The Wing Car

Chaparral, Jim Hall. Mosport, Phil Hill

In the mid-1960s Jim Hall redefined Group 7 racing with his Chaparral 2E with its driver-adjustable wing. The 2E was a further development of the prior year’s 2C with rear-mounted radiators and the huge wing which acted directly on the rear suspension uprights. The wing produced substantial downforce and a pedal in the cockpit allowed the driver to adjust the wing position to minimize downforce on the straights and increase it for cornering. In order to avoid a collection of pedals for the driver to operate, the 2E used a General Motors-designed transaxle which used a torque converter instead of a manual transmission.

This is Phil Hill in one of the two 2Es at Mosport during the Canadian Grand Prix on September 24, 1966 where Hill finished second behind Mark Donohue in Roger Penske’s Lola T70. The other 2E, driven by Jm Hall, retired with engine failure early in the race. This race was the third round of the 1966 CanAm series. The overall series winner was John Surtees with the two Chaparrals fourth and fifth with one series victory to Surtees’ three.

In the years that followed Jim Hall and his Chaparrals continued to introduce innovative design ideas – some so innovative that they were quickly banned after fearful competitors objected.

Jim Hall says that the 2E was his favorite Chaparral. It probably influenced future racing design more than any other car.

Photo by Jack Whorword ©The Klemantaski Collection – www. klemcoll.com

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6 comments

  1. Jim Sitz · · Reply

    30 years later, Road & Track had Phil Hill write feature on his first outing
    in the car, That would have been Bridgehampton, and when Phil reviewed
    his own lap times he would not believe he has broke the old lap record by
    such a large margin–almost 6 seconds,,!

    He phoned me to tell me it was my job to research if the track itself
    had been “improved” or modified in its layout, That was not so hard
    since my friend Earl Gandel was involved with the tracks operation at
    the time.
    Earl laughed and commented –” Hell, we could not afford anything like
    that–just managed to keep it in operation..”

    I then reminded Hill how 1966 had drivers from Europe to
    up the level of competition also, But in retrospect, Phil had
    not driven there since 1957 for the inaugural event in Ferrari Monza,
    Quite a change from 3 liter Ferrari with “vintage” flavor to high
    tech car from the shop of Jim Hall. He obviously had no problem
    dealing with faster cars, Actually replied it was one of best cars
    he has driven in his career.

    I just sat at my desk viewing the lake and marveled at how far he
    had come from an M.G. TC with 52 HP in 1949 in local speed
    events to the Chaparral and Le Mans, Nurburgring and Can Am.!

    Jim Sitz

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  2. Jack Brewer · · Reply

    Thanks for that anecdote, Jim. I’m a little surprised to learn that the GM automatic was used in order to simplify the driver’s job. This is the first I’ve read of that. I had always assumed that there must have been a performance advantage, as well as Hall’s legendary reputation for (sometimes startling) innovation. Was the transmission fully automatic or did the driver make clutchless shifts?

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  3. If memory serves, I think the “automatic” was a two-speed. With all that power, one did not need much more.

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  4. Jack Brewer · · Reply

    Thank you, Peter. I just looked up the entry for that race. It truly was a golden age…..

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  5. It’s wonderful to have these stories of Phil Hill in those racing years, and of Jim Hall, and all the others of that era, of those generations. Now Hill’s son Derek and his wife Courtney have announced on Facebook today that their baby is due by the end of this year. What joy there is in the Hill family, and what a grand legacy left by the expected one’s grandfather!

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  6. Jack Brewer · · Reply

    Congratulations to Derek and Courtney…..and just when the book’s coming out (we hope!).

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