Greenwood No. 49 Stars and Stripes - Patriot Missile

Recently restored Greenwood No. 49 Stars and Stripes racer

Christopher R. Phillip Jun 21, 2012 0 Comment(s)
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By many historians' recollections, John Greenwood's red, white, and blue "Stars and Stripes" Corvettes were amongst the most recognized race cars on the IMSA, FIA, and SCCA circuits in the 1970s. Ever the savvy marketeer, Greenwood purposefully chose a patriotic palette to distinguish his all-American Corvettes from the Porsches and other foreign sports cars he raced against.

In 1971, Greenwood heard opportunity knocking from tire manufacturer BFGoodrich--written as "B.F.Goodrich" at the time--which was using the American flag's colors to market its new Lifesaver 60 Radial tire. Before long BFG agreed to sponsor Greenwood Racing, in return for Greenwood outfitting two of his Corvette racers (Nos. 48 and 50, both '68 hardtop convertibles) with Lifesaver Radial 60 street tires.

In a press release dated December 13, 1971, BFG announced its sponsorship of the Greenwood team for Daytona, Sebring, Le Mans, Watkins Glen, and two unspecified endurance races in 1972. Company Executive Vice President Patrick Ross described the partnership as "a major expansion of our...1971 program in which our…tires performed without failure at Daytona and Sebring."

After finishing race mods, paint, and graphics on both cars, Greenwood sourced a used '69 L88 hardtop (1 of 116 produced) with a Can-Am White exterior and Bright Blue interior, and converted it into the third BFG/Greenwood Corvette--No. 49.

No. 49 debuted at the FIA World Sports Car Championship at Watkins Glen on July 22, 1972, where, after qualifying, it started 34th on the grid. Twenty laps into the race, it succumbed to valve failure.

Since Watkins Glen was the last race of the FIA's 1972 season, No. 49 wasn't seen on a track again until it kicked off its 1973 itinerary at the 24 Hours of Daytona race on February 4. It completed 494 laps but again didn't finish. On March 24 Greenwood entered the car in the IMSA GT class at the 12 Hours of Sebring. It completed 182 laps but, just like in the previous two races, did not complete the race.

No. 49's next chance for success came at the 24 Heures of Du Mans on June 10. Though the car passed tech inspection and ran in Wednesday's practice session, a Citroen wiped out its front end in an accident on the streets of Chartres, France, while team driver Don Yenko was behind the wheel. The incident infuriated Le Mans authorities so much that they disqualified it from the race.

In July 1973, after his contract with BFG had ended, Greenwood painted over No. 49's "Stars and Stripes" graphics and sold the car to fellow IMSA/SCCA racer Phil Currin.

Currin rechristened the L88 coupe as No. 99 and enjoyed considerable racetrack success with it for more than a decade. Its accolades in GTO IMSA included three poles and one fastest lap in 1979, along with three poles, two wins, and one fastest lap in 1980. The car then took Third in the SCCA Trans-Am series in 1981, tied for Second in Trans-Am in 1982, and won the SCCA B-Prepared Autocross Championship (SE Division) in 1989.

Meanwhile, vintage Corvette racer and collector Ed Mueller had acquired the BFG No. 48 and No. 50 cars, leaving just one Corvette--No. 49--to complete his Greenwood trifecta. "I was aware of the No. 49 car because Currin was still in vintage racing. I told him at Lime Rock that if he was ever going to sell it, to please let me know," he says.

Kevin Mackay of Corvette Repair in Valley Stream, New York, was keeping an eye on No. 49 for Mueller, too--and eventually his persistence paid off. "My team and I restored the No. 48 car for him, and [we were] instrumental in acquiring the No. 49 chassis and body for him from Currin," he says.

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