1961 Chaparral 1

There’s something romantic about cars that signify the end of an era, the last and greatest of their kind, yet doomed by the coming revolution

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The year was 1961. Jim Hall was an ambitious young man from Midland, TX, who had done well in oil and was determined to do even better in pro racing. He had already waded deeply into the waters of going very fast in very powerful cars, racing a 5.7-liter Maserati and a supercharged Lister-Chevrolet. Hall was not bashful about using massive horsepower to get to the front.
He had watched Lance Reventlow’s beautiful and powerful front-engined Scarabs, built by brilliant Southern California craftsmen Dick Troutman and Tom Barnes, dominate racing. Hall saw it was not enough to have talent and drive the wheels off a car, but the successful racer must have technology to give him an “unfair advantage.” So in a November 1960 meeting at Riverside Raceway, he discussed the idea for a new sports racing car with Troutman and Barnes. A short time later, Hall agreed to underwrite the project and his new partners were commissioned to design a prototype.
Just as the P-51 Mustang was “fast” one minute before the revolutionary Messerschmitt 262 jet (which was 100 mph faster) appeared, the Chaparral debuted just as the 2.5-liter Cooper Monacos and Lotus 19s were proving rear-engined cars lighter, more agile, and faster. But in American racing, the inevitability of rear engine (more properly mid-engined) design was not yet confirmed. Big-bore, front-engined cars remained dominant, rather than the desperately fragile, small-bore European sports racers.
In the golden age of front-engine sports racers, the Chaparral 1 stands as the highest achievement. The Chaparral 1 on offer here, with chassis 003, was one of two team cars, that together with 001, were campaigned by Hall and his partner Hap Sharp. It is currently owned by Skip Barber, one of just five produced. It was restored in the 1990s, with much technical and historical research carried out, which is reflected in the finished product. Selected suspension and other parts were refabricated to return this Chaparral to its original specifications and condition; all of these replaced components were retained and will accompany the sale.

Thor Thorson

Thor Thorson - SCM Contributing Editor

Thor grew up in northern Iowa. His father bought a red Jag XK 150 in the late 1950s, and that was all it took; he has been in love with sports cars , racing cars and the associated adrenaline rush ever since. He has vintage raced for more than 20 years, the bulk of them spent behind the wheel of a blue Elva 7. When he’s not racing, he is president of Vintage Racing Motors Inc., a collector-car dealer and vintage-racing support company based in Redmond, WA. His knowledge runs the full spectrum of vintage racing, and he has put that expertise to good use for SCM since 2003.

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