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BZ Chaparral 2E: a little mystery solved. Or is it?


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#1 TSR

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 07:39 PM

BZ Chaparral 2E: a little mystery solved. Or is it?

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One of the more mysterious and legendary slot racing car form the late 1960s is the Chaparral 2E, supposedly marketed by the BZ Company of El Segundo, California. Catalogued under the number 1007, this car was presented in various magazines and the subject of a beautiful retailer color brochure. However it is obvious to the learned collector that the pictures shown (of at least two different cars) were that of hand-assembled prototypes that would never been allowed to reach production in the way they had been built. Case at hand, these pictures shown in the July 1967 of Model Car & Racing:

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The BZ Chaparral uses a Lancer body and its cockpit, as well as a Lancer Chaparral wing kit. The cars shown use what appears to be home-built struts, probably simply bolted from underneath the body for the purpose of supplying the test cars to the magazines. Hardly a production solution... One of the models also have an earlier Riggen wheel and tire combination than what BZ already had been using on their most recent production cars, the BRM H16 and Watson-Ford open-wheel racers, and black-painted or anodized 3-prong knock-off wheel nuts. The other has the correct "production" wheels and tires.
Note that the pictures never show how the wing was attached to the bodies, because it was probably a bit ugly... You may also note that the large picture on the main page shows no body-mounting screws, meaning that the body was simply sitting there for the picture, the car never actually completed. The "other" car (#2) has the body screws, not the usual BZ threaded black-anodized variety but some ugly self-tapping jobs. But no indication either on how the wing is affixed...

The bodies used Russkit decals, and details were painted in flat black over the silver and light metallic blue bodies shown. The driver’s head appears to be a Lancer item. No actual packaging was ever seen, while a reputable dealer in San Jose, California, swears that he has such an item to a collector who has no recollection of this. The retailer claims that the car came in the original BZ “pink” cardboard box with the teardrop window similar to that of the Little Red Wagon or the Green Hornet Black Beauty. This writer believes this to be very unlikely because BZ had switched to a clear plastic box with printed display tray for over two years before this Chaparral model was presented to the public. My contention is that this model was in fact never issued, with the reservations found later in this story.

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After these magazine articles, the toy was advertised by various mail-order company and can be seen (well, the prototype anyway) in an Auto World catalogue from early 1967. Then, nothing happened for nearly 30 years, that is until Bill Wessels, one of the finest slot car modelers on the face of this earth, built a couple of replicas for various collectors. Two such replicas using Lancer, BZ, and Riggen parts were used in a spectacular color calendar published by former collector Joseph Alessi sometime in 1997. The two cars have now been acquired by Scott Bader of Los Angeles.

For many years, collectors have been trying to “nail” one of these elusive cars, but very few suspected genuine models ever showed up. Recently, some that appeared to be genuine have been seen at auction in the silver color, at least one in pale blue. Are they genuine? Well, more evidence has now surfaced and Yours Truly is now able to ascertain with over 90% of probability what actually happened, and how.

Trusted with the task of restoring what appeared to be a genuine article as represented by Scott Bader, Yours Truly, skeptical by nature, had a tough time in believing the originality of the items, but it did not take long for me to be convinced because of a simple visit to our offices by the son of a lady who used to be on the production line on Franklin Ave. This gentleman who sometimes brings some real treasures for me to gawk at, after looking at the worn parts shown, namely what was suspected to be genuine wing struts, stormed out and came back an hour later with those very parts, brand new, a whole box of them! Indeed, these parts that he never correctly identified were the genuine article, the actual production wing struts! They were located in a box with a quantity of short and fat brass tubing cuts and what appeared to be unfinished struts. He was kind enough to let me have a few of them, and since I am curious by nature, I also retained a piece of the brass tubing, that, as you will find, came quite handy.

What is genuine, and what is not?

This is believed to be the genuine BZ Chaparral body. Three very clear signs:
1) There are slots for the wing struts die cut on the back deck. But why so long and so narrow?
2) The paint scheme, color and detail, is entirely different from the factory-painted Lancer body.
3) The windshield flat panel above the cockpit is die-cut to allow the driver's head to surface.

