Jim Hall

James Ellis Hall was born into oil money but a month before he started at the California Institute of Technology (better known as Caltech) the family was hit by tragedy when his father, mother and sister were killed in a light aeroplane accident. Jim inherited $15m and, while his brothers ran the family oil business, he went to California to study geology. The family firm sponsored Carroll Shelby and in his college years Hall was drawn to racing, starting out in 1954 with an Austin Healey usually raced by his brother Dick. As a result he became interested in engineering and eventually decided to change his course to mechanical engineering. After graduation he was part oil man and part racer while also bank-rolling Shelby in a sportscar business in Dallas.

Hall's success as a racer led him to rent a private Lotus for the 1960 United States Grand Prix at Riverside. He did well but, more importantly, he met California car builders Dick Troutman and Tom Barnes who were keen to find a new backer for their plan to sell copies of the Scarab sportscar which they had built for Lance Reventlow. Hall went into partnership with Hap Sharp, and Chaparral Cars was born, based at Midland in Texas. In 1961 he tried F1 again at Watkins Glen and then concentrated on the development of the Chaparral which was soon very successful.

Hall spent time in Europe in 1963, racing F1 with the British Racing Partnership in a Lotus-BRM. He scored points in Germany and England but decided to concentrate on Chaparral after that and never returned.

That year Chaparral built its first Indycar. At the time the American Automobile Manufacturer Association had an agreement not to participate in racing but Chevrolet used Chaparral to try out some of the most extraordinary technology developed. This included aerodynamic wings, aluminium blocks, automatic transmissions, fibreglass chassis and ground-effect aerodynamics. Working with Chevrolet engineers in CanAm and Indycars Hall advanced the technology of racing perhaps more than any race car designer although most of the technology was later locked away. The team twice won the Indianapolis 500 and in 1980 Johnny Rutherford drove Hall's Pennzoil Chaparral to victory in the CART championship.