The Corvette world has lost yet another legend.
Back in the 1970s, the name John Greenwood was as prominent in the Corvette world as the names of Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen are today.
Greenwood and his brother Burt grew up in the home of a General Motors executive who had earlier been a fighter pilot during World War II, so it was no surprise that John first became widely known for his success racing in a Corvette, winning back-to-back SCCA A Production National Championships in the early 1970s.
Sadly, Greenwood passed away recently at age 71.
On the website Greenwood Corvettes, John recalled his early days when he bought a 1968 Corvette with a 435 horsepower engine and the first night put an L-88 under the hood. “My wife saw an ad for a parking lot autocross at the grocery store one day and dared me to enter,” he says. “I did and won everything. I went back the next week and did the same. There were some pretty fancy cars because a whole bunch of road racers showed up with trailered cars, but I won again. So, I figured that since I could win, this wasn’t a bad deal.”
Those big engines proved to be his legacy. In an interview, John said: “You know that a lot of the equation was the big engines. I had learned on Woodward Avenue that you don’t want to get left behind on the straight parts. We always used the basic big block engines and almost always the all-aluminum ones to save weight.”
In 1972, Greenwood used his prowess behind the wheel to promote BFGoodrich radial tires at Le Mans. He didn’t win there, but the two-year campaign helped raise awareness about Goodrich radials, leading to the famous “Tire Wars” between Greenwood’s Goodrich “Stars and Stripes” Corvette L88 and Goodyear’s “Rebel” L88. Those Corvettes came some of the most famous Corvette race cars in history, with the “Stars and Stripes” and “Rebel” Corvettes going for more than $1 million at recent auctions.
Greenwood’s last big success on the track came when he won the SCCA Trans Am championship in 1975, with wins in three of the seven races that season.
He moved on to make the famous wide-bodied Greenwood Corvettes that still look great today with their sculpted bodywork and tremendous power provided by Greenwood’s own engine company, Auto Research Engineering.
Without Greenwood, there might not be a 12 Hours of Sebring today. He helped save Sebring in the mid-1970s after the track had lost its FIA listing in 1973 and had its race canceled by the oil crisis the next year. Bill France Sr. and John Bishop asked Greenwood to promote the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1975 and 1976, and his efforts were so successful that record crowds turned out both years and helped save the track.
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