Racer Celebrates 40 Years
John Gunnell - April 30, 2014 08:08 AM
Racing success is part of the heritage of this CorvetteJohn Gunnell
Another look at the car, now owned by Lance Smith.John Gunnell
Forty years ago, John Greenwood built a pair of stock-framed, wide-bodied, fuel-injected racing cars for the 1974-‘75 Trans-Am, He was focused on beating Porsches and BMWs.
Lance Smith of Villanova, Pennsylvania, now owns the first car. In 1976, after Greenwood and Rudy Braun raced it, the car was sold. It was found in 1996 in Munich, Germany. Last summer, it came to Road America, in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
Greenwood’s Corvettes were 800 lbs. heavier, but he beat the Europeans time and again. He had raced a ’72 Corvette for three years and understood its strengths and weaknesses. His new cars featured refinements including relocating the fuel tank and battery box to get more consistent handling as the fuel load changed during a race.
Greenwood replaced rubber bushings in the ’75 Corvette’s suspension with sealed ball bearings. The rear suspension underwent a complete redesign and a rear sway bar stiffened things up. To beef up the whole car, a roll cage was added and Greenwood also designed improved engine support struts. Greenwood spent about $125,000 developing each car.
The car’s all-aluminum 427 big block V-8 had an aluminum injection system that weighed seven pounds and a smooth-flowing header exhaust system. It churned up more torque that a 510 Can-Am engine. Greenwood called it “The World’s Fastest Corvette” and drove it over 230 mph at Daytona.
Lance Smith is probably the most serious collector of Greenwood Corvettes. He started on the trail of the Greenwood car by looking for driver Juan Olivera of Port Huron, Michigan, who bought the car. The trail cooled and he stopped hunting. Then, he saw an ad placed by Dennis Tracy with what looked like the car, but hit a brick wall. Tracy said Olivera had been killed in a motorcycle accident. Tracy ultimately got the ‘Vette and sold it to Mike Baretta of Munich.
Because the history was cloudy and because parts of the car had been changed or damaged in races, it took more research to prove what the car was. After a deal was made, the car was shipped to Canada and trucked to Cleveland, Ohio. After it passed through U.S. Customs in Cleveland, it was trucked on to Smith’s home near Pittsburgh and received a proper restoration.