Ford vs. Chevy sportscars in 1/43

Brothers from different mothers

It occurred to me when I finished building the 1/43 Provence Moulage Ford P69 model that it was quite similar in concept to the Chaparral 2H. As if the common design idea for these cars was sort of Ford vs. Chevy sportscars in 1969 just a few years after Ford vs. Ferrari at LeMans in 1966.

The concept of slinky, curvaceous and slippery sportscars had long been the fashion for the best top speed down the LeMans Mulsanne Straight or any straightaway anywhere else. However a curveball came their way when those new-fangled high-mounted wings became the fashionable thing to do. Lotus innovated with these wings in F1 and the rest of the motorsport world took notice.

What they also noticed was the high rate of wing strut failure. Metallurgy wasn’t quite what it is today so the struts were way too slim and the wings were mounted as high as a designer’s imagination could take them.

What I noticed was how cool high-winged race cars looked

A real long wait 
Ford vs. Chevy Sportscars

I’ve been a model junkie for a very long time. Finding Grand Prix Models’ great model journal called 4 Small Wheels was like coming across the Holy Grail. Since I liked to build models already, what GPM was pedaling fueled an urge for every kit they were selling. This also appears to have occurred for many racing fans. A great way to remember a race you attended or saw on TV is to obtain a model of a car that won or raced that day.

One particular cover of Small Wheels really fired up my imagination. The 3-94 issue with Chub Pearson’s driver figure in front of that Provence Ford P69. And so began my quest to get that model.

That quest was finally realized in 2022! A mere 28 years.

It was worth it. The model is as beautiful as the real car.

Back to Ford vs. Chevy Sportscars

Both the Chaparral 2H and the Ford P69 were built to new rules in Europe and America which stated that roofless cars could compete as coupes with the “passenger seat” covered. The cars simply had to have two side windows with which the driver could see out of. Where those windows were placed was open to interpretation.

Ford vs. Chevy SportscarsThe Ford P69 was a development of the 1968 P68. The P68 was a true coupe that ran a rear-mounted high wing later in the year. The car really wasn’t quick enough with or without a wing.

So in 1969 the Alan Mann team rebuilt the car as an “open coupe” which debuted with both front and rear wings mounted high on spindly struts. Note the angle that the struts are tilting at while racing at Brands Hatch. As you can see on the model the designer put both of the side windows on the left of the driver since the driver could see just fine with his head in a normal driver position. Note that the water radiator is mounted in the tail.

The front panel that bears the race number is also a sort of wing as it covers lower bodywork that could also possibly generate downforce.

The car really wasn’t quick enough regardless of the number of wings. 

As for Chevy…..

The “skunkworks” at Chevy had been providing Jim Hall parts and mechanical “advice” for some time before the Chaparral 2H was introduced in 1969 for the Can-Am Series. Though wedge-shaped it still had rounded sides and just a large wing/spoiler at the very back. It was mounted low as more of a trim tab than as a downforce generator. Note that the water radiator is mounted in the tail.

Ford vs. Chevy Sportscars

The driver (John Surtees) was to lay down almost flat in the cockpit for maximum straightline speed. Mr. Surtees claimed he couldn’t see even with side windows and a bunch of windscreen in front of him. A new seating position saw Surtees in the usual upright style. This was the start of the “open coupe” theory going to pieces. Besides, the car wasn’t quick enough.

Jim Hall (Chevy) figured more downforce would cure the too-narrow car’s handling woes. Those woes were further multiplied by a low-drag engine induction system that cut maximum power. Also not helping was a deDion rear axle that didn’t work either.

The car appeared for the Laguna Seca Can-Am race with a massive mid-mounted wing to pair with the rear trim tab/spoiler. A pair of canard wings were also tacked onto the front. At least the hefty wing struts looked pretty strong.

Laguna is a relatively short and twisty track so straightline speed is less of an issue. Surtees was appalled by the car’s horrible handling and total lack of speed anyhow and kissed the team goodbye after the next race at Riverside.

The car really wasn’t quick enough regardless of the number of wings. 

Ford vs. Chevy Sportscars
The models

The 1/43 Chaparral model is an older French ESDO release. At the time it was built it was the only choice for the model. Much later came a great kit and handbuilt by Marsh Models. The Marsh version has far more detail than the pretty basic ESDO kit. Also available was the Minichamps diecast version. You can still get the Marsh model and the Minichamps diecast too on the usual auction sites.

Ford vs. Chevy SportscarsAs stated above the Ford P69 was released by Provence Moulage way back when. Finding the kit is quite hard even on Ebay. It is still the only version that’s been released, although the wingless and winged versions of the P68 coupe were made by Minichamps and are much easier to obtain even now.

You can read more about the Alan Mann team and its cars here.

More about Jim Hall and Chaparral here.

More modeling articles and more can be found here.