Jim Hall doesn't sell his race cars. Ever.
Hall, the co-founder of Chaparral Cars, who had a hand in every single skyward-winged, sucker-fanned Space Age race car that ever blew rivals' minds, has almost never sold any car with the Chaparral roadrunner on it. The Chaparral Gallery at the Permian Basin Petroleum Muyseum, in Midland, Texas, attests to this.
As the most technically advanced cars of Can-Am's golden era, they are worth untold fortunes. Hall, at 80, doeesn't need the money. But he does know where it all began.
Chaparral 1 started it all when Hall, freshly graduaed from CalTech, asked Dick Troutman and Tom Barnes to work with him on a new generation of American sports cars. Troutman & Barnes had just come from building the , a Chevy-powered racer that could take on the world and win. The Scarab was great, but it wasn't destined for greatness: it was still heavy, a very conventional race car. Troutman, Barnes, and Hall felt like they could do better.
The result was the Chaparral, later retronamed the Chaparral 1. A tube frame, independent suspension, big Chevrolet 318 small-block, and four-wheel disc brakes. Twin fuel tanks within the rocker panels saved weight and improved its distribution. The car was small and light: weighing in at just 1,479 pounds, and 15 inches shorter than the Scarab. Hall tested the prototype at Riverside in 1961 and came within three seconds of defeating Dan Gurney's lap record. A promising start. In his next race, Hall finished 2nd overall, and would've finished first if a valve rocker hadn't failed on him.
And that's the entire theme of Chaparral, it seems: equal parts promise and mechanical misfortune. Hall in the Chaparral was no different. His engines blew in two of the next three races. Hall and partner Hap Sharp had another car built, then went to the 1962 12 Hours of Sebring: one car's steering failed but the other finished first in class. Both cars were rebuilt. They lived on to compete int the 1963 Sebring race, too, with new bodywork.
That marks three continuous seasons of racing, the longest of any Chaparral.
Somewhere after the last Sebring, the Chaparral became just another tired old race car. Hall sold it. And any of the dreamers, hustlers, and hoarders who owned the Chaparral could've realized that—with the proper hindsight—that this marked beginnings of what would become one of the most innovative teams in motorsports history, but only current owner Jack Boxstrom did. "It had no value then," . "I think once it was traded for a rusted-out Mercedes diesel and a sack of potatoes."
Hall would tweak his first race car to go faster, push the loopholes, improve on what Troutman & Barnes had given him all those years ago. That alone is why auctioneer RM Sotheby's values it at when it goes across the stage in Monterey this August. For a car that beat Ferraris and Maseratis, that is a bargain.
Images via RM Sotheby's