The "Spirit of New Mexico '74" is a Greenwood Corvette "customer car," chassis number 008. A preliminary restoration was done by Lance Smith of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Greg Sullivan of Albuquerque, New Mexico, presented the car at its first major public appearance early in the summer of 2002 during 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 Anniversary celebration and Monterey Historic Races. The story is interesting from many perspectives. But first, some history.
Lance Smith is an avid collector of John Greenwood's early race cars; he favors the period up to 1976 when the full-chassis style was superceded by tubeframe cars. The story of his Greenwood collection started just a year after he acquired his first Corvette, and it 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 Chevys that year. Once again they ran into Paul Canary. Paul had the Spirit of LeMans 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 they were wandering around, 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 Oleyar's 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 minilight wheels).
With a little more research through Gene Miller, Lance found that his latest acquisition was the chassis number 11 Greenwood "customer car" originally built for E.F. (Gene) Miller in 1978 and driven by John Orr through 1979, with Mike Oleyar 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 Oleyar, 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 R.V. Shulnburg car (customer car chassis number 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 1989; the purchase took place in June 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 number 012 in the customer car series).
The Shulnburg 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 wide-body style. The other two are the ex-DeLeo/Dave Force (number 012) car and the Rick Mancuso car (number 007), which later became the Spirit of LeMans car. Greg purchased number 008 in 2001.
After the purchase and delivery, number 008 was then sent to J&L Fabrication in Puyallup, Washington, for a complete "nut and bolt" restoration. The car was completely disassembled, and every single piece of hardware was cleaned, restored, or replaced. Greg Sullivan is known for demanding clean and precise restorations. He visited with 008's original owner R.V. Shulnburg and several people who had worked on the car in the Tampa area. He also had joint conversations with John Greenwood and R.V. Shulnburg in order to fully comprehend 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 in the Petersen Museum's Checkered Flag 200 Club to validate the car. As it turned out, the Goodwood organizers had been eager for many years to have a big-block Greenwood car. Through his contacts with Shulnburg, Sullivan was also able to get one of the car's original drivers to assist with the driving duties in England. Michael Keyser, co-author (with Brian Redman) of The Speed Merchants and a former Sebring champion in his own right, agreed to join Sullivan and the "American Expeditionary Team" on their trek to the British Isles. Another famous racer, Dave Heinz (of Heinz and Johnson, the red "Rebel" L88 LeMans Corvette race car) also drove the car.
A grand time was had by all involved at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and new friends were made from all around the world. It is an event that every car enthusiast should attend at least once.
During this process, Greg became not only an expert on 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. Also, the container (but not the car) was damaged; obviously some rough treatment had been involved. As a result of this and potential scheduling difficulties to ensure that the car would arrive on the West Coast in time for the Corvette 50th Anniversary celebrations and the "Historics," Greg decided to fly the car back to the U.S. As negotiations proceeded, the estimate to fly the car back to the U.S. 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 returning a C5-R from LeMans and Goodwood (Sullivan's Spirit of New Mexico, chassis number 008, was a stable mate with the LeMans-winning C5-R during the Goodwood Festival of Speed). Both Greg's 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 U.S. 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 Corvette's 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 Lance Smith's "Spirit of Sebring '75" (see "Sebring '75" in our Sept. '99 issue for an in-depth look at this wild wide-body Corvette) and Sullivan's "Spirit of New Mexico" paraded in tandem around the Laguna Seca road course with Lance's wife perched in a vestigial passenger seat and 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 two of the fabulous Greenwood "Stars and Stripes" cars and for the start of the Corvette's 50th Anniversary celebrations.
Expect to see more of this car in the future.