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This is the factory-painted Lancer body loaned for this picture by Bryan W. Note that the water/oil radiators as well as the injectors are painted in a lighter silver color:

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The two bodies side by side show the lighter color on the BZ body, with different details painted. The BZ model only receives a bit of black paint where the injectors are located, done on the outside. Unlike the Lancer model, the taillights and water/oil radiators remain unpainted.

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The cockpit is also a Lancer item, but it is factory painted in a metalic blue-green color and sports the very same head as seen on the BZ BRM H16 and Watson-Offy, originally an... Eldon item, Lord forbid!

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The cockpit is attached by a small piece of 1/2"-wide black electrical tape:

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The real surprise

I had seen those thingies before, but had never suspected their actual use. Indeed I probably threw some away over the years, not realizing what they were. These aluminum bits are nothing but the actual mysterious wing struts!

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Indeed they fit perfectly in the spots where fitted... but I was even more amazed when I realized the use for those pieces of brass tubing, that by the way, were later used by Champion (of Chamblee, Georgia) as parts of an angle-winder motor box!!!
So after cleaning the chassis parts, I ended with this kit:

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To be continued... :)




#2 TSR

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 09:54 PM

After a rather tedious assembly, I ended with this concoction:

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And how are those mysterious struts held? That's how:

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The struts are held by the white nylon axle bearings, then by the piece of brass tubing that applies pressure so as to keep them from collapsing. The ones we had appear to be hand-built prototypes, very rough affairs, while these appear to be die cut pressings of good quality.

Once the body is fitted, the die-cut slots on the body make perfect sense and the struts fit tightly inside them:

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On the left are the die-cut BZ wing parts. On the right is the standard Lancer wing kit:

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The lower part of the wing is now assembled to the struts, and one of them has been folded to retain the aerodynamic device:

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And this is the wing, finally installed, with its top element and side plates now glued in place:

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Can't see anything different from the bottom as all trick parts are hidden from view:

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To be continued...

#3 TSR

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 10:04 PM

When I got this body, it was the least damaged from three that are in the museum's collection. The other two had butchered rear wheel wells and serious cracks, but are genuine with their die-cut wing-strut slots and special colors. This one had cracks but was in much better condition. The decals were damaged so I removed their remains and applied some NOS from one of the well-known BZ decal sheets, the same type of numbers and USAC Auto Club decals being used on many other BZ vehicles. I do not believe at this time that a special more accurate sheet was ever made for this car, but I have seen now several examples bearing these numbers, either black on the silver body or white on the blue one. Then other elements fell in place that almost certainly prove that the car was never actually produced.

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As anyone can see in this picture, there is a big problem with this chassis: the body really does not fit. The wheelbase is simply too long, requiring that the body be trimmed well beyond what is acceptable. Since these Lancer bodies were pre-trimmed with a "hot wire", extra grinding became necessary so as to fit the front wheels in a somewhat acceptable manner. The body cannot go forward much more on the chassis due to the position of the struts and the rear wheels.

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What to conclude?

It took me a long time to assemble this car. I had to really work hard at it. The body is ill-fitting, requiring precise adjustment of the outriggers so as to clear the tires. It sits too high, the front wheels are way out there into the headlight pods, it is just not right.

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The body is also quite narrow, and even without any spacers, the rear wheels stick out quite a lot on each side of the fenders. It is obvious that the prototypes were carefully photographed so as to minimize these visual defects.

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This is indeed, the genuine article:

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The whole assembly of the wing struts, their brace, the folding of the wing tabs, the wing assembly with glue, etc. does not fit regular production line methods. I believe that after the few samples sent here and there to magazines and distributors, BZ MAY have (painfully) produced a very limited run of cars probably, without wings (as so far, only one was found with genuine struts for such, albeit broken), or more likely, parts for the manufacturing process had accumulated at the factory when Mr. Beck and Mr. Zimmerman realized that the cost of producing these new toys vastly exceeded the possible profit from selling them to wholesalers, so the project was simply axed. The special parts (bodies, cockpits, wing kits)) were sold to wholesalers who disseminated them to their retailers. The other parts (struts, brass-tubing brace, die-cut wings) were simply dumped or in this case, back-door spirited by employees when just a few months later, the company collapsed as the entire business of commercial slot car racing selling what were in fact defective products simply tanked.
It is truly a miracle that such parts have survived, because without those, the mystery would have remained just that.
Today, I can say with almost 100% certainty that these cars were never actually issued in a packaged form, and joined several other mystery machines that have raised speculations since collecting became a new hobby in the early 1990s (MDC "The Bat" RTR, Pactra "Banana Car", Cox Ford MKII...)

