1964 Chaparral 2: When The Powerglide Went Racing

The snooty died-in-the-tweed-wool sports car set may have looked down on the standard Powerglide in the ’53 Corvette as utterly unsuitable for the track, but maverick Texan Jim Hall had the last laugh ten years later. His groundbreaking series of Chaparral road racing cars bristled with innovations, especially in aerodynamics. The Chaparral 2, which initially had a Colotti Type 376 4-speed, got a two-speed torque converter semi-automatic transaxle in 1964. It is said in numerous sources that it was “Powerglide-derived” or used certain Powerglide parts, almost certainly its torque converter.

“I’ve heard [Jim Hall] say that the big advantage of the automatic transmission is that it lets the Chaparral driver use his free hand to wave at the other drivers as he passes them!”
-Roger Penske, joking about Chaparral’s innovative automatic transmission

Not a lot of details are known about the exact specifics of this transaxle, except that Hall was very much plugged into GM’s skunk works and was the beneficiary of all sorts of goodies despite GM’s self-imposed ban on racing. The 2 had an aluminum 327 thanks to his benefactors, and undoubtedly plenty of help with that transaxle. It was shifted manually, but many references say that it was Powerglide-based and/or used PG parts. Even if it didn’t have a lot of genuine PG parts, the 2’s transaxle showed that a torque converter and two speeds were perfectly suitable for the fastest racing car in the land.