Greenwood C3 Corvette: The American legend from the 70s
The launch of the new C8 Corvette has us all frenzied, but here's the story of a legend which stunned the world back in its time:
Now I'm going to be completely honest here, I didn't know much about the Greenwood C3 until recently. Like most others who have a fleeting interest in American cars, the C3 was a car I was aware of, but never so much so that it'd fascinate me to the extent other icons of the era did. It all started with a new HotWheels casting of the Greenwood C3 which came grouped with other "silhouette" cars akin to the Porsche 935, Nissan R30 Silhouette. The massive flared arches drew me to believe that it was something special indeed...
The HotWheels in question, pictured in a shabby DIY diorama built by yours truly.
Cue the hours of research and drooling over the interwebs:
The "Malaise Era": 1970s
It was the 60s, the muscle-cars of the time were at the pinnacle of American excess: engines as big as locomotives, high displacement, high horsepower and extremely high *gallons per mile*. The American car industry was unique as it was one in which the V8 ruled the roost, from station wagons, family sedans, you name it. Fuel was cheap so why bother with dinky 4 cylinders?
As was inevitable, the fuel crisis was waiting right around the corner, the late 60s and early 70s saw the rise of government regulated emissions mandates, insurance premiums, and skyrocketing fuel prices. No longer could one justify owning a V8 that drank more fuel than an Irish man on St. Patty's day.
"B R O O O W W W N" - read in Mr Regular's voice for best results
All this affected the Corvette along with all it's contemporaries. Engines shrunk from big blocks making north of 400hp to small blocks making around 150hp. The Corvette had lost quite a bit of its allure, and it was now at a low point in the history of its existence. Enter John Greenwood:
The Greenwood C3:
John Greenwood was the son of a GM exec. He grew up in and around GM cars, and racing them on the track and on the street. As any 18 year old with a penchant for speed, he started tinkering with Corvettes fairly early in his life. He bought a '68 C3 and stuffed a big block L88 (427 ci) into it, and decided to take up racing on the track. The Greenwood brothers spent effort into developing a car that dominated for the next two years in a row, winning the SCCA A-Production National Championships back-to-back. This gave him huge publicity and big sponsors chipped in. A deal with BF Goodrich gave him the chance to join the big leagues of the FIA endurance racing classes such as the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Source: Hemmings Magazine
The team also took part in Le Mans in 1972 and 1973. Even though they didn't finish, they got a lot of attention. Soon, the cars lost their edge and were being outgunned by their competition which ran slicks as compared their street radials, as per their contract with BF Goodrich. As the contract closure approached, Greenwood's team began devising plans for more grip... far more grip than they had currently.
W I D E B O D Y:
Look at those curves!
In the 1974 season Greenwood took the help of GM's design studio and Zora Arkus "father of the Corvette" himself, and after a few sketches and mockups, this widebody was made. It was as insane as the Porsche 935s, Nissan Super Silhouette Skylines and touring car monsters of its era. It was built with aerodynamic efficiency in mind and could fit tires wide enough to put down its 750 horsepower output. And boy was it effective! The Greenwood Corvettes won the GT class at Sebring and Daytona in 1971, the 24 Hours of Daytona and the IMSA title in 1974, and the Trans Am championships in 1975 and 1978, talk about dominance! It also broke speed records such as 236mph at Daytona.
It helped the Corvette gain fans and recoup it's dominance on the track, as well as garner worldwide attention, which drove sales up at the time when the Corvette needed it the most.
Hope you liked the read! Do feel free to comment and discuss below.