Like so many enthusiasts, Bruce Greenwood can pinpoint the moment a car imprinted on his grey matter, leaving an indelible image and a lifelong affinity. It was a 1958 Corvette he glimpsed at an open house event at Chevrolet’s Van Nuys assembly plant. At the time, Van Nuys was one of eight Chevy plants across the country cranking out Biscaynes, Bel Airs, and other fullsize models, but the open house displayed all Chevrolet had to offer that year.
“My father worked at the plant and the open house was for the families of the employees, and even drew local dignitaries,” says Greenwood. “I was 8 years old in 1958 and I still remember seeing that Corvette and falling in love with the dual headlights, the louvered hood, and all the chrome. It was marvelous and it was my dream car thereafter.”
In the years that followed, the ’58 Corvette remained an aspiration, but Greenwood was admittedly not a gasoline-in-the-veins car guy. He didn’t cultivate a garage full of project cars, and life’s other priorities always came first.
“When I was young, I didn’t have any money,” he says. “Then I got married and became a homeowner. A child came next and then I was immersed in a career that consumed 65-70 hours a week – and the list goes on. A lot of people have experienced the same.”
About 10 years ago, Greenwood finally realized his decades-old dream and found a white 1958 Corvette. It was straight enough and had a 383 engine in it, but it wasn’t going to earn Bloomington Gold or NCRS Top Flight status.
“To be honest, I didn’t want to spend the money for a numbers-matching car,” he says. “I’m not that kind of a purist. The style and presence was what I was after. The Corvette lost some of its ‘bling’ in 1959, so when I found a good ’58, I made my move on it.”
Although his wife, Nora, needled him for not getting a mid-year Sting Ray that she preferred, Greenwood nonetheless had his ’58, but he didn’t do anything with it until a serendipitous conversation during a charity dinner hosted by the Greenwoods in their Huntington Beach, California, home.
One of those in attendance was aerospace engineer Art Lofton, who spied the Corvette in Greenwood’s garage.
“He said, ‘I didn’t know you were a car guy,’ and I told him I wasn’t,” recalls Greenwood. “I was just a guy with an old Corvette that didn’t look or run great and wasn’t exactly sure what to do with it.”
Lofton told him that when he was ready to have the car redone, he’d turn Greenwood on to builder Harold Martin, whom Lofton had worked with in his early years at General Motors. Martin, an engineer, entrepreneur, and drag racer runs Martin Motorsports, just outside of Detroit – and about 2,000 miles from the surf shops of Huntington Beach.
“I didn’t take him [Lofton] seriously at first, but he kept calling and urging me,” says Greenwood. “Then, one day, I went out to the car and the battery was dead. As I tried to get out the driver’s seat to take care of it, I was stuck, because a screwdriver in my back pocket had punctured the seat cushion.”
After the cursing subsided, Greenwood decided it was time the car went to Detroit. He wasn’t sure at the time what he wanted done with the car, but he was sure about what he didn’t want.
“I wanted it to drive like a modern car,” he says. “The solid-axle cars look great, but after all these years, their handling and braking performance leaves something to be desired. I wanted something with disc brakes, power steering, and fuel injection – a car that looked vintage, but drove modern.”
Relying on Martin Motorsports to play the architect role as much as the construction crew, Greenwood, Harold Martin, and Martin’s lieutenant Brian Jones collaborated on the vision. The Martin team even pushed back against their client.
“I wanted them to paint the car blue and they flat-out refused, insisting it had to be red,” says Greenwood. “We compromised on a custom color called Candy Romanesque Crimson, which sounds close to Roman Red but has a decidedly purplish hue. Looks great and very contemporary.”
Of course, compromise is a two-way street and when Martin suggested they could extract 700 horsepower from the 383 small-block after building it, Greenwood countered.
“That was actually too much for what I wanted to use the car for,” he says. “I like fast cars and all that, but I wanted more of a cruiser. Seven-hundred horsepower was too much and I told them to take it down a few notches.”