The BZ Chaparral 2E is a true icon for the serious collector. I am pleased to have assembled what may well be the only 100% genuine survivor on the face of the planet. I simply hope that this story will get more of the “rara avis” out of their place of rest.

PLEASE NOTE: All pictures are copyrighted. Electric Dreams 2007

#4 mdiv

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 11:27 PM

Very nice Dokk.

I don't suppose these bodies are available these days, clear or painted. Got a chassis and a motor. :)

Mike DiVuolo

 

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#5 TSR

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 11:37 PM

We found this one and two more on ePay over a period of nine years. We would love to find a truly mint one, with no cracks... :( The others I have seen were much worse... but the genuine article.

#6 mdiv

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 11:41 PM

Oh, I just mean a repro of the 2E... hrm... like Patto or 02R or someone else in Australia? Ray somethingoranother?

Herm's might have something...

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#7 mdiv

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 11:48 PM

Found what I was looking for :)

Herm's

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#8 Electric Dream Team

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Posted 04 August 2007 - 12:11 AM

Slight correction, P.

This car came from one of the nicest people in the slot car collecting world. His name is Matt Bishop and we are very grateful that he was willing to part with it. He was told it was the real thing when he got it but he too was always a bit skeptical.

It took forever to finally get Dokk to even LOOK at this car he was so skeptical. It was so much fun painstakingly peeling back the layers of this car with Philippe and watching him slowly putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

The last straw that finally convinced him was the guy bringing in those old wing struts. The struts that came with this car had broken tabs so the wing was held in place with scotch tape and tiny strips of cardboard!

The biggest reason for the failure of the BZ 2E is that you had to ruin the wing and the strut tabs would break off every time you removed the body from the car!!!

I can't imagine a better person on the planet to have restore and document this incredible piece of slot car history.

Great job, Phillipe!! It is an honor to be working with you.
Electric Dream Team
Scott Bader

#9 don.siegel

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Posted 04 August 2007 - 05:46 AM

Excellent detective work, Philippe, and an incredible coup de bol (stroke of luck), but you have been...

Hoist by your own petard!
(even though I'm sure you didn't inhale... sorry, bad French pun, "petard" is French for firecracker, and also a slang word for gun or a joint...)

Ze evidence:

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This, believe it or not, is a review of the BZ Chaparral in a French magazine called "Champion", dated 15 August to 15 September 1967. While that's not total proof, I can't imagine that BZ would send a pre-production version to a fairly obscure French magazine; most of the other cars they reviewed seem to have been bought in the local shops, although I can't swear to that (will check with Raymond Ami when he gets back from his vacation...).

Not a very complimentary review by the way (and unfortunately there is no side view to check how the body fits...): they love the body, but consider the chassis very mediocre, and not at all competitive. The car was 139.50 francs at the time, or about $28, which will give you an idea of the price of imported stuff (and maybe recall painful memories for our Canadian friends), not the most expensive (the Champion Lola was nearly twice that), but a Dynamic Ferrari P3 was only about 80 francs.

Anyway, hope this adds a bit of information to the Mystery of the BZ Chappy!

Don

#10 TSR

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Posted 04 August 2007 - 12:05 PM

I can't imagine that BZ would send a pre-production version to a fairly obscure French magazine

Why not? Don, I am well aware of this article because you sent it to me a few years ago... but it proves nothing else than the fact that the owner of the Erlanger raceway, Mr. Chahian, had some kind of relation with BZ since they sold them at the Erlanger raceway, so he was sent one of the pre-production loose cars (as probably were the UK, Italian, Swiss, and German importers) and gave it to either Raymond Ami or Jean-Marie Vincent (who had a close relationship with Champion's Gerard Crombac) to do a report and generate sales for a shipment that I am sure never arrived. In fact I remember to have SEEN this blue car when I was there as they were showing it to the customers. Vincent (who owned the VW shop just outside the raceway) actually drove the thing on the big Revell Laguna Seca track and I recall being as impressed as when he tested other similar cars, like the Classic Stinger or the Cox Chaparral 2D. We were making circles around those things with our Russkit Lotus 40s fitted with Dynamic chassis and Hot Slot dewound 26Ds...
But there was only ONE of those Chapparals, and they said that more would come soon. I cannot recall seing another and I was a nightly regular until the place closed.

