As the son of a GM Tech Center employee, John Greenwood started turning wrenches for himself as a teenager. Beginning with go-karts, he quickly progressed to street racing a 1955 Pontiac and then, in the mid-1960s, to the new Corvette Sting Ray. Street racing was then, as now, all about acceleration, and Greenwood quickly learned on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue that “you don’t want to get left behind on the straight parts.”
Bored and stroked big-blocks soon found their way into his cars, and after achieving good success on the mean streets, Greenwood found gymkhana competition and then road racing to his liking. He rapidly earned his regional and then national SCCA licenses, and as the 1960s closed he won the coveted SCCA A Production championship. Greenwood’s simultaneous racing and engineering careers—and his place in history—were underway.
The genesis of the Greenwood G5R body kits for the fifth-generation Corvette C5s dates to early 1974, when Greenwood introduced the first wide-body Corvette he’d designed for IMSA competition. Its dramatic modifications were all calculated to improve downforce and reduce drag for superior road-holding and higher top speeds. Features included an aggressive body rake angle, super-wide fenders with downforce-generating leading edges and drag-reducing vented rears, and front and rear diffusers.
The combination worked spectacularly, thrusting Greenwood’s monster Corvettes to the top of the national road-racing ladder and prompting factory teams from BMW and Porsche to adopt similar design strategies. While the early aero efforts were crafted with then-current third-generation Corvettes, the Greenwood name became synonymous with high-performance Corvette tuning and body designs for years afterwards, up to and including the fourth- and fifth-generation Corvettes.
This 1998 Corvette G5R Greenwood prototype is a truly functional and rare Corvette. It was designed and handcrafted by John Greenwood, who ultimately became one of the most successful Corvette racers in history, and Greenwood also certified this car as the prototype build for the subsequent production G5R body conversions. The specially developed package enhances both handling and stability with a G5R super wing, twin splitters, rockers, rear tunnel quarters, windshield fairing, and a raised twin-nostril Ram Air hood.
|Vehicle:||1998 Greenwood G5R Body Kit Prototype|
|Number Produced:||1 prototype|
|Original List Price:||$37,495 (base) + approx. $20,000 in Greenwood body mods|
|SCM Valuation:||$61,480 on this day|
|Tune Up Cost:||$500|
|Chassis Number Location:||Driver’s side dash at windshield|
|Engine Number Location:||Pad forward of cylinder head on right side|
|Club Info:||C5 Registry|
|Alternatives:||1998 Corvette Callaway C12; 1994 Corvette Guldstrand GS90; 1998 Corvette Lingenfelter Twin Turbo|
This car sold for $61,480, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s Kissimmee High Performance Auction in Kissimmee, Florida, on January 31, 2010.
By most accounts, John Greenwood was responsible for keeping America’s sports car alive on the track in the 1970s, earning SCCA and IMSA championships while flying the Stars and Stripes on outrageous wide-body aero Corvettes of his own design. The privateer effort was hugely successful, and the original shape of the Greenwood Corvettes was soon etched in the minds of all who followed the marque. Moreover, the unique configuration was championed by other Corvette racers, while also creating a demand for Greenwood wide-body conversion kits for the street.
Showing remarkable staying power, Greenwood conversions and kits have now been offered in four different decades. Most think of these cars as mostly aero oriented, but Greenwood also offered race-bred suspension packages and engine enhancements, such as a twin-turbo conversion. Fortunately, his designs always left the car undeniably Corvette, a feat which can’t be claimed by some other tuners.
Underneath the aero bodywork, a useful L98 Corvette
Greenwood may have done a few unique ground-up builds along the way, but his forte was crafting individual pieces, some of which were available in kits. It’s worth mentioning that other aftermarket builders such as Callaway, Katech, Lingenfelter, LG Motorsports, and Mallet similarly offered C5 suspension and engine modifications—with some also doubling up to create aero styling components. Judging by the test of time, today the Greenwood name remains typical of the group, that is to say well-known by the cognoscenti but invisible to the public.
Thanks to its stock suspension and drivetrain, this particular vehicle should provide years of service with little or no problems, and repairs should cost no more than those for any other Corvette of the same type. But with its raised twin-nostril Ram Air hood, twin splitters, body-side rockers, windshield fairing, rear tunnel quarters, and rear wing, the G5R becomes a truly functional and rare Corvette crafted by the man himself. Best of all, it will perform well as a daily driver, easily withstand a heavy-footed thrashing, squire sublimely along the boulevard, or take a long summer’s cruise—all while turning heads everywhere it goes.
Greenwood connection added much value
As lot U16 at Mecum’s Kissimmee auction (preceded immediately by lot U15, our C4 profile car, p. 26), this G5R prototype unquestionably sold for a premium price. If you simply wanted a Greenwood-kitted C5, you could instead buy a decent automatic coupe in the $20,000 range, invest another $20,000 in the purchase and installation of a body kit, and still be $20,000 ahead of the winning bidder here. But then all you would have is a converted car. Clearly the buyer in this case attached a premium to owning the prototype, the Adam of the clan, if you will, for the Greenwood G5Rs.
I can’t call this car well bought in terms of G5Rs in general, but I can say that this was a fair deal for both parties, when the unique nature of it being the one and only prototype is factored in. However, for the buyer to get his money back when it’s time to move on, he’ll need Mecum to find him another buyer just like himself—someone who thinks having prototype number 0000 is worth a $20,000 bump in value. He should be prepared to wait a while.