(photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway)
What a gorgeous car and what a terrific driver Jim Clark was. What a revolution took place at Indy when the Lotus (and Cooper Climax before it) came to the Speedway.
Change and innovation were not exactly hallmarks of Indy at the time and but none so rapidly ushered change as when the little Lotus was driven to victory lane in 1965. The car had already become an sensation for its innovative design, but had yet to prove itself by winning. The likeable Scotsman, Jimmy Clark, had crossed the Atlantic with his Formula 1 constructor and Lotus founder Graham Chapman in 1963, winning in only his third try.
With the dominance of the rear-engined, small, lightweight chassis, the days of the classic and venerable Watson roadster chassis were all but done. Some lamented the change brought about by the foreigners from ‘across the pond’, but the change became the new standard, bringing about a revolution in thought, design, and competition to the Indy 500.
1979 – Pennzoil Chaparral
The very car from which this blog derives its name and first I saw live in an Indy 500. While reading about this car in Sports Illustrated (I think it was), I realized this car was the ‘next wave’ of Indy cars which was the beginning of the ground effect era.
Sleek and fast and in the brightest yellow than I’d ever seen, this chassis still holds my title for ‘best looking Indycar nosecone’. My dad was an Al Unser fan (which pretty much made me al Al Unser fan), and for Al to not win in 1979 with this superior machine was disappointing to the extreme. That winter I made my Pinewood Derby car in it’s color and numbering treatment. To see it one year later with the angular red 4 on that nose and some guy named Rutherford driving into victory lane was, to me, a jab that the fates could’ve done without. That Chaparral that sits in the IMS Hall of Fame museum will always be the No. 2 Pennzoil car in my mind.