About the Innovator
James Ellis Hall was born in Abilene, Texas, on July 23, 1935. Throughout his childhood, he grew up around vehicles living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Hall, with the help of his uncle, built a soapbox derby racer, helped his father assemble a hot rod, and acquired a 1929 Ford Model A with a V-8 engine which he modified and rebuilt himself.
After high school, Hall attended the California Institute of Technology to study geology because he wanted to become successful in the oil industry. However, between his sophomore and junior years, he changed his major to mechanical engineering which fit his new-found interest in motor racing, thanks to his race-driving older brother Dick.
Hall's passion for racing grew as he competed as an amateur driver throughout the 1950s until about 1962. At that point, he teamed up with Hap Sharp to form Chaparral Cars, Inc. and embarked on one of the most innovative racing operations in the history of the sport. With Chaparral, Hall's name became synonymous with the word "innovative" and he established his legacy as one of the first to realize the advantages of utilizing aerodynamic downforce to help keep racecars on the road.
Why He Innovates
Hall’s motivation stemmed not only from the competitive nature of automobile racing but also from having fun. His ability to make work fun allowed him to put in many hours prototyping cars, making changes, and testing them repeatedly until they performed at the highest level. Hall’s innovative Chaparral designs continue to influence today’s top racing car designers throughout the world.