The car pictured has what are more than likely the correct struts, because the wing is lower than those shown on the prototype cars shown in the American magazines and the thin alloy struts hardly show, meaning that they ought to be the real thing.
So now you need to find THAT car that ought to have survived in a French collection... :mellow:

#11 TSR

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 08:09 PM

More evidence of limited production...
Looking in my picture files, I found these pics of a car that went through ePay in 2006:

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The struts are present and simply bent over the body. Note the trimmed front wheel openings...

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Looks like it was in pretty decent shape, too... no visible cracks.

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The driver has a Lancer head on which the face is painted in a light brown, the helmet left in the off-white color these heads were molded. The right strut is bent over the body. Looks like the wing-retaining tab is broken off.

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There, the struts are clearly visible. So who purchased this car and where is it today?
The plot thickens...

#12 TSR

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Posted 08 August 2007 - 09:34 PM

Well, now we know who has the car. So far one of only two known survivors with the struts. :blink:

#13 sportblazer350

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 06:38 PM

Does anyone repro this body, so I can make my own repro of it???

Glenn Orban
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#14 mdiv

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 06:56 PM

Glenn,

Try Pattos: Pattos Place

One of my goals in the next year, slot car goals that is, is to make an entire Chaparral "Garage" :)

Mikey

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#15 rdmac

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 10:55 PM

Does anyone repro this body...

Look here Vintage Slot Cars by Tom Andersen.

66Chaparral2e.jpg

Picture by Tom Andersen
Bob McCurdy
3/2/54-10/22/12
Requiescat in Pace

#16 don.siegel

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Posted 17 October 2007 - 04:34 AM

I put out a call for help in the French bulletin Circuits Routiers and I heard from Raymond Ami, one of the top racers at the time and slot racing manager at the Mini-Racing Center on Rue Erlanger in Paris back in 1967-68. According to Raymond:

"Yes this car existed, and I saw them on sale at the Rue Erlanger racing center."

Just another little part of the puzzle...

Don

#17 TSR

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 11:08 PM

I am sure that Raymond is mistaken. He DID have ONE sample that he got from Mr. Chahian, the center owner, to test with J.M. Vincent.

It was never for sale at Erlanger, I would have seen them since I was there almost daily.

#18 Horsepower

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Posted 06 June 2009 - 04:47 AM

Doc- First, thanks for reviving this thread, as I had never seen the completed series of pictures/info that you posted about it. Even though they weren't the greatest cars ever built, they were certainly part of my slot car dreams for many years, especially the Model Car and Racing article. I also believe that for a mass produced car, those wing posts were ingenious for their time. I never would have thought of the fold down wing stays! :D
PS- Tom Andersen makes these copies, wing and all.
Gary Stelter

#19 Mattb

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Posted 14 July 2017 - 07:22 PM

A little follow up to this old thread.   I got the above 2E from Ebay and it was buried with  some junk and another car, but one photo did show the bent wing strut and one tab was still attached at that time, but barely.   Having some Lancer vac-wings, I studied the picture and thought maybe, this was something factory built.    I won that auction, fairly cheap actually and when I got the car, I could see it was the real deal.    It sat on my shelf with a replaced wing and the thin carboard taped to the old struts and taped into the bottom half of the wing  where the tabs originally held the wing bottom.    

 

I had talked to Scott about this car several times and after a couple years, I started selling off a lot of vintage stuff and I called Scott about this car before contacting anybody else.   Like most of the old slot cars, the fun was in the chase, looking at it on a shelf in your house is no big deal after awhile.

 

Fast forward to last fall and I found another silver 2E on Ebay hidden in a slot car lot.   Very same deal, poor picture, but you could see black injectors and die cut slots in the body, which was loose..   The body had no chassis, but there was a BZ  chassis in the lot. There was also a detached, de-formed wing that looked exactly like all of the originals I had seen.   I thought there was a strut under some other stuff, so I took a chance and got this auction also pretty cheap.    So I have another original.  

Since that first find (10-12 years ago), I have  heard of 6-7 other 2E's, with 3 being  at LASCM.   It is a neat car, but poorly designed because of the wheel base and the wing attachment.

 

b mz 2e on ebay.jpg

 


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