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Wilt Chamberlin's "Searcher I" Restoration Project

Wilt Chamberlains car is being restored in our shop.
It now belongs to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
It's almost done after 8 months of work.
Click on image
for enlargement

Wilt Chamberlain's "Searcher I" Custom-Made Race Car.

Few athletes have reached the level of domination in their sport that Wilt Chamberlain achieved throughout his basketball career. Playing his college ball for University of Kansas Jayhawks, "Wilt the Stilt" exhibited such advanced skills that several rule changes were enacted to harness his ability, including widening the lane and revising rules the rules that governed inbounding the ball and shooting free throws. Joining the NBA's Philadelphia Warriors in the 1959-1960 season, Chamberlain became the first player in history to be named MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season. In his 14 professional seasons, his dominance was unparalleled: he was the league MVP four times; a 13 time All-Star, including seven time All-NBA First Team; he led the NBA in scoring for seven consecutive seasons from 1959-1965, and scored 100 points against the Knicks in 1962.Chamberlain won two NBA Championships, in 1967 (76ers) and 1972 (Los Angeles). He is one of only two players to have scored more than 30,000 points in his career. He was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1979 and passed away in 1999. Though many people know Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain was involved with volleyball as well as basketball, few know Wilt was an avid racing fan. In addition, he loved to collect cars; Ferrari, Bentley and others. Of the hundreds of people who dream of building their own "super car," few are ever started, much less completed. The idea of the ultimate street car is elusive; how many people have a Le Mans car they can drive to work? In 1986 Chamberlain decided to put one of his dreams into reality - owning his own race car. Known as the Chamberlain Searcher 1, the custom-built car's design was first laid out by Wilt and given to Peter Bohanna, an automotive engineer who worked on special effects (building cars, boats etc.) for the James Bond films. Bohanna built the male buck from wood, then modified it to suit Wilt's taste. A trip to the wind tunnel and the project was ready for engineering. The Lyncar Motor Company of England, a racecar builder, was signed up for the project. Lyncar's proprietor Martin Slater had previously worked as a design engineer for Lola and McLaren, and, like Bohanna, in the movie industry as well. Lyncar based the chassis on a Le Mans endurance car design. It is a virtual twin to those that have run 240 MPH for 24 hours down the Mulsanne straight (3-1/2 miles) at Le Mans, France. The cockpit is different in that it allows for both a driver and a passenger. To accommodate Wilt's seven foot height, the cockpit was stretched by 6 inches. The one-of-a-kind body was molded out of fiberglass. After the chassis and body were completed in England, the car was then transported to California by air. There, Richard Paul, who had built the 700+ hp engine took charge. His firm took thousands of hours installing the engine and finishing all the systems integration in the car. The only major modifications from the race version were the cockpit stretch and the reworking of the rear subframe to allow use of the synchromesh gearbox. The technical features of the car include the fuel system, which consists race style semi self sealing blotter fuel cells; the chassis, made by aircraft type construction, built of riveted structural aluminum; the body, which is hand-shaped fiberglass with aluminum reinforcing; the gearbox, a modified ZF upside-down type BMW racing M-1 five speed with changeable ratios; the cooling system of dual side-mounted radiators; the suspension, which is independent all-wheel, each adjustable for compression and rebound; the direct rack and pinion steering with no power assists; the engine, tested at 712 hp at 6,750 RPM; the instruments, which are aircraft type except digital speed and tachometer. With a total weight of 3,000 lbs, there is also an onboard Halon fire extinguishing system; the chassis weight is adjustable in any direction, the interior is hand-formed aluminum and upholstered in Italian glove leather, also a race style four point belt and harness. Wilt never really drove the Searcher I aside from a few trips to the track, and we have been told that the car has only about 100 miles on it. It appears to have been driven somewhat after this, the normal "wear and tear" is to be expected. There are some tears in the driver seat upholstery, and the knob on the gearshift is missing. All working parts perform perfectly, only minor cosmetic application needed.

 

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