Construction of the first Corvettes began in 1953 at the GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan. Today, the Corvette brand is a revered American icon. The National Corvette Museum’s (NCM) objective is to preserve its evolution and history. The NCM has close ties to General Motors and the Corvette brand, but it is an independent organization governed by a Board of Directors. The board is comprised of leaders in the Corvette hobby as well as GM employees. The Corvette Hall of Fame (HOF) was established by the NCM in 1998. Its purpose is to bestow official recognition to people who have made a significant contribution to Corvette and the hobby. Inductees go through an exhaustive vetting process by an NCM selection committee to confirm their accomplishments. The selection committee and the Board of Directors want to ensure that inductees have had a positive impact on the Corvette brand. Each year, one leader is inducted into the Hall from one of three categories: GM-Chevrolet, Racing and Enthusiast. Since 1998, 66 people have been inducted. The 2018 class of Tom Wallace, John and Burt Greenwood and Mike Yager bring the total to 70. All four were honored for their accomplishments at the 2018 NCM Hall of Fame banquet ceremony. Here is a brief background on the new HOF inductees.
“Turbo” Tom Wallace – GM-Chevrolet
Tom Wallace was a dedicated drag racer as a young man. He usually had the fastest car in town. That changed when he participated in a local gymkhana and enjoyed turning left and right. He enrolled in a sports car driving school where he earned his competition driving license. He started racing professionally in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) events and continually improved his skills. He went on to compete in the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and the 6 Hours of Talladega. He managed to accomplish this while holding a fulltime job at GM. Racing became a weekend way of life for the Wallace family.
Tom graduated from GM’s Kettering Institute in 1966 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He immediately joined Buick and became part of their engine development team. He then moved to a group tasked to develop the turbo V-6 engine. That engine became the heart of the Turbo Regal Grand National sedan series. This project earned him the “Turbo Tom” nickname. He earned an MBA at Stanford University and was named Vehicle Line Executive (VLE) of midsize trucks in 1995. This group launched GM’s midsize pickups and sport utility vehicles. This included the Chevrolet Trail Blazer, GMC Envoy, Buick Rainier, Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Wallace’s team also developed the Chevrolet SSR. He held this position for 10 years, until he replaced the retiring Corvette Chief Engineer David Hill in January 2006.
His new title was VLE of Performance cars and he was responsible for the Cadillac XLR, Saturn Sky, Pontiac Solstice and the Opel GT. He also was named Corvette Chief Engineer. Tom fit well into the Corvette team and community. He enjoyed attending events, including Corvettes at Carlisle, Funfest and NCM events. He believed that was a great way to get customer feedback about their Corvettes. His outgoing, friendly manner and love for high performance helped him build strong relationships. He encouraged Corvette team members to participate in the NCM High Performance Driving events. He believed that they should experience America’s sports car in a high performance environment.
He supported the Corvette Racing team and attended many of their races. He saw value in infusing the racer mentality into the Corvette team and encouraged them to attend major races. When Tom joined Corvette, the C6 was in its third year of production and selling at a brisk pace. His biggest project was developing the Blue Devil, or C6 ZR1. He cleared many corporate roadblocks to enable this car to be produced. The ZR1 was introduced at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2008 right before GM’s corporate meltdown. He worked with John Heinricy to gain approval to build five EX (experimental) C6 Corvettes. They were completed at the Bowling Green Assembly Plant in September 2008 and shipped to Europe. Their purpose was to compete in the European GT4 racing series where the cars closely resembled showroom stock cars. These Corvettes were highly successful and went on to win five Dutch GT4 championships. Tom had a short three-year tenure with Corvette, but his influence remains to this day. Corvette Racing is still going strong and the 2019 high-performance Corvette is called ZR1 and is the brand’s new “Blue Devil.” Welcome to the NCM Hall of Fame “Turbo Tom.”
