Chaparral 2 days
Like Lotus, just about any Chaparral could make this list. From the 2E with its massive and mobile rear wing, to the 2F which did the same with a closed cockpit, or the teardrop-shaped 2H (a design much less known, but absolutely magnificent). But this is the 2J we chose, a car that pushed ground effect designs to their logical maximum long before Gordon Murray could build his fan car for Brabham.
The 2J had plastic skirts to seal the underside of the car (long before F1 teams did the same), and two fans – derived from a tank motor – to literally suck air in and out. from under the car. Chaparral even created an intricate suspension system that kept the bottom of the skirt within an inch of the floor, regardless of the surface. In the simplest possible terms, he tried to create a vacuum to stick the car to the tarmac.
When he raced in 1970 he qualified two seconds ahead of the peloton, but fell back with various mechanical starting issues early on. Unfortunately, the SCCA, which ran Can-Am, bowed to pressure from rivals and banned the system. Ironically, one of the fiercest opponents was McLaren, whose argument that the 2J’s potential dominance would ruin the series was slightly hollow, given he had dominated Can-Am for years.
There are hundreds of cars that could make this list as well, in fact we’ll probably be writing a few follow-ups over the next few months. Let us know in the comments which amazingly ingenious designs you like the most.
Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.