Among the many interesting happenings of last month was the first appearance in Europe of the Chaparral car from Texas. To those who follow American sports car racing the name will not be new and the performance of the cars driven by Jim Hall and Hap Sharp against the many V8-engined, 2-seater racing cars, thinly disguised as sports cars, will be known. In 1963 Jim Hall spent the summer in Europe as second driver in the Ken Gregory Grand Prix team, racing under the B.R.P. banner and though he did not make much of a mark as a Grand Prix driver, he obviously learnt an awful lot and gathered together a lot of knowledge about European racing and European standards. His sports cars, using Chevrolet V8 engines, were proving very successful in American racing, run to rather less strict constructional rules than European racing, but even so, those who saw the Chaparrals in action were very impressed. Built in a small factory near the town of Midland, in Texas, with most of the design work being done by Hall and Sharp, the car was named after a Texan desert bird, a scraggy creature that can run very fast, but is unable to fly, due to a mistake somewhere in its wing design; this running bird they used as their emblem.
As would seem to be the case with most people in Texas, Hall is not short of dollars, but unlike some Americans he is shrewd as to how he uses his money. Certainly he didn’t skimp anything in the design and construction of the cars, and he was prepared to spend a lot of money on experimenting for the Chaparrals were in the nature of his hobby, though as many people have found, it was a full-time hobby. Their greatest moment came in 1964 when the organisers of the Sebring 12-hour race permitted the entry of sports cars among the Prototypes, in defiance of F.I.A. rules, and the Chaparral not only entered, but ran away with the race, driven by Hall and Sharp, in spite of gloomy prognostications that a “one-off” special could not possibly last 12 hours. The Chaparral had certainly started life as a “oneoff” special in 1961, when the Trautmann and Barnes speed shop in California built a front-engine car for Hall, but he doesn’t consider the true Chaparral was born until he built the Mark 2 himself, in 1962/3, or rather Sharp and two mechanics built it, while Hall was driving Formula 1 in Europe. The Chaparral 2 was a mid-engined 2-seater, the 5.3-litre Chevrolet V8 being mounted behind the cockpit, and the chassis was a monocoque-cum-pontoon structure made of fibre-glass, while a Colotti gearbox was used. A further development of this model was equipped with a 2-speed clutch-less gearbox and torque-converter and this was followed by a car with an aluminium chassis in place of the fibre-glass construction.
For 1966 the Chaparral 2D was designed around the European regulations for Prototypes, all previous models being to American sports car regulations, and the Hall/Sharp combine proposed to campaign the car in the European classics as well as in the Daytona 24-Hour Race and the Sebring 12-Hour Race. The 2D reverted to the fibre-glass chassis construction, a difficult and heavy method compared with sheet aluminium, but preferred for its durability and non-fatiguing properties. Suspension follows orthodox Grand Prix pattern at the rear and “early” Grand Prix at the front, with double-wishbones and interspersed coil spring/damper units, and the body is a coups with gull-wing doors. The Chaparral wheels are an interesting new development of an old idea, for they are on the split rim principle, the wheel being in two parts, held together by a ring of eight bolts. The inner part of the rim is integral with the hub and joined by complex webbing, the whole thing being a magnesium-alloy casting. The tyre and tube, of Firestone manufacture, are then slid over the wheel and the outer part is then pushed into place and the eight bolts fitted through the joining rib. The inner portion of the wheel is the same for front and rear, but depending on the tyre section used, alternative outer portions can be fitted giving varying rim widths. There is no “well” in the rim, merely a very slight taper inwards to let the tyre slide on easily. The 5.3-litre Chevrolet V8 engine breathes through downdraught Weber carburetters and the separate exhaust systems from each bank of cylinders are joined by a large-diameter balance pipe. On top of the roof is a large scoop deflecting air down into the carburetters and the tail of the body turns up into an adjustable spoiler. On the 2C the tail-spoiler was fully adjustable from the cockpit, but this idea has been shelved. The Chaparral 2-speed automatic transmission is used and the Texan team view all similarity in their design-thinking processes with anything done by General Motors in Detroit as pure coincidence! However, it is accepted that the V8 engine of 102 X 83 mm. (5,360 c.c.) is Chevrolet and is derived from the Corvette “Gran Sport,” while it cannot be denied that the shape of the front of the body bears a striking resemblance to the “Mako Shark”,the latest G.M. dream car, especially the way the spot-lamps are blended into the nose of the car.
