Chaparral Model 2J: A car ahead of its time

It was created for the Can-Am and stood out for having two fans at the rear with which it achieved a ground effect. He was banned, but his concept was successfully tested in F.1 several years later.


The regulatory freedoms proposed by the category Can-Am (Canadian-American Challenge Cup) caused that at its peak, during the early years of the 1970s, all kinds of vehicles appeared. One of the most emblematic was the Chaparral Model 2J, which had solutions ahead of its time.

Living up to its name, the swift chaparral bird which is also known as Road Runner, the cars conceived by Chaparral Cars were characterized by being very fast thanks to their unusual aerodynamic developments.

Chaparral Model 2J
The Chaparral Model 2J in detail.

The company founded in 1962 by Jim Hall y James Sharp it had gained a lot of prestige thanks to the quality and performance of its cars, which always had a device that surprised its rivals. That happened when the team appeared on the third date of the 1970 tournament on the circuit Watkins glen.

The car looked like a shoe box. It had neither large ailerons nor mobile flaps, attachments that Chaparral had already used in its previous models and that had been banned by the International Automobile Federation when considering them moving aerodynamic parts.

Everyone wondered how that unique car was going to produce the ground effect necessary to go thoroughly throughout the circuit. The secret was in the back where there were two M109 Howitzer fans 17-inch engines powered by a 45 hp snowmobile engine that were capable of to suck more than 273 cubic meters of air per minute at 6.000 revolutions.

Chaparral Model 2J
The Chaparral Model 2J debuted with Jackie Stewart behind the wheel.

The purpose of the fans was to “suck” the air from under the car to achieve greater grip and better maneuverability at any speed.. To contain the suction, some plastic skirts at the bottom of the vehicle.

This system, which allowed the car to descend five centimeters from 65 km / h, was perfectly coupled with the rest of the mechanics composed of a 700 hp Chevrolet aluminum engine and a three-speed semi-automatic transmission.

The weekend of its premiere, the Model 2J not only astonished for its characteristics, but also for its pilot: the Scotsman Jackie stewart, who by then had won the first of his three titles in the F1 (1969, 1971 and 1973).

Chaparral Model 2J
Detail of the huge fans.

Stewart put the new Chaparral model in third place on the grid, although in the competition he dropped out due to a brake problem.

After the debut, the 2J was absent during several dates and only appeared in the last two, in Laguna Seca and Riverside, with Vic elford behind the wheel. The Englishman scored pole in both, but mechanical failures prevented him from crossing the finish line.

At the end of the year, the FIA ​​lowered its thumb to that Chaparral after receiving a complaint of Bruce mclaren, which indicated that the fans were moving aerodynamic parts.

Brabham BT46B
The Brabham BT46B debuted and won in Formula 1. It was then banned.

In Chaparral Cars they did not put much objection in the matter when they considered that the car was so fast, as dangerous and thus it was that, from one day to the next, the 2J was in disuse.

However, the concept put into practice by Chaparral Cars remained alive. In 1978, for example, Brabham proved its effectiveness with the Brabham BT46B. The vehicle, which had a fan behind it, debuted and won with the Austrian Niki Lauda in the Swedish GP, although it was banned in the following race for the same reason that the 2J's thumb had been lowered in the Can-Am.

T50
Gordon Murray's T.50 also uses the fan as an aerodynamic element.

But the possibilities of this system always remained in the mind of the South African engineer Gordon Murray, designer of that F.1. This was demonstrated with his sports car T.50, which was introduced in 2020 and which uses a fan to increase its aerodynamic efficiency. Being a super sports car for the street you can use it without problems ... At least for now.

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Automundo

Automundo is the blog about news from the automotive industry, motorsport and the culture of the region. Director: Diego Durruty.

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