The Spirit of New Mexico 74
by Wayne Ellwood
The Spirit of New Mexico 74 car is a Greenwood customer car chassis #008. A preliminary restoration was done by Lance Smith, of Philadelphia, PA. Greg Sullivan, the owner of the car from of Albuquerque, NM, presented the car at its first major public appearance this summer at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in Great Britain. The car was then flown from England and arrived in San Francisco just days before the Corvette 50th celebration and the Monterey Historic Races. The story is interesting from many perspectives. But first, some history.
Lance Smith is an avid collector of John Greenwoods early race cars; he favors the period up to 1976 when the full chassis style was superseded by tubeframe cars. The story of his "Greenwood" collection started just a year after he acquired his first Corvette and cascaded quite quickly. As Lance tells it, it started in 1987 when he took his father to Road Atlanta for the Walter Mitty Challenge vintage race. It was the biggest race of its type at that time. They met Paul Canary, who told them about a car he had just restored. He went on to tell them about the Greenwood cars and he owned two of them -- the two "Spirit" cars that Steve Goldin now owns. Later that year Lance talked his girlfriend into going to the Monterey event which was featuring Chevies that year. Once again they ran into Paul Canary. Paul had the Spirit of Le Mans for sale. Of course, the car was too expensive for Lance, at that time, so he could only let the excitement build.
The next week they went to Carlisle and as were wandering around when Lance saw an old beat-up '82 Corvette on its back. Lance talked a bit with the vendor and figured out that this was Michael Olyears car. He bought that car for about $6,500, a fair price considering that there was a lot of work to do (and considering that it also included about $7,000 worth of Minilite wheels).
With a little more research through Gene Miller, Lance found that his latest acquisition was the chassis #11 Greenwood customer car originally built for EF (Gene) Miller in 1978 and driven by John Orr through 1979, with Mike Olyear as co-driver at the longer events like the Glen. Mike later used the car for his own racing. In 1980 the car had been sold to Olyear, and then Lance bought it.
Well that was really the start. Lance really started researching the Greenwood cars thoroughly, recording everything he found out about the customer and team cars.
Since acquiring his first Greenwood car, Lance found quite a few others. The current story ends up that Lance bought two cars, the RV Shulnburg car (customer car chassis #008) and the Albert DeLeo car. Both the Shulnburg and DeLeo deals got pretty complicated. First, Lance went to Florida to look at the Shulnburg car in April of 1989; the purchase took place in June of 1989. The car came with a lot of spares. Meanwhile, he had also heard of the second car from Paul Canary. This turned out to be the DeLeo car (chassis #012 in the customer car series.
The Shulnberg car sat unrestored until Greg Sullivan inquired about it. Greg found out that this car was one of three Customer cars that had been built with the widebody style. The other two are the ex-DeLeo/Dave Force (#012) car and Rick Mancuso car #007 later becoming the Spirit of Le Mans car. Greg purchased the car in 2001.
After purchase and delivery, ex-Shulnberg car was then sent to J&L Fabrication in Puyallup, WA for a complete nut and bolt restoration. The car was completely disassembled and every single piece of hardware was cleaned, restored or replaced. Sullivan in known for demanding precise, clean restorations. Sullivan visited with RV Shulnburg and several people who had worked on the car in the Tampa area. He also had joint conversations with John Greenwood and RV Shulnburg in order to fully understand the history of the car.
When finally completed, the car was shipped by boat to England for the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Since this event is by limited invitation only, Greg used some of his contacts through the Petersens Museums Checkered Flag 200 Club to validate the car. As it turned out, the Goodwood organizers have been eager to have a big block Greenwood car for many years . Through his contacts with Shulnburg, Sullivan was also able get one the original drivers to assist in driving duties in England. Michael Keyser, author of The Speed Merchants with Brian Redman and a Sebring Champion agreed to join Sullivan and their American Expeditionary Team on their trek to England. It should also be noted that the famed Dave Heinz also drove this car.
A good time was had by all at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and it is an event every car lover should attend at least once. New friends were made from around the world. The Toyota CanAm Team was especially interested in the big bore Corvette.
During this process, Greg became not only an expert in the Greenwood cars, but also learned a thing or two about shipping cars around the world, although he is quick to add that this was not one of his initial ambitions. The voyage by ship took over 30 days and, in the process, many of the nuts, bolts and fasteners suffered from saltwater corrosion. As well, the container (not the car) was damaged; obviously some rough treatment had been involved.
As a result of this and potential scheduling difficulties of the car showing up on time for the Corvette 50th Celebration at the Monterey Historic Races, Greg decided to fly the car back to the US. As negotiations proceeded, the estimate to fly the car back to the US rose to over $18,000
more than double what he had been quoted on the phone. This was deemed ridiculous, so he talked to Riley and Scott who were just returning their C5-R Corvette from Le Mans and Goodwood. (Sullivan was stablemates with the Le Mans winning C5-R Corvette at Goodwood.) Both Gregs new friends at Riley and Scott and friends at Panoz referred him to First Air, where the price was dropped to just over $6,000.
The car arrived in the US on Wednesday, just one day before the Monterey Historic races. Greg wanted to have the car at this event, to participate in the celebrations of the Corvettes 50th anniversary, But again, estimates for shipping were going through the ceiling. Finally, with the financial details sorted out, the car arrived on Friday morning, in time for the parade laps and other celebrations.
On Sunday, both the Sprit of Sebring and Spirit of New Mexico paraded around the Laguna Seca track in tandem with Lances wife holding an American Flag high in the air. The fans loved it and there was not a dry eye in the crowd. What a fitting, patriotic display for the Greenwood Stars and Stripes cars and the 50th Anniversary of the Corvette!
Sidebar by Greg Sullivan
This is one of the first stock framed, flat side, open flared, wide body, GT race cars in the world. This is one of only three wide body cars produced and was purchased from Greenwood by RV Shulnburg of Tampa, FL. This car is the most original of all the three cars. These cars continually raced over 230 mph powered by the legendary ZL-1, all aluminum 427 cu. in. engine. Very few cars, including those in Formula 1, approach these speeds today.
This revolutionary cars chassis modifications were designed by Bob Riley (now Riley and Scott). The aerodynamic body revisions were created by John Greenwood, Zora Duntov and Chevrolet Styling and changed the automotive design and racing communities forever. The body parts could be ordered over the counter from any GM dealer. With the engine moved back 12 inches, down 2 inches and to the right 5 inches, similar to the legendary Corvette Grand Sport. Thus there was almost perfect weight distribution on the car with the driver in it.
This car also introduced a new cross-ram fuel injection manifold which provided the Greenwood Team with over 100 more usable horsepower than Chevrolet powered Can Am cars over a broader RPM range.
The biggest problem the Greenwood Widebody Corvettes had was building transmissions that would hold together with all the new power generated. As an example, in 1975, Greenwood Corvettes qualified first 11 times, beating out the factory BMW and Porsche teams, but kept destroying transmissions, even on a de-tuned engine! It was the only car to break the Porsche dominance in the 74-75 season.