goodwood Revival where Phil Hill's impressive career was celebrated.
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