The “Swiss Cheese” Car
by Wayne Ellwood

John Greenwood started racing in 1968. In 1969 he obtained his SCCA regional and national licenses. In 1970 and '71 he won consecutive A-Production class championships. He ran the BFG cars in long distance races in 1972 and '73 and finished the 1973 season, after the BFG deal, with another SCCA class championship in the repainted BFG #48.

From all of this, it sounds as though there was a whole flotilla of race cars at John’s disposal. Not so. There were remarkably few cars in the early years, but many manifestations of each one.

In 1969 and ’70 there was only one “team” car; this was the original coupe run as both #18 and #48 which was converted to roadster style after a mid-season crash in 1970. This was the car sold to Mike Murray later in 1971 and run as #66 at the run-offs (still with Greenwood colors) with Ike Knupp driving. The car was then painted black for the following year and then sold to Phil Currin later in 1974.

Phil Currin raced the “team” car under his #99 until 1979. Although the car was previously run by Mike Murray under SCCA rules, it had been built with flexibility in mind. It could run either IMSA or SCCA with the appropriate nominal changes in tires, wheels, engine placement and the like. Phil ultimately selected the IMSA All-American GT as the series where he could best compete and, to his credit, he did compete effectively. Never a big budget team, Phil finished in the points often and had his share of outright class wins.

It was Phil's energy and never-ending search for the competitive advantage that earned the car its most famous nickname, the “Swiss Cheese” car. Since weight is always the racer's enemy, and since every pound of weight saved is effectively equal to horsepower gained, Phil went at the chassis with a hole saw and reduced the metal mass to its bare minimum. In fact, even Phil admits that he may have gone too far. By the time he finished, the chassis was getting quite flexible, despite the original Greenwood-style triangulated roll cage. When Phil finally crashed the car for the last time at an IMSA race in California in 1979, it was time for this war horse to be returned to the stables.

Lance Smith had the full story when he went looking for this car. There was no doubt about its pedigree and there was little doubt in his mind that it was one of the “winningest” cars in IMSA history. This car had history and, what's more, it was eligible for SVRA and HSR vintage racing -- as a pre-1972 car. This was just too good to pass up!

Lance's plans for the “Swiss Cheese” car do involve both a full restoration and racing. Right now the car is stripped and awaiting some of those spare moments that come easier in the winter. Lance is moving the engine back in the chassis, as per period rules. This has necessitated widening the transmission tunnel box and the manufacture of some new/old Greenwood mounts. He also plans to replace as many of the missing Greenwood pieces as possible -- the driver side A-Arm is a normal piece used after one of several off-road incidents. He is also rethinking selected aspects of the “cheese” holes. The A-Arms themselves, for example, have been reduced to look like the more modern aluminum pieces. But in their original stamped steel form, this lightening has resulted in very specific flex and a tendency to cracking.

The engine will be the standard all-aluminum big block with Kinsler fuel injection (unit #006) and the wide body fender flares will be widened by yet another four inches to fit the original wheels and rubber purchased from Phil Currin. Lance says he doesn't have to finish first... but he does want to be competitive.

1968 Coupe #177/ #18 /#48 #66 #66 #99 #99
converted to roadster 1970 J. Greenwood
(18 & 48 rdstr)
M. Murray
I. Knupp
M. Murray P. Currin
Swiss Cheese
L. Smith
1968-71 1971 1972-73 1974-89 '89-present