General Motors Co. announced today it will debut the Chevrolet Chaparral 2X VGT concept race car — inspired by Chaparral Cars, the legendary racing team Jim Hall and Hap Sharp founded in 1962 — at the Los Angeles Auto Show next week.
“Jim Hall and Chaparral blended the art of racing with science in an unprecedented way, changing the sport forever and inspiring a new generation to experiment with aerodynamics and unconventional materials,” says Mark Reuss, GM’s executive vice president of global product development, purchasing, and supply chain. “His race cars were four-wheeled physics projects that proved innovation — and a strong Chevy race engine — could drive you to the winner’s circle.”
While GM announced no definitive plans for bringing the concept car to market, the racer does “serve as an example of what our designers are capable of when they are cut loose, no holds barred,” says Ed Welburn Jr., GM’s vice president of global design. “A fantasy car in every sense of the word.”
The first Chaparral, a conventional, front-engine racecar, was built by Dick Troutman and Tom Barnes in 1961. A year later, Jim Hall and Hap Sharp, who purchased one of the original Chaparral racers, formed Chaparral Cars and immediately began the design and construction of Chaparral 2, a mid-engine car with an aerospace-inspired semi-monocoque fiberglass chassis.
In time, Chaparral Cars partnered with Chevrolet Research and Development to help develop the pioneering methods and materials Hall envisioned, including lightweight-alloy powertrain systems, automatic transmissions for racing, and progressive, active aerodynamics. The partnership also spawned groundbreaking vehicle data acquisition technology.
Hall’s pursuit of handling-enhancing downforce, which allowed a race car to enter and exit corners faster, while ensuring high-speed stability on the straights, reached its zenith in 1970 with the introduction of the Chaparral 2J. In addition to a big-block V-8 engine, it featured a separate motor to drive a pair of fans that exhausted air beneath the car, essentially producing suction-derived downforce.
The Chaparral 2J’s unconventional, fan-driven downforce system was as effective as it was controversial. In four races it grabbed three pole positions before the race series’ sanctioning body banned it.
Hall and Chaparral continued racing throughout the 1970s. The Chaparral 2, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2H, 2J, and 2K are displayed in the Chaparral Gallery of the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas.
The Chevrolet concept car, developed for the Vision Gran Turismo project, also celebrates the 15th anniversary of the PlayStation racing game, Gran Turismo. As part of the project, gamers will be able to race a virtual Chaparral 2X VGT following the release of an online update for Gran Turismo 6 during the holiday season.