The Chaparral 2J powered by a conventional 680hp aluminium block V8 with an unconventional, but race proven automatic transmission is one of the most fabled in all of motor racing, despite the fact that from just four starts it recorded just one sixth place finish at Road America with Vic Elford at the wheel in September 1970.
The reason the Chaparral 2J, even today, draws so much attention is that it’s only point of reference is a hover craft, unlike a hover craft, which floats on a cushion of air, the 2J’s aerodynamics are configured to suck it to the ground. All though I do not believe it was ever put to the test, it is said that the 2000lb 2J, when stationary can generate enough down force that it could, in theory, stick it’s self to the ceiling.
The first person to race the 2J in 1970 was none other than 1969 World Champion Jackie Stewart who qualified 3rd for the Watkins Glen Can Am race, but retired with brake failure. The team skipped the next couple of races and then turned up at Road America where Vic Elford qualified on pole and scored the cars only finish 6th place.
Missing a couple of more races Vic then qualified on pole at Laguna Seca where the engine broke during the warm up causing a non start. Then at Riverside Vic qualified on pole again but the key to the cars aerodynamics the 55hp two cylinder two stroke Rockwell motor broke so that the pair of fans it drove, which sucked the air out from beneath the car to improve the road handling, were no longer operative causing Vic to retire from the race.
The Chaparrals clever aerodynamics were a full six to eight years ahead of anything seen in Formula One, often considered the very apex of the engineering envelope. Unfortunately the 2J’s days were numbered thanks to a number of high profile wing failures in Formula One which had led the governing body of the sport, the FIA in Paris, banning all ‘movable aerodynamic’ devices.
It was clear despite Jim Hall’s Chaparral partner Hap Sharp insisting “If I can come up with a better mousetrap that is within the regulations, I ought to be allowed to use it”, that the fans on the back of the car were aerodynamic devices which permanently sucked the car to the ground, so long as the Rockwell motor was working, and so the concept behind the 2J was duly outlawed at the end of 1970 with it’s full potential completely unrealised.
Thanks for joining me on this “The Sucker Car” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again for Ferrari Friday tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !