Jim Hall and his race team, Chaparral Cars, changed the racing world forever.
Hall, a native of Midland, Texas, was the first man to ever stick a tall wing onto the rear of a race car with the purpose of creating more downforce. Looking to gain an edge in the increasingly competitive Can-Am Series, Hall installed a large rear wing on his new Chaparral 2E for the 1966 season. He affixed the wing high up in the air, out of the turbulent air down below, atop two posts that were attached to the 2E’s rear suspension assembly. The wing would push the posts, and thus the tires, downward as the car travelled along, working like an upside down aircraft wing.
The 2E introduced a number of other radical concepts as well. Hall added a third pedal to the cockpit of the car that tilted the rear wing when you depressed it so it was flat. This allowed him to straighten the wing out to reduce the car’s aerodynamic drag down the straights and release it down through the corners.
Knowing the addition of another pedal would give the driver too much to do with a traditional manual transmission, Hall thought of a solution. Working with GM on the Corvair, Hall had developed a unique transaxle that paired a torque converter with a manual transmission, removing the clutch. He still had three pedals, one for the gas, one for the brake, and one for the wing, but this allowed the driver to focus solely on modulating the rear wing with his left leg.
Hall also designed a wide, flat ducted nose with an integrated duct for the 2E. The duct sat open when the front wing was down, but automatically closed when the wing straightened, balancing the aerodynamic flow over the car.
Accidents involving tall aerodynamic parts and moving parts like this eventually caused them to become outlawed in racing, but Hall’s original concept of aerodynamics still shapes the sport today.
One of the 2E’s only weakness was its all-aluminum Chevrolet 5.3-liter V8. While light and compact, it was no match for the larger V8s other teams were running and the 2E lost any time it gained through the corners down the straights. Reliability was also an issue.
We could go on forever about Hall and his wild and whacky array of racing cars, but we’ll let the car do the talking. If you want more info on the 2E, you can start by checking out the video embedded above of it taking on the hillclimb course at the Goodwood Festival of Speed – you won’t regret it.