A unique race car developed by famed engineer, driver, and builder Jim Hall

The second-generation Chevrolet Camaro was introduced in the spring of 1970, four years after General Motors launched the nameplate in response to the Ford Mustang. Produced until 1981, the second-gen Camaro was a significant departure from its predecessor, being longer, wider, and lower. It also featured brand-new styling inside and out, as well as redesigned engines. Unlike the first-gen model, the second-gen Camaro wasn’t offered as a convertible. The second-generation coupe was the last Camaro created in the golden era of the muscle car, before lower compression and tighter emission controls brought significant drops in horsepower in 1972.

Much like its predecessor, the second-gen Camaro also spawned a number of race cars, especially in Z/28 trim. But while the first-gen Z/28 is famous for winning back-to-back Trans-Am championships in 1968 and 1969, the second-gen model marked the beginning of a less successful era for Chevrolet in the series. It all began with Roger Penske’s decision to leave Chevrolet for American Motors Corporation (AMC) for the 1970 season, taking talented drivers Mark Donohue and Peter Revson with him. With a brand-new car on its hands and no one to run the Trans-Am team, Chevrolet turned to Jim Hall and Chaparral Cars.

Known for his innovative, Chevy-powered Chaparrals that dominated U.S. road racing during the 1960s, Hall built three cars in only six months — one for himself, one for Ed Leslie, and the third as a spare. Although Chevrolet failed to win its third consecutive Trans-Am season, the 1970 "Chaparral" Camaro went into the history books as one of the rarest Camaros ever built. As of this writing, only Hall’s No. 1 car is known to exist, which makes the "Chaparral" Camaro a rare gem among race-spec classic muscle cars.

Restored to period correct perfection by Trans-Am expert Mark Mountanos, the No. 1 car is on sale via The Canepa Collection. Whether it finds a new owner or not, Hall’s white-and-blue Camaro is worthy of a closer look, which is exactly what we will do in the review below.

Continue reading to learn more about the 1970 Chevrolet Camaro Trans-Am.

Exterior

1970 Chevrolet Camaro Trans-Am Exterior
- image 682581
1970 Chevrolet Camaro Trans-Am Exterior
- image 682584
1970 Chevrolet Camaro Trans-Am Exterior
- image 682579

Although the race car remained recognizable as a second-generation Camaro, it received extensive modifications before hitting the track. For starters, it was significantly wider than the road-going model thanks to fender flares made by Fisher Body. These were crafted using new stamping dies made of kirksite plastic that formed the thin-gauge steel used to make the fender flares. Those elements were then were pop-riveted over the stock sheetmetal and smoothed over before painting.

The cars were finished in white, Chaparral's traditional color, but also received bright-blue stripes on the engine hood, roof, and trunk lid, and blue Chevy bowties on the doors.

Jim Hall took aerodynamics very seriously and fender flares weren’t enough to keep the Camaro glued to the track. As a result he took some of the technology developed for his Chaparral race cars and adapted it for Trans-Am racing. The most notable feature was the flexible, transparent front spoiler made lexan, the same material used on the groundbreaking 2J "sucker" car. Around back, he removed the Camaro’s new trunk lid spoiler, which didn’t generate enough downforce, and replaced it with the taller element from the Pontiac Firebird, the Camaro’s twin pony car. Interestingly enough, the spoiler become a Camaro factory option in 1971.

Just like the previous Penske-built race car, the bodies were acid-dipped to further reduce weight.

Along with Jim Hall also came a new livery. The cars were finished in white, Chaparral’s traditional color, but also received bright-blue stripes on the engine hood, roof, and trunk lid, and blue Chevy bowties on the doors. While the combo wasn’t as spectacular as Penske’s blue-and-yellow paint scheme, it gave the Camaro a distinct appearance on the track.

Interior

1970 Chevrolet Camaro Trans-Am Interior
- image 682588
1970 Chevrolet Camaro Trans-Am Interior
- image 682591
1970 Chevrolet Camaro Trans-Am Interior
- image 682589

As per Trans-Am regulations, the Camaro’s interior was a stripped off version of the road car. Only a handful of features remained in place, such as the door panels and part of the center tunnel. Even the dashboard was a simplified, smaller version of the standard element, while the steering wheel and the driver’s seat were replaced with lighter units. The front passenger seat and the rear bench were removed altogether in order to save weight.

The dash also received a bespoke instrument cluster, additional controls on the passenger side, sports pedals, and a Hurst shifter. A roll cage was also added. The safety system was made by Hall’s team from PVC pipe and then sent to the GM Tech Center. Engineers used computer-aided modeling to create the pieces that would be welded into a strong and lightweight cage.

Drivetrain

1970 Chevrolet Camaro Trans-Am Drivetrain
- image 682598

Under the hood, Chevy and Jim Hall dropped a race-spec 302-cubic-inch (5.0-liter) V-8 engine with a big, four-barrel Holley carburetor. The powerplant was rated at 440 horsepower and used a four-speed Borg Warner gearbox and a 12-bolt differential to send it all to the rear wheels.

Beyond the drivetrain, the "Chaparral" Camaro also featured a highly modified chassis. The production-derived front suspension had unequal-length controls arms, the rear suspension used parallel leaf springs, while the adjustable shock absorbers were supplied by Koni. The standard brakes were replaced by large-diameter, ventilated discs.

Hall also crafted an innovative rear end with negative camber built into the rear axle tubes and an underhood fiberglass plenum to ram the air into the carburetor.

Racing History

1970 Chevrolet Camaro Trans-Am Exterior
- image 682586

The new Camaro made its debut in Trans-Am at Laguna Seca, but the first race was unlucky for the team. Jim Hall retired after only three laps due to a transmission failure, while Ed Leslie’s car laster for 59 laps before going out of the race due to a damaged axle. The second race at Lime Rock was more fortunate for the Chaparral team, with Leslie and Hall finishing second and fourth, respectively. Both drivers finished the third race at Bryar, but Hall had to settle with fifth position, while Leslie crossed the finish line 11th.

The Mid-Ohio race meant more bad luck for the team, as Hall ran out of fuel after 73 laps (the winner completed 75). Leslie retired after 65. The latter retired once again at Bridgehampton after only two laps due to a gearbox failure. On the flipside, Hall scored an important fourth place. The Donnybrooke event brought yet another fourth position for Chaparral, but this time thanks to Joe Leonard, who replaced Hall at the wheel of the No. 1 Camaro. Leslie retired once again after 32 laps. Hall returned at Road America with fourth place finish. Leslie was struck with bad luck once more, coming out of the race after 25 laps due to engine damage.

The race at Mont-Tremblant, where Vic Elford replaced Jim Hall, saw both Chaparral Camaros retire, but the next event at Watkins Glen saw the team score its first and only win. Elford, who again replaced hall, took the checkered flag ahead of the faster AMC Javelins and Ford Mustangs, while Leslie came in seventh. A month later in Kent, both cars finished the race in fifth and sixth positions, while the final race of the season at Riverside saw Leslie cross the finish line in sixth. Elford retired after 72 laps.

At the end of the season, Chevrolet finished third with 40 points, trailing AMC with 59 and Ford with 72. Jim Hall placed sixth in the drivers’ championship, a notable result considering the extremely short development period and the stiff competition.

The team did not return to race in 1971, being sold off and raced in other series.

Competition

Ford Mustang Boss 302

2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 426026

The 1970 season was contested by no fewer than five makes in the "over 2-liter" class, including Ford, AMC, Plymouth, and Pontiac. Ford returned with an updated version of the Boss 302 that lost the championship to the Camaro the previous season. With drivers such as Parnelli Jones and George Follmer, as well as a reliable car, team Bud Moore won six out of 11 races and the championship for Ford with a comfortable lead over American Motors.

Read more about the Ford Mustang Boss 302 here.

AMC Javelin

Championship-winning 1971 AMC Javelin Penske Trans Am comes with mammoth price tag Exterior
- image 362712

AMerican Motors had joined Trans-Am as early as 1968, but it didn’t pose any threat to Chevy and Ford in its first seasons in the series. This changed in 1970, when AMC hired Roger Penske, who previously won two titles with the Camaro, to handle the team. The brand-new Javelin had a good season with Mark Donohue and Peter Revson behind the wheel, scoring three wins and six podiums. It finished the season second, behind Ford and above Chevrolet. In 1971, Penske and AMC went on to dominate Trans-Am and won the series win no fewer than eight wins from ten events.

Read more about the AMC Javelin here.

Conclusion

Although it wasn’t as successful as the first-generation Camaro run by Roger Penske, Jim Hall’s second-gen model is proof that a team of skilled people can come with a competitive race car in a matter of months. To some, it might be just another Camaro that raced in Trans-Am. To Camaro gearheads and Chaparral enthusiasts, this white and blue coupe is a priceless piece of racing history. Hopefully its new owner will take care of it and bring out of the garage for as many historic racing events as possible.

  • Leave it
    • * Likely very expensive
    • * Hard to get
    • * Didn’t have the success of its Penske-built predecessor

Source: classicdriver

What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: