1961 Chaparral 1

History

Dick Troutman and Tom Barnes worked at Kurtis Kraft where they polished their metal-smith craft and fine-tuned their engineering expertise. They were responsible for the Troutman-Barnes Mercury Special of 1952, the Reventlow Scarabs of 1957 and 1958, and the fist Chaparral of the early 1960s. They were pioneers of early American racing and helped push the classic front-engined sports racing roadsters to perhaps the height of their evolution.

Troutman and Barnes left the Reventlow operation in the fall of 1960 and went searching for a new source to back their venture. Their goal was to utilize a GM powerplant in a short wheelbase vehicle where the engine would be mounted as far back as possible, in an effort to achieve near 50-50 weight distribution. The design was basically an improved Scarab that was lower, lighter, shorter, and weighed a few hundred pounds less. The racer was to have a fully independent rear suspension, all-wheel disc brakes, and centralized fuel tanks. Barnes and Troutman called it their 'Riverside Sports Racer.'

At Riverside in November, the partners found Texas oil businessman, Jim Hall. Hall had competed in his first race in 1954 driving his brothers Austin Healey 100. This was the start of a passion that would continue to flourish throughout the years. From the Austin Healey, Hall moved into a Ferrari 750 Monza that had been driven by Carroll Shelby and Phill Hill to second overall in the 1955 Sebring 12 Hour race. Other early race cars driven by Hall included a Lister, a 2.5-liter F1 Lotus, and a Maserati 450S.
Work began on this 'all-American' race car with incremental testing done at Halls race track which he had constructed south of Midland, Texas. Troutman and Barnes's goal was to build five cars; Hall had purchased two of them, effectively giving them the budget to continue their project. Four cars would eventually be created with one being exported to Great Britain. Halls's second Chaparral 1 was slightly different from his first car; it had an enlarged chassis which provided some additional room for the very cramped cockpit. One interesting feature of this car was its chin spoiler which was rather uncommon at the time.

The first completed car had a wheelbase that measured 88-inches and a chassis constructed of 1.25-inch 4130 chrome-moly steel tubes. This 'space frame' multi-tubular structure was stiffened by a magnesium firewall and front bulkhead and by aluminum panels rived in place. The front suspension was comprised of double wishbones with coil springs and tubular shocks, plus an anti-roll bar. The brakes were cast-iron discs clamped by Girling calipers. The steering was from a Triumph Herald.

Mounted far back in the engine bay was a small-block Chevrolet V8 engine stroked by Art Oehrli of Traco to 318 cubic-inches. It produced around 300-325 horsepower and drove through an aluminum flywheel with Schiefer clutch, and a stock Corvette four-speed, aluminum-cased transmission. The transmission was located left of the driver, making for very cramped quarters. The body was made of aluminum which helped achieve a low weight of 1,479 pounds. Duplicates were advertised at $16,500.

Grateful for the financial assistance provided by Hall, Troutman and Barnes invited him to rename their Riverside Sports Racer. Hall selected 'Chaparral' after a Texas running bird.

The new Chaparral made its racing debut at the 1961 SCCA race at Laguna Seca where it was piloted by Hall. It came in second behind a Maserati 'Birdcage', though it may have come in first had it not been for a broken valve rocker.

Jim Hall's Troutman and Barnes built Chaparral's were chassis number 001 (the 88-inch car) and chassis number 003. Harry Heuer, a brewery-sponsored driver, purchased chassis number 002. Chassis 004 eventually went to Chuck Jones' TMI team. 005, without its bodywork, went to English hill climb champion, Philip Scragg.

These front-engined cars were exceptionally fast and competitive, though the mid-engine layout would soon prove to be the more capable configuration. Another Achilles heel for the cars were their inboard-mounted rear discs which were tremendously difficult to cool. In 1962, at the Sebring 12 Hour race, the first Chaparral victory was scored. The winning car was driven by sharp/Hissom to a first in class and sixth overall victory. Two more victories would be earned by the car at Road America. The Chaparral 1 car's final official race was at the 1963 Sebring 12 Hour race, where both cars entered failed to finish.


By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2009

1961 Vehicle Profiles

1961 Chaparral 1 vehicle information

Racer

Chassis Num: 003

The story of the Chaparral actually begins years before the first model would ever be created, for, in reality, the first model would be fashioned and named Scarab. But though the Chaparral legend begins with Scarab, Jiim Hall's cars would certainly ....[continue reading]

1961 Chaparral 1 vehicle information

Racer

Chassis Num: 001

Detroit was producing a new generation of lightweight, large displacement pushrod overhead valve V8 engines that soon found their way into the bellies of race cars produced by Hot Rodders, tuners, and road racers. They had proven their merit in Cadil....[continue reading]

Racer
Chassis #: 003 
Racer
Chassis #: 001 


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