In 1974 at the Detroit Auto Show the public got their first glimpse of the wide-body Chevrolet Corvette. It was immediately given the nickname 'Batmobile' by the press. The vehicle, based on the third-generation Corvette, had been constructed for SCCA and IMSA road racing competition.
The wide-body, also known as slab-side, was constructed in such a way to comply with racing regulations, improve aerodynamics, reduce lift, add extra down-force, and improve ventilation. The nose sat very low to the ground because the body was dropped around the frame.
The car made its racing debut at Road Atlanta after two years of development and testing. Bobby Allison's big-block Camaro provided stiff competition in the ten lap race but in the end it was the Corvette that took top honors. That was the beginning of a successful season and an impressive racing career.
In 1972 John Greenwood raced a Corvette in one of the worlds most famous, prestigious, and grueling races – the 24 Hours of LeMans. He was teamed with comedian Dick Smothers and together they qualified 38th. After 10 hours of the race the team was forced to retire, however, they had managed to last an hour longer than the team car driven by Alain Cudini and Bernard Darniche.
The following year Greenwood returned to LeMans with the famous Chevrolet dealer Don Yenko in a two-car effort. Unfortunately, both vehicles were unable to achieve the desired success.
Three years later Greenwood returned to LeMans, this time with his wide-body Corvettes. With over 700 horsepower of fuel-injected big-block muscle, the cars were reported to have a top speed of 240 mph. Adorned with an American flag paint scheme, the Greenwood Corvette qualified 9th. Unfortunately the car was DNF'd due to a failed fuel-cell after just five hours of racing.
Though the desired success was not achieved at LeMans, the car did prove its potential state-side by dominating many of the races it entered. While at LeMans it achieved 228 mph, a true testament to its potent engine and excellent aerodynamics.
The cars have been featured in magazines such as Hot Rod Magazine and Road & Track. It was even hailed by many as the 'fastest Corvette in the world.'By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2008
During the 1970s, the racing sanctioning bodies were in disarray and desperately searching for ways to overcome the resentment caused by the 1973 oil embargo. The Porsche 935s were very competitive at this time, though the appeal of the American V8s was also an attractive offer for racers. One of the leading proponents during this era was John Greenwood. John's father worked at the GM Tech Center and John grew up building engines and street racing around Michigan.
John won the 1970 and 1971 SCCA A/Production championship in a 427 Corvette of his own construction. He was successful at marrying strong engines with refined suspensions and advanced aerodynamics.
Dick Smothers, a comedian, saw Greenwood claim victory in a street tire endurance race and conceived the idea of promoting their street Radial T/A tires by competing at the most important endurance races, Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and of course the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The Stars and Stripes livery, conceived by Greenwood and executed by GM Design's Randy Wittine, distinguished the BFG Corvettes and became legend.
After the two-year BFG deal was done Greenwood began development on the series of Greenwood Corvettes. The Wide Bodies were introduced in 1974. The aerodynamic designs were given 700+ horsepower engines which helped push the Greenwood Corvettes to over 200 mph down the long straights of Le Mans and around the mixed oval/road courses of IMSA. The whole body, especially at the front, was lowered over the frame. The lowered, raked, chiseled nose with molded integrated flares covered the ultra-wide slick tires. The widebody design was quickly copied by other marques, such as BMW.
To achieve optimal weight distribution, the engine was moved a foot back int he chassis and offset five inches to the right. The rear suspension trailing arms were notched for tire clearance and the rear frame was sectioned, then thoroughly reinforced by a network of triangulated tubes that also formed the roll cage. Riley's suspension incorporated needle bearing bushings and concentric shocks/coil springs to supplement the standard Corvette transverse leaf springs.
During the 1974 and 1975 season, the two Greenwood team cars were very successful. Demand for both parts and customers cars soon escalated. Just eleven complete Greenwood Wide Body cars were built, from 1975 through 1978.
This Greenwood Wide Body Corvette, chassis number 008, was completed in July of 1977 for R.V. Shulnberg in Tampa, Florida. The car was driven in local, long distance races like the 1978 12 Hours of Sebring where Shulnberg, Heinz and Michael Keyser qualified sixth fastest and ran with the leaders for much of the early part of the race before being sidelined after 83 laps. The car later contested the Talladega 6 Hours in 1978 driven by Shulnberg, Heinz and Keyser, qualifying fifth but returning after 39 laps due to overheating.
Its final notable race appearance for Shulnberg's team was at Sebring for the 1980 12 Hours. Shulnberg, along with Keyser and Tim Morgan, were forced to retire due to engine problems although it was classified 63rd overall.
The car was put into storage and later found by Lance Smith in largely original condition. The car was restored by J&L Fabrication in Puyallup, Washington for its next owner, Greg Sullivan, wearing Stars and Stripes livery and incorrectly identified as the 'Spirit of New Mexico '74'. The current owner acquired it from Greg Sullivan in 2007. It was updated to modern historic racing specifications and raced a few times in historic competition then given another nut-and-bolt restoration with an alloy Big Block sourced from General Motors. It has seen little use since then with its last outing at the Monterey Historics in 2011.
The car has the Bob Riley designed suspension and the Kinsler cross flow fuel injection system.
In 2012 the car was offered for sale at the Quail Lodge presented by Bonhams Auction. It was estimated to sell for $350,000 - $450,000. Unfortunately, it was unable to find a buyer willing to satisfy its reserve. It would leave the auction unsold.By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2012