Chaparral Gallery Opens In Midland
© Andrew S. Hartwell

Among the American legends of professional sportscar racing in the United States there stood one tall Texan who engineered and built racecars that gave birth to truly innovative practices in the field of chassis construction and aerodynamics. That man was Jim Hall and his Chaparrals remain some of the most revered racers of all time.

Hall ran his small team out of a simple compound in the flat lands of Texas – essentially a small cluster of steel buildings that included a few sheds and a small structure in which his office was housed. In these austere confines Hall created automobiles that were so cutting edge for their time that some of his competitors never really understood the principles he applied to the art of speed. And the ones who did understand, never really seemed to be able to duplicate the effectiveness his cars achieved on the racetrack.

One distinct advantage Hall enjoyed over his competitors, besides having the financial resources to create cars from scratch, was having access to his own private racetrack on which to test his ideas about wings and spoilers and automatic transmissions. Rattlesnake Raceway was what he called the track that he - and a group of like-minded oilmen, including Hap Sharp - built on the grounds of the Chaparral Cars compound. Dan Gurney, a man who often found himself racing against Hall’s Chaparral creations, recently allowed as how Hall’s cars always arrived at a race weekend ready to go. He gave a good measure of the credit for that to Hall’s access to Rattlesnake Raceway.

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But Gurney holds no grudge for Hall’s Success. In fact, he, along with other noted sportscar greats Phil Hill, Brian Redman, Vic Elford, and Gil de Ferran, came to Midland last week to honor Hall at the grand opening of the Chaparral Gallery. This is the new, permanent home for Hall’s creations. Located within the Petroleum Museum, this is an impressive facility that is just a few miles from Hall’s shop.

Grand opening events included a celebrity golf tournament, tours of the Chaparral Cars compound, a ride around Rattlesnake Raceway and a press conference. On the last day of a three-day celebration of the man and his machines, the general public was invited to attend the official grand opening, replete with many festive activities. The most enjoyable of these was the arrival of Hall driving the 2F. With a police escort, Hall drove five miles on public roads to deliver the car, from his Chaparral Cars compound to the museum staff.

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In the vernacular of another great American institution – baseball – the gallery has hit a home run. Visitors are sure to feel a real sense of the pride and engineering genius Jim Hall – and his dedicated support team – applied to their creations.

But will the white wonders ever be seen on the track again? Hall commented that he would very much like to see the museum allow his cars a chance to spread their wings again to once more thrill the fans. Perhaps a select vintage event or two may be in their future? Those of us who saw these beautiful cars perform in their prime would certainly want to be there again when they do take flight.

More images from the opening of the Gallery here.

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