After updating the rotating assembly with forged parts, porting the AFR 195 heads, and adding a Martin-crafted throttle body fuel-injection system atop an Edelbrock Air-Gap dual-plane intake, the 383 chimed in at a still-respectable 525 horsepower and 515 lb-ft of torque. Air is drawn into the engine via a custom air intake crafted by Martin Motorsports, while the outgoing air blows through a 3-inch exhaust system. The car has soul-stirring rumble at idle, which crescendos into a spine-tingling mechanical wail as the revs climb, thanks to a variable exhaust feature – similar to what was offered on the C6 Corvette – also crafted by Martin.
A Tremec TKO five-speed manual transmission backs the fuel-injected stroker small-block and channels its torque to a Moser 12-bolt rear axle that’s located with a custom four-bar suspension system and stabilizer bar in place of the original transverse leaf springs. Of course, the requisite set of disc brakes (from Wilwood) was installed all around.
The drivetrain and suspension upgrades were necessary to support all that twisting power the 383 could deliver, but the project faced another dilemma when it came to putting that power to the pavement. It needed a big footprint.
“I told them I wanted 275-series tires on the rear and they said it couldn’t be done without tubbing the car,” says Greenwood. “That would have meant losing the folding soft top, which I didn’t want.”
Rather than slice into the inner structure of the car to accommodate the big rubber, Martin’s proposed solution was widening the rear fenders. Greenwood agonized over the prospect of “flared” fenders, no doubt with visions of 1970s metal-flaked customs in his mind. Martin assured him the fiberglass surgery would be virtually unnoticeable, so Greenwood swallowed hard and approved the mods. It was that or drive around SoCal with 525 horses on skinny, 195-series tires.
As it turned out, Greenwood needn’t have worried. Rather than looking like the runner-up in a 1976 ISCA car show, the Corvette’s sectioned and slightly stretched-out flanks – about an inch on each side – are so subtle they’re basically undetectable. In fact, we doubt anyone viewing the car would guess they were modified in the slightest.
“They did a magnificent job there,” says Greenwood. “The car looks great. We ended up with 245-series tires in the back. They may not be as wide as I originally wanted, but the result is perfect.” For the record, the Vette rolls on chrome 18x9 American Racing AR605 Torq-Thrust wheels and Pirelli P Zero 245/45ZR18 tires.
There were no compromises made with the interior, which features custom-trimmed bucket seats in black Italian leather, a custom flat-bottom steering wheel, and upgraded instrument panel. Like the engine and exterior enhancements, they blend contemporary technologies with vintage aesthetics. The instrument panel, for example, features Dakota Digital’s gorgeous VHX gauge cluster, which uses electronically controlled instruments that work with the engine control system. An analog face panel for the gauges fits into the stock instrument panel housing, enhancing that blend of the 20th and 21st centuries.
There’s also an Alpine touch-screen infotainment system complemented by a rich sound system mounted behind the seats and under the hard tonneau cover. It includes Infinity speakers and a JB Audio amplifier; and it’s the perfect accent for twilight blasts down Pacific Coast Highway.
“The changes to the suspension and the wider tires have made all the difference in how it drives,” says Greenwood. “It feels stable and very controllable at speed – and power is intoxicating. The car hangs with Porsches just fine, which is very satisfying.” It’s not just Porsche drivers taking notice, either. The car draws more than its share of attention in an area that is thick with high-dollar hot rods and exotic supercars.
“The first time I rolled into Donut Derelicts on a Saturday morning, it was clear people were following with their eyes as the car rolled slowly through the parking lot,” he says. “There was a crowd around it as soon as I stopped, too. It was a good feeling and Martin Motorsports deserves the credit for that.”
Nevertheless, the values ingrained in a man who grew up in a working-class family can still generate twinges of conflict.
“Showing off is not something I’m used to and to be honest, building this car still feels like a somewhat selfish indulgence,” says Greenwood. “But I’m quickly getting over it the more I drive it.”
There’s nothing to feel guilty about from our perspective. Working men need to fulfill their dreams, too.