John and Burt Greenwood were the children of a WW2 fighter pilot who worked at the GM Tech Center. As a teenager John was working paper rounds so that he could build a Briggs Stratton powered kart. From there the Greenwood’s moved into street racing, preparing a car, racing it and then selling it to so that they could build up another.
Around 1968 the Greenwoods set up Auto Research Engineering to build engines and tune suspension and the following year started racing. John won back to back SCCA championships in 1970 and 1971. Over the following two years the Greenwood Corvettes had made trips to the Le Mans 24 hours where they had failed to finish having a best 16th place on the grid in ’72 to show for their efforts.
In 1976 John Greenwood was invited to return to Le Mans and this time he brought a wide bodied car to share with Bernard Darniche. Featuring a body that was developed the the aid of ‘Farther of the Corvette’ Zora Arkus-Duntov and aerodynamicist Randy Wittine that covered a 700 hp fuel injected 7 litre / 427 cui motor.
Chassis #007 had been built up for Rick Mancuso a racer from Illinois who entered the car in the ’76 Sebring 12 hours but crashed it in practice so that it did not start, #007 is not to be confused with John Greenwoods “Spirit of Sebring ’76” which started from pole in the same race, but retired after 36 laps with clutch failure.
At his third attempt John’s Corvette, which was timed at over 215 mph on Mulsanne straight, qualified 9th behind a the turbocharged BMW CSl driven by Brian Redman and Peter Gregg and was one of just 12 cars to get below 4 mins in qualifying beating his own previous best time by a clear 20 seconds.
Unfortunately it was not third time lucky in the race as the car was retired with a split fuel cell during the early hours bringing to an end John’s hugely popular presence at the La Sarthe circuit.
Thanks for joining me on this “Spirit of ’76” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow for “Ferrari Friday”. Don’t forget to come back now !