[Gunner’s Classic Corner] – 1974 John Greenwood Sebring Corvette GT

1974 Corvette GT

When John Greenwood built a pair of stock-framed, wide-bodied, fuel-injected race cars for the 1974-‘75 Trans-Am Series, he was focused on beating Porsches and BMWs at Sebring, Pocono, Portland, Ore., and other tracks. He didn’t think of the two Corvettes as collector cars, but that didn’t keep Lance Smith, of Villanova, Pa., from spending nine years tracking down one of them.

Smith owns the first of the two cars built. In 1976, after Greenwood and Rudy Braun raced it, the car was sold. It competed in seven races after that, two here in the United States and five in Europe. The car was ultimately discovered in Munich Germany in 1996.

But the story really begins with independent racer Greenwood. He ran against richly financed factory teams campaigning 2000-lb. lightweight cars. His Corvettes were 800 lbs. heavier, but Greenwood managed to beat the Europeans time and again because he had raced a ’72 Corvette for three years and understood its strengths and weaknesses. His new cars featured refinements to help him win. They included relocating the fuel tank and battery box to get more consistent handling as the fuel load changed during a race.

The Greenwood plant in Troy, Mich. 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.

For power, Greenwood utilized a fuel-injected all-aluminum 427-cid Chevy big block V-8 with an aluminum injection system that weighed seven pounds and a smooth-flowing header exhaust system. The RPO ZL-1 Chevy 454 churned up more torque that a 510-cid Can-Am engine. No wonder the car was described as “The World’s Fastest Corvette.” Greenwood drove it over 230 mph at Daytona.

Greenwood also packaged his chassis and suspension upgrades into a road racing car kit for Corvettes. He marketed these kits for $18,000. Greenwood produced the GT kits with the same jigs and equipment he utilized in building the racing cars. The kit did not include engine modifications. However, Greenwood did manufacture custom fiberglass body panels and sold them as a separate kit.

Lance Smith is probably the most serious collector of Greenwood Corvettes. He started on the trail of the 1975 Greenwood car by looking for driver Juan Olivera. The Port Huron, Mich. driver had bought the car. The trail got cold and Smith stopped the hunt. Two years later, he saw an ad placed by Dennis Tracy with what looked like the car, but then he hit another brick wall. Smith talked with Tracy and found out that Olivera had been killed in a motorcycle accident and Tracy ultimately got the ‘Vette and sold it to Mike Baretta in Munich.

Because the history was cloudy and because parts of the car had been changed or damaged in races, it required a bunch more research to prove what the car was. Then, Smith had to negotiate a deal, even though there were a few other interested parties. After the deal was clinched, the car was shipped to Canada and sent to Cleveland, Ohio by truck. After it passed through U.S. Customs inspection in Cleveland, it was trucked on to Smith’s home near Pittsburgh. Smith then completed a very nice restoration on the car.

1974 Corvette GT
Car was restored in its “Sebring ‘75” format.

1974 Corvette GT
Brake air scoop with “427” decal tells the engine story.

1974 Corvette GT
The car was brought to Road America for Corvette 60th anniversary event.

1974 Corvette GT
Is this what “complete set of gauges” really means?

About John Gunnell 139 Articles
John “Gunner” Gunnell has been writing about cars since ‘72. As a kid in Staten Island, N.Y., he played with a tin Marx “Service Garage” loaded with toy vehicles, his favorite being a Hubley hot rod. In 2010, he opened Gunner’s Great Garage, in Manawa, Wis., a shop that helps enthusiasts restore cars. To no one’s surprise, he decorated 3G’s with tin gas stations and car toys. Gunner started writing for two car club magazines. In 1978, publisher Chet Krause hired him at Old Cars Weekly, where he worked from 1978-2008. Hot rodding legend LeRoi “Tex” Smith was his boss for a while. Gunner had no formal journalism training, but working at a weekly quickly taught him the trade. Over three decades, he’s met famous collectors, penned thousands of articles and written over 85 books. He lives in Iola, Wis., with his nine old cars, three trucks and seven motorcycles.

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