Various troubles at Daytona and Sebring set the Chaparral team back so that they were unable to attend the Le Mans practice week-end or take part in the Targa Florio, but a lone car was entered for the Nurburgring 1,000-kilometre race with the result we all know. The entourage that arrived at Nurburgring was unlike anything previously seen from America, completely lacking in publicity and bally-hoo or any “fanfare of trumpets.” Any American will tell you a Texan joke in which Texas and Texans appear bigger and better than anything else and bragging is second nature, albeit backed up by action. The Chaparral people seem to be going out of their way to avoid this “public image” of Texas and the 2D arrived in Germany in a closed trailer towed by an unostentatious pick-up truck, Chevrolet, of course, and the only clue to the contents was the licence plate which was issued in “Midland, Texas.” Hap Sharp was in charge of the team, with his wife looking after the stop-watches and lap-scoring, and they had three mechanics with them. They did not appear to have left much time for adjusting the car to the special circumstances of the Nurburgring, and their drivers Phil Hill and Bonnier were a bit sceptical, feeling they should have spent a week prior to the race on track testing, but Sharp merely told them that they had “figured things out, back home”. Considering that Phil Hill did a practice lap only a few seconds slower than the works Ferrari, that there were no problems with tyres cutting into wheel-arches, or suspensions bottoming, or sump grounding problems as most people experience on their first visit to the Nurburgring, it would seem that the Chaparral chaps had “figured things out” pretty well, and more important, nothing broke during the race like it did on the works Ferrari.
No one can doubt that the Honda firm can make good racing engines and anyone in Formula 2 racing will vouch for the power output from the 1-litre engines used by Brabharn and Hulme. It is estimated that these 4-cylinder engines are giving 150 b.h.p., which is 150 b.h.p. per litre. The best F2 Cosworth single o.h.c. engine, with fuel-injection, is said to give 138 b.h.p. and even if the Honda has only 10 b.h.p. more, it is still a very good b.h.p./litre figure. At the end of the 1 1/2-litre Grand Prix Formula B.R.M. and Coventry-Climax were getting figures of 140 b.h.p./litre, and the V12 Honda must have been improving on this so that for any modern racing engine a target of 150 b.h.p./Iitre was not unreasonable. Now Honda have produced a new 500-cc. motorcycle racing engine, an air-cooled 4-cylinder, which Mike Hailvvood is riding, which is claimed to give 90 b.h.p. or 180 b.h.p./litre. This sounds to be a remarkable improvement over any known racing engine and always being doubtful about claimed horse-power, I would be willing to acknowledge a figure of 160 b.h.p./litre, which would mean 80 b.h.p. in the 500-cc. motorcycle. However, the ease with which Hailwood rode away from the 4-cylinder M.V. Augusta, which is known to have 72 b.h.p., and is a design that dates back more than 10 years, would indicate that 80 b.h.p. in the Honda is a conservative figure. People connected with Honda have said that even if the new 500-c.c. racing motorcycle does not have 90 b.h.p., it has a lot more than 80 b.h.p., which, by any standards, makes it the real motorcycle!
The next question is, what will their 3-litre Formula 1 engine produce? Certainly not six times the output of the 1-litre engine, for engine design is not as simple as that, but five times as much power is a possibility, so that depending on what you believe for the 500-c.c. motorcycle engine the 3-litre should produce 400-440 b.h.p. The next question is, at what r.p.m. range, for all Honda engines have been noted for high r.p.m. with a very narrow band of power. Many people think the torque-curve is more important than the power-curve, which is true up to a point, and scorn was poured on the F2 Honda engine because it ran at 10,000 r.p.m., with nothing much happening below 8,500 r.p.m. It was thought that this limited power range would handicap the Brabhams at Pau, where the circuit has four tight hairpin bends, but if it did it was not noticeable, for they still ran away from the opposition.
Honda are beginning to make noises about appearing in Grand Prix racing before the European season ends, which is most encouraging, but there hasn’t been any sign of Ginther being recalled to Japan. The day he misses a Grand Prix with the Cooper team we can take as a prelude to the re-entry of Honda into Grand Prix racing, for as soon as the new car is ready we can be sure that they will snatch Ginther back for test driving, and it then should not be long before the car appears in a race. My guess is still the Italian Grand Prix at Monza at the earliest, for it would certainly be the most suitable for trying out a new car. Before that would mean the German Grand Prix at Nurburgring, but that would involve too many side-issues that would not give a brand new car much of a chance.
There is a move afoot in the south of France, in the area of the Gard, to promote a Targa Florio type of event over a long mountain course. Already plans are well advanced and it is hoped to hold a preliminary event in 1967. The Sicilian Targa Florio is the oldest and best established of the rugged mountain road races, and last year the energetic Automobile Club in Florence re-constituted the splendid “Circuit of Mugello” over the Appenines, north of the famous city. For a long while now a lot of people have been campaining to revive the R.A.C. Tourist Trophy, a once classic event held over the motorcycle T.T. circuit in the Isle of Man. Anyone who has been to the bike races “on the Island” knows just how enthusiastic the Manx Government and the Manx people are and the Tourist Trophy of the Royal Automobile Club could easily become once more a classic and an event of which we could be proud. John Surtees lends his voice to this I.O.M. project at every opportunity, in public speeches and written articles, and nobody is pushing it harder than the Hon. Gerald Lascelles, President of the B.R.D.C.
The I.O.M. does not suffer from any archaic laws preventing the closing of the roads for motor-racing and if the motor car T.T. could he organised on the mountain circuit, it would stand alongside the Targa Florio, the Circuit of Mugello, and the proposed Circuit of the Gard as one of the toughest events for car and driver. It would seem at the moment that only the dead-hand of the R.A.C. itself stands in the way of this project and they are unlikely to allow a B.R.D.C. Tourist Trophy to be held, the R.A.C. having owned the title since 1905.-D.S.J.