SCCA DESIGN & ENGINEERING

The latest revelation about the Archives is the fascinating history it holds about the role the SCCA and its members played in the advancement of automotive design and engineering.

Take for example this press release dated June 28, 1965 from Union Carbide Corporation celebrating the “first successful all-plastic chassis” following a victory that shocked the sportscar world. SCCA Hall of Fame member Jim Hall and his co-driver Hap Sharp shattered the qualifying record set by Ferrari the year prior by nearly nine seconds in their light-weight Chevy powered Chaparral2, turning lap times under three minutes at Sebring for the first time in history. Despite a 30-minute downpour with 50 mph winds that flooded the track with just three hours to go, Hall and Sharp persevered to take the win.

“Jim Hall’s Chaparral sports-racing car – winner of the grueling 12-hour Sebring event, considered by many experts to be equal to 100,000 miles of ordinary driving – is the first successful car to be built on an all-plastic frame,” the press release explains. “The fiberglass-reinforced epoxy chassis (fabricated by PlasTrend, Fort Worth, Texas) weighs less than 100 pounds.” The company announcement goes on to laud the advantages of the “molded plastic construction” and note the Chaparral racing success at subsequent races – a season in which they won 16 races in 22 starts.

SCCA Archives technician Joe Cali at the International Motor Racing Research Center in Watkins Glen, NY, discovered the press release and a photo of two men holding up a Chaparral2 chassis at a Union Carbide exhibit in a demonstration of its light weight. Joe along with fellow technician Rick Hughey and head Archivist Jenny Ambrose are turning up more examples of SCCA-related design and engineering every day.

Another recent example is a great photo of Peter Brock’s Shelby Daytona Coupe on the first days of testing at Riverside, California on February 4, 1964. Another SCCA Hall of Fame member, Brock’s innovative design produced an additional 15 mph over the prior Cobra roadster as well as 25 percent better fuel economy.  These innovations would ultimately lead to the 1964 Le Mans GT class win by Dan Gurney and Bob Bondurant, among numerous other victories for the cars.