1977 Chevrolet Corvette IMSA "SuperVette"
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"The most powerful and brutal racing Corvette ever designed."
One of only 2 tube frame Corvette chassis built
Designed by Bob Riley, chassis built by Charlie Selix and Gary
Pratt (later Pratt and Miller)
Aluminum big-block V8 engine with 750+ horsepower
Concours-level restoration by Canepa to 1978 specifications
Raced by John Paul Sr. of JLP Racing
Porsche 935 magnesium brake calipers
Historic IMSA GTX eligible
With big-block power, visually striking bodywork and with the
performance characteristics (and noise) of a rocket ship, IMSA
Corvettes were some of the loudest, brash and powerful cars to ever
run in the series. This Greenwood "Supervette", driven by the now
infamous John Paul Sr. (JLP Racing), is one of two tube-frame
chassis ever built, and was one of the fastest cars in IMSA and a
constant threat to its competition. Fully restored by Canepa to its
1978 IMSA specifications, this aluminum big-block tube-frame
bruiser designed and built by the pre-Protofab team is the ultimate
expression of an IMSA Corvette.
In 1976, the IMSA sanctioning body changed the rules of road racing
to allow full tube frame cars to compete in the premier North
American Road Racing series. John Greenwood saw a major opportunity
to design and build the next generation of racing Corvettes.
Designer Bob Riley would engineer the first Greenwood tube frame
Corvette, built and entered into competition for the first time in
1977. This Corvette, COV002, is the second and final chassis ever
created, designed by Riley and built by the team that would become
These tube-frame monsters were no ordinarily-built race cars. The
Riley-designed cages and chassis were quite innovative, calling for
large and expensive 2" chrome-moly tubing, using extensive
triangulation for extreme strength. Chrome-moly, though expensive,
is both lighter and stronger than mild steel, which paid major
dividends with the completed design. The result was extremely
strong and rigid frames that were built to tank-like strength.
With several seasons of racing a Porsche Carrera RSR now under John
Paul Sr.'s belt, he was looking to upgrade in a major way and a
mega horsepower tube-frame Corvette by Greenwood fit his bill.
During the off season between 1977 and 1978, John Paul bought the
second tube frame Corvette from the Protofab team after talking
with John Greenwood about the potential of the Corvette package.
Shortly afterwards, JLP Racing picked up the Riley-designed chassis
in Michigan and assembled the car in Lawrenceville, Georgia were
JLP Racing housed its home base. In an effort to reduce drag and
increase top speed, the design of 002 was changed from the first
car and was built with a narrower track and more aerodynamic
bodywork, created by John Greenwood's team.
John Paul's Corvette was prepped in his own shop and didn't use the
Greenwood powerplants. Instead, he used the big-block all aluminum
engines from one of the most recognizable names from Can-Am racing
and in power numbers, Don Nichols of Shadow Racing. These
bullet-proof aluminum big blocks, left over from the Can-Am days,
were built by Lee Muir and reportedly had over 800lb/ft of torque
on Shadow's engine dynos. Armed with Kinsler mechanical fuel
injection, the all-aluminum V8 engine was a horsepower monster,
extremely capable and often pushing above the 750+ figure. This
extra bit of power along with an extremely capable chassis made
this Corvette a constant threat to the other competition on the
John Paul drove the car in the 1978 IMSA season, the first race
being Road Atlanta, competing for overall wins in the premier GTX
category. Ongoing research and development were constantly being
performed due to the Porsche 935s dominance at the time and the
target to beat. John Paul had his best finish with 2nd overall at
Hallett. At the end of the 1978 season, JLP retired the Greenwood
Supervette after a reasonably successful season of racing with 2
podiums and three top 5 finishes.
John sold the car to Tico Almeida and Rene Rodriguez of T&D
Racing, who would race the car together once in 1980. The car
appeared in the 1981 Daytona 24 Hours with John Greenwood as the
driver, but bad luck would strike and an engine failure ended its
'81 24 Hours.
The 1982 IMSA season produced strong results for the John
Greenwood/T&R Racing team. The car ran as #13 with the updated
GTO body style the entire season in IMSA's GTO class with
impressive results. However, Porsche competition was fierce and the
team retired the car at the end of the 1982 IMSA season.