John & Burt Greenwood – Racing
John and Burt Greenwood were passionate about improving street and track Corvettes. They grew up in the Detroit area where their father, Hank, worked at GM’s Tech Center. John began racing a modified Satin Silver 1964 Corvette on Woodward Avenue when he was in his early 20s. Burt was an integral part of his brother’s racing activities. When the C3 was introduced, John was smitten and bought a big-block coupe. He started road racing the Corvette and earned his National Competition license. The brothers opened an engine building company called Auto Research Engineering (ARE) in Troy, Michigan. Their company built race-winning engines and customer race cars.
Chief Corvette Engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov believed winning on Sunday led to more sales on Monday. GM had a corporate racing ban, but Zora and engineer Gib Hufstader quietly provided winning Corvette race teams with technical assistance. The Greenwoods’ engine building ability served them well in production racing and their success got Zora’s attention. The upstart “rookie” in a Corvette festooned with a wildly patriotic paint scheme dominated the A Production SCCA racing class and John won the 1970 and 1971 A Production championships. The team also won the GT class at the Sebring, Watkins Glen and Donnybrook races during those years.
This success was gaining him attention with GM and outside corporations. In the fall of 1971, Greenwood signed a major sponsorship package with the BFGoodrich Tire Company. The BFG livery was merged with the American Flag motif that was designed by Burt. GM designer Randy Wittine provided input and the final design was a marketing success. John’s concept of running powerful Corvettes on street radials turned out to be a challenging decision. Their race performance on the track caused the tires to heat up and lose grip. This was unlike their competitors who ran full racing slicks with sticky compounds. As the Goodrich sponsorship contract neared its end, John began looking toward the future.
Greenwood searched for a better way to use the Corvette’s immense power. The solution was to design a wider body in order to increase the size of the rear tires. Randy Wittine from the GM design studio developed widebody sketches and a clay mockup of the new body. It was introduced in 1974 and changed the way a Corvette race car looked and performed. John put his engine’s power to good use and the shape kept the car planted to the track. The 750hp Corvette was clocked at 234 mph at the 1975 24 Hours of Daytona qualifying. By the end of the 1976 season, the Corvettes could not compete against Europe’s big turbo cars. John attempted to remain competitive by working with engineer Bob Riley to design a tube frame Corvette in 1977. Only three were built and were quickly sold. This ended Greenwood’s quest for Corvette racing dominance. Even after their racing activities ended, John and Burt kept their creative juices flowing with ongoing modified Corvette projects. The Greenwood brothers made racing history and their star spangled Corvettes have become embedded into the DNA of America’s sports car.
Mike Yager - Enthusiast
Mike Yager bought his first Corvette in 1970 when he was 20. Soon after his purchase he discovered that there were no Corvette clubs in his area. His solution was to start his own club and it immediately began growing. As the club expanded, the members complained that there was not a single source where they could buy Corvette merchandise. He began buying Corvette related merchandise like hats, parts, pins, posters, etc., and began selling them to Corvette clubs and at car shows. It went so well he took out a $500 loan and started Mid America Motorworks that has grown into one of the largest suppliers of parts and accessories for Corvettes.
Mid America Motorworks is located in Effingham, Illinois, and each year they hold an annual festival to celebrate their customers. It is called Fun Fest, and thousands of Corvettes owners participate in this massive event. He created Mike’s Garage that over the years has become very popular with Mid America visitors. The size of the collection has receded and risen over time. Until recently the garage was home to the CERV I (Chevrolet Experimental Research Vehicle) that Zora used to test various new technologies. It was recently purchased by General Motors and is now part of GM’s Heritage Collection. The Garage also restored and owned the Rebel Le Mans L88 Corvette that finished the 24 hour race in 1972. This famous Corvette recently found a new owner.
Mike has been part of numerous organizations and clubs, including the National Corvette Museum. He served as the NCM Chairman of the Board in 2002. He created the “Drive Your Corvette to Work Day” and organized a campaign to create a 50th anniversary Corvette stamp. His aftermarket business has helped thousands of owners keep their Corvettes on the road. He and his family are dedicated to making sure owners have a good time when they contact Mid America Motorworks. Welcome to the Hall of Fame “Chief Cheerleader”! Vette