Illustrated Corvette Series No. 175 – Greenwood Stars & Strips Goes On The Block!

Dateline: 10.30.11
Here’s the latest installment from the Illustrated Corvette Series VETTE Magazine Column

(Check out the Greenwood video at the bottom of this post!)

It was early last July that Kevin Mackay of Corvette Repair sent me a link to the RM Auctions online version of their Monterey Auction Catalog. Kevin and I have had many conversations about early Corvette race cars, so he knows that I’m a big fan. Any time a Greenwood Corvette goes on the block it’s big news, so I posted a story about the auction right away. For the next 6 weeks or so, the car magazine and Corvette blogs were on fire in anticipation of the auction. RM Auctions broadcasts their auctions online, so I stayed up and watched the coverage and sale of the Greenwood ZL-1. I have to admit, it was a lot of fun. Here’s the post of the auction coverage.

Since the car has so much historical importance, I decided to cover the car in my VETTE Magazine monthly column, “The Illustrated Corvette Series.” The January 2012 issue of VETTE just came out, so I’m sharing the story and art with you below. Enjoy! – Scott

Illustrated Corvette Series No. 175: #49 Greenwood ‘69 427 ZL-1 Racer
“Stars and Stripes On The Block!”

Expectations were high when it was announced that the No. 49 Greenwood BF Goodrich “Stars and Stripes” Corvette was going on the block at the 2011 RM Auction Monterey event. Some estimated that the car would sell for $750,000 to $950,000. In ‘09 the Gulf One ‘63 Z06 Corvette racer went for an astonishing $1.113 Million! So there was quite a buzz in the Corvette community.

John and Burt Greenwood knew all about Duntov’s “racer kits” and like many others, took maximum advantage of the special hardware. The Greenwood boys had another advantage. Sr. Greenwood had been a WW II fighter pilot and worked at the GM Tech Center. Their Dad would sometimes take young John and Burt to work on Saturdays, to let the lads see the experimentals and prototypes. It was better than an invitation to Elvis’ house!

John started his lone wolf street racing in ‘60 with a 55 Pontiac and by ‘64 had a hot ‘64 Corvette. He had one of the first big-block transplants in his ‘64, before buying an new ‘68 L71 427/435 Corvette, quickly replacing the L71 with an L88. John’s wife coaxed him into trying autocross racing. He did well and soon took professional driving lessons, developing his street racer-derived, aggressive driving style. About the same time, John formed his company, Automotive Research Engineering, and was pouring everything he was learning from his customer cars into his own Corvette, eventually winning the A/Production Championship in ‘71 and ‘72.

Zora always wanted to race cars and was following John’s career. Chevy engineer and racer, Gib Hufstader introduced Greenwood to Duntov and soon John was “field testing” special drive train parts. His mega-horsepower engines were breaking everything from the flywheel back. When John and Zora learned that BF Goodrich wanted big exposure for their new radial tires, Zora added his clout for Greenwood and contacted Gerard Axelrod, president of BF Goodrich. A contract was drawn for a two-year deal to race two cars and a replica race car for promotional use.

Cars #48 and #50 were examples of Duntov’s racer kits taken to the max and the team did well for an independent going against factory teams. The cars set track records, qualified on the poll many times, won a lot of races, and broke a lot of parts. Speed was their strong suit, with durability often a distant second. Car #50 seriously crashed in ‘72 and since the contract called for two cars racing, the #49 show car was quickly converted to racer level. The Greenwood cars struck terror in the hearts of the competition because they were so bloody fast and John was quite a character too. He was the big tall guy with the big mustache, part goof-ball, part Attila the Hun. But it was #49 car that became the legend. At the ‘73 Le Mans race, John set the GT speed record with a  215-mph blast on the Mulsanne Straight. Rumors abounded that Greenwood had an 800-horsepower engine. He didn’t, it just seemed like he did.

To go to the next level, a full tube chassis was needed, so the used up, tired old race cars were sold off. Here’s where cars can get lost. Sometimes cars are so cut up and modified they’re no longer recognizable. Fortunately, #49 didn’t drift too far. Bruce Morton and Phil Currin became the second owners in ‘73 and kept the car until ‘95 before selling it to Ed Mueler. Then in 2000, Carlisle Productions Skip Miller bought the car. Owner #5 acquired the car in ‘06 and hired Corvette Repair, in Valley Stream, NY to do a total restoration. As a show car, #49 was a big success, winning the 2008 Quail Motorsports “Best in Class,” a 2009 Amelia Award, was in the 2009 Bloomington Gold Grand Finale, received the 2009 “American Heritage Award” by the National Corvette Restorers Society, was on display in ‘09 at the National Corvette Museum, and invited to Corvettes first Le Mans win at the Laguna Seca ALMS race. The car has become a solid member of a growing club of beautifully restored, historic Corvette race cars.

Cars such as this are now valuable commodities. The Greenwood #49 car was the 48th car on the block at the AM Auctions Monterey event. Most cars are hand pushed to the turntable block, but before the auctioneer could announce the car, there was THUNDER!. It was the open headered 427 ZR-1 being driven on stage. The auctioneer said, “It doesn’t get any cooler than that! 750-horsepower, ladies and gentlemen!” Bidding started at $250,000 with the auctioneer making $50,000 jumps. Quickly the price was up to $400,000, then up quickly to $475,000. Bidding was slugish-to-slow up to $560,000. Then there was a quick $575,000 to $580,000 and it was SOLD!  When the gavel came down and the auctioneer said, “SOLD!” both the seller and the buyer were not known.

But a few days later, it was announced that the proud new owner of the Greenwood ZL-1 Corvette race car was Terry Michaelis of Pro Team Corvettes, in Napoleon, Ohio. The historic race car will be the centerpiece of Michaelis’ collection of seven L88 Corvettes. That’s a NICE herd of L88s, I’d say! Congrats Terry!

PS – The date of the auction was slightly past my due date for my VETTE column, but VETTE’s editor Jay Heath gave me some extra time so that I could include the auction results. It wasn’t until a week or so later that the buyer was announced. So, the above ending is different from as the column appears in the magazine – Scott

PSS – Keith Cornett of covered the Pro Team Corvettes purchase HERE.

Art prints of the Greenwood No. 49 Stars & Strips ZL-1 Corvette are available HERE.

We posted this video several months ago and while the car featured in the video isn’t No. 49, it’s close enough! Enjoy!

Video: Victory by Design: Greenwood Corvette

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