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History 11

Phil Hill and the Chaparral 2F

From your responses to last week’s blog about Jim HalI at the Nürburgring, it’s clear that many of you were taken by the Chaparral 2F long-distance sports/racer from 1967. Phil Hill and Mike Spence drove the winged 2F in that year’s International Championship for Makes and it was often the car to beat. Spence turned the fastest lap at Sebring, and Hill was on pole and set fastest lap in the Nürburgring 1000Kms.

racing history  Phil Hill and the Chaparral 2F

But time and again the main drive-bearing in the 2F’s automatic transmission failed to go the distance, until the Brands Hatch (above) season-closer where Hill and Spence came through to beat Jackie Stewart/Chris Amon’s Ferrari 330P4 and Jo Siffert/Bruce McLaren’s Porsche 910. The CSI rewrote the rules for sports car racing that winter, mandating a 5-litre engine limit and effectively driving away the Ford and Chaparral teams. Hall and his partner Hap Sharp were ready to go in 1968 but the new rules brought an abrupt end to the Chaparral team’s European foray.

racing history  Phil Hill and the Chaparral 2F

Nor did Hill race again after his Brands Hatch win with Spence. The 1961 World Champion’s Formula 1 career effectively came to an end in 1964 after a year with Cooper. He didn’t run any F1 races in ‘65 and started three GPs, each for different teams, in ‘66. Phil’s primary effort that year went into driving the Chaparral 2D in long-distance sports car racing and the 2E in Can-Am. He and Jim Hall were Can-Am team-mates in ‘66 when Phil (below) scored the Chaparral team’s only victory at Laguna Seca, heading a one-two sweep.

racing history  Phil Hill and the Chaparral 2F

“Phil was a great guy with a lot of talent and really fun to work with because he understood a lot of what was going on,” says Hall. “I think he was probably as good as anybody at making the car finish. He’d put many cars together himself and knew how everything was made and how to take care of it. He was a great endurance driver for other reasons, but for that reason too.

“When we got near the Can-Am season in 1966 we decided we’d offer Phil a drive. He was a great guy to have on your team – he pulled for you and worked for you. And in the endurance races he was our man. I think Phil enjoyed driving for us, we just had a good relationship.”

racing history  Phil Hill and the Chaparral 2F

Hall also had great respect for Spence (above with Jim Clark and Colin Chapman), who was killed at Indianapolis in May 1968. “I really thought a lot of Mike,” he says. “He was an awfully talented driver, very quick and a smart guy who worked hard. He was a good fit for Chaparral too. It takes the right kind of person to be on your team who fits in with your people and how they work, and Mike fitted us well and was a joy to work with.”

As epic a period as the ’60s was technically and aesthetically it was also, as we all know, a deadly time.

Add your comments

11 comments on Phil Hill and the Chaparral 2F

  1. Chris Kadwill, 25 January 2011 20:18

    I have been an avid sports and Can-Am fan since 1967. Indeed I have the first copy I ever bought of MS – Datona 24 hrs. Chaparral were always exceptional, advanced technically and stunning to the eye. Inovation was a term not often used in ’67 but boy they had it in abundance! Great cars, where man and machine truly were pushing boundries.

  2. Marty Davis, 26 January 2011 18:14

    One of the great motorsports mysteries to me is how Chaparral came up with the look of the 2F in 1967.

    Such a leap forward from it’s older brother the 2E; the 2E, gorgeous as it is, is still so clearly a car of the Lola T-70 generation.

    The slab-sided shape was such a departure; were they simply following the Ford J-car lead? Had they even seen the J-car? Everything is done so much better on the 2F than on the J’s and subsequent Mk. IV’s, (which retained a more old-fashioned approach in both overall shape and detailing).

    Later aero research validated the basic 2F shape (on the whole) again and again over the next 30 years. I grew up in the 956/962 era, and I’m always surprised by how modern the 2F still looks; allowing for differences in ride height and tire/wheel size (and that magnificent, primitive wing), a 2F wouldn’t have looked at all out of place on an IMSA grid of the 80′s, (and a darn sight prettier than today’s Daytona protoypes).

    Jim Hall and co. did all this ’66-’67–without using a computer or a proper wind tunnel?!

    (…or didn’t they? We still await that Jim Hall/Chevy tell-all book….)

    Wouldn’t an article dissecting the aero-styling leap that occurred between 2E and 2F be interesting in the pages of Motor Sport?

  3. John Procajlo, 26 January 2011 19:28

    I have following racing from the early 60′s and to br honest the Chaparral in any guise were the most advance car on the track even the 2H. They have been for me the best car even if my son favours the present day Audi’s. An article on the Chaparral will always be enjoyed, maybe lunch with Jim Hall one the best driver engineers

  4. Kevin Woeller, 26 January 2011 20:50

    The Chaparral series of closed-coupe racing cars is one of the reasons I prefer sports car endurance racing over F-1! There is something about the concept of a “all-weather fighter” race car ! ( 3 a.m., rain, etc.!)
    We do need a Jim Hall / Chevrolet book on the research & development of the Chaparral series of sports cars!

  5. Elusive American F1 Fan, 27 January 2011 12:58

    I’ve found “Chapparal”, by Richard Falconer & Doug Nye, a very enjoyable read. ISBN 0-87938-607-X.

  6. Ray T, 27 January 2011 20:17

    Marty, a computer in 1967 was the size of a warehouse and could barely sum up a grocery bill. Wind tunnels were little threads taped all over the car, or “wiggle the steering wheel to know if you’re airborn”.

  7. Trevor, 29 January 2011 02:03

    Re: Marty Davis’ comment regarding the difference between the 2E and the 2F……..are you sure you don’t mean the 2D and the 2F?

    I can see far greater differences between these two (or even the 2D and 2E) than I can between the E and F versions.
    To my eyes (and from what I’ve read), the 2F is a coupe version – albeit with aerodynamic improvements in body shape – of its immediate predecessor.
    Pete Lyons’ new book is worth adding to your library if you are a Chaparral fan.

  8. Marty Davis, 29 January 2011 03:28

    E.A. F1 Fan–thanks for the suggestion–I love that book…but I want full-on conspiracy theories!

    I want to hear how John Z. and Zora A.D. flew Jim Hall to GM HQ to crunch Cd numbers on their warehouse-sized computer!

  9. Trevor, 31 January 2011 20:18

    Ray, if they were the size of a warehouse then Apollo 11 (and all the other capsules) would never have got off the ground! :)

  10. John Magriplis, 20 October 2012 12:01

    Would like to know if a Chapparral 2f ever ran at a Lemans race

  11. Peter Jones, 14 June 2013 22:28

    I always liked the Chevrolet Chaparral 2F driven by Mike Spence and Phil Hill a great American Prototype Racing sportscar they drove the car at the Nurburgring and Le Mans in 1967.

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