If you’re a fanatic about racing Corvettes, as I am, you know about the legendary John Greenwood “Supervettes” of the 70s. These were the Greenwood “widebody” cars, designed for GT endurance racing in IMSA and at international events like LeMans. It’s said that these cars were often clocked at speeds over 230 miles per hour. They frequently took pole position and set fastest lap, though they too often failed to finish. The main problem was that there simply was no way at the time to build a transmission that would stand up for hours on end to the brutal torque of the cars’ 7-liter or larger engines. But when one of them did manage to stay together for an entire race distance it would win in impressive fashion.
American race fans loved these loud, brutal, insanely fast cars precisely because they were so perfectly American in an in-your-face way that no other cars before or since have ever quite managed. And it wasn’t just American fans, either. Even the worldly, sophisticated French spectators at LeMans would go all weak-kneed at the sight ‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë‚àö‚àÇ‚Äö√†√∂‚àö√´‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¬Æand sound– of one of these monsters hurtling down the Mulsanne Straight. To this day the Greenwood widebodies are among the cars most eagerly sought after by vintage race organizers, and they still put on a show that wows the crowd.
Greenwood’s web site reveals that his shop built about a dozen of these cars, similar in appearance but varying in specifications. That makes them quite rare and pricey collectibles. Even if you have the kind of money it takes to purchase one you may not be able to find one for sale.
In the meantime, however, you can own and race one or several of them in 1:32 scale. Revell-Monogram has produced four versions of the car for slot racing:
85-4855 Spirit of Riverside ’75, $44.95
85-4857 Spirit of Sebring ’76, $44.95
85-4863 Spirit of LeMans ’76, $53.95 (special limited edition)
85-4864 Mancuso Chevrolet “customer car”, $44.95
The bodies on all four cars are the same (other than paint and markings) except for the rear spoiler. The Sebring and Riverside cars have a single wide spoiler while the LeMans and Mancuso cars have two smaller spoilers at the rear corners of the body.
All the body details are there, including the wildly flared fenders, big hood hump, and the classic Corvette hardtop with rear window straps. The radiator inlet and rear fender vents feature photo-etched screens. Interior details include a full roll cage, instrument panel, rear-view mirror, shift lever, and fire system. The driver, with full-face helmet, 5-point racing harness, and detailed driving suit, looks at home in the car.
The only paint flaw we could find on any of our review cars (the Riverside, the Sebring, and the Mancuso) was less-than crisp color demarcation between the blue and the white on the Sebring car. Otherwise, both the paint masking and the tampo-stamping were of extremely high quality. The finish on all three cars was glossy and free from dust specks and orange peel. RM earns an attaboy for not letting political correctness keep them from putting the Joe Camel decals on the IMSA cars.
The chassis has some excellent frame rail and exhaust detail along the sides. Mechanically, it’s a front motor with drive shaft layout using the familiar s-can motor. The rear tires are wide and put lots of rubber on the track surface, but there’s room for even wider aftermarket wheels if you choose to fit them. The traction magnet slides fore and aft in its mount, though I didn’t observe much difference in handling, if any, between the full forward and full aft positions.
Even so, the combination of wide tires and magnet downforce gives good cornering performance on our Scalextric sport test track. The track-test car (a Mancuso) handled a bit more on-rails than I prefer, but the grip was ferocious and when the car did break loose it spun, it didn’t tumble. RM’s designers appear to have taken the magnetic downforce right to the limit of increasing traction without smothering the car’s driving characteristics and making it boring to drive. Like all magnet cars do to one degree or another this one will break away without warning at the limit, but the limit is quite high.
My best lap time with the car was 4.450 sec. For comparison purposes I ran some laps with what has come to be my “benchmark” car, a Scalextric TransAm Camaro, and turned a best lap of 4.691 sec. I’d say that puts the two cars’ performance somewhere in the direction of the same relationship they would have in 1:1 scale, but doesn’t put them so far apart that they can’t be tuned to make them even in performance with a little bit of magnet shimming. The Greenwood Corvette’s acceleration was strong, and the gearing seemed well suited to our rather tight test track. At the time I ran this test the only controller readily available was a 45-ohm Parma, and I definitely think the car would gain another tenth or two with a 25 or 35-ohm controller.
Revell-Monogram gets top marks for quality and performance with its Greenwood Corvette and a lesser but still high grade for driving fun and pleasing driving feel. And of course, with a Greenwood Corvette, the Walter Mitty factor has to be off the scale.
May 24, 2006