“Initially, we didn’t have adequate brakes
on it, and we had some skirt issues. The
skirts were actually a system where they
were tied into the suspension travel with
great big push-pull cables. When the
suspension moved and the chassis went
up and down, the skirts went up and down
too, meaning they maintained a more or
less constant gap to the pavement to
maintain the vacuum. That didn’t work
100 percent, but it worked pretty good.
Overall, the car just wasn’t ready.”
The team found workable solutions for
the brake and skirt issues and seemed on
the verge of a breakthrough, only for a more
common racing malady to rear its head.
time. There was so much stuff on the car –
so many things to take off, put back on
and reset – that it just wasn’t possible. I
guess that was another problem...”
Camaraderie was part of racing back
then, evidenced by the unexpected help
from Chaparral’s main rivals to assist with
the attempted Laguna Seca engine change.
“The McLaren crew, Tyler Alexander
and his guys, were in good shape,” recalls
Hall, “so he and at least one of their other
good mechanics came down and worked
like hell with us to try to get it together.
“And Bruce [McLaren] and I were good
friends. We’d race hammer and tongs,
then go out and have dinner and critique
each other’s car! You’d say stuff like, ‘Well,
“The real blow to us was when we had it
going the best, [the penultimate round] at
Monterey, and the big old Chevy blew up in
the warm-up,” says Hall. “Then we realized
that we couldn’t get it changed by race
Chaparral 2J was protested by its Can-Am rivals
on the grounds of safety – they said its fans sucked
up and threw stones at the cars behind – and for
running “movable aerodynamic devices.” Jim Hall
argued with the former, saying it didn’t have enough
suction power to suck up stones of any serious size,
and the latter, noting that “aerodynamics” implies
devices that work as the car moves relative to the air.
The beauty of 2J, he pointed out, was that it made
downforce even when stationary – lots of it – and
aerodynamics didn’t come into it. It was still banned...
A MATTER OF INTERPRETATION?
A HURRIED DEBUT
MORE THAN JUST A GAP
As raw as the Chaparral 2J still was, Vic
Elford put it on pole at the Riverside finale
by 2.2sec over Denny Hulme’s McLaren
M8D. For Can-Am king McLaren, this wasn’t
just a gap – it was future loss of earnings...
Rushed into its Watkins Glen debut, the 2J raced by
Jackie Stewart was yet to be fitted with “the Martian
brassiere” covering the fan pulleys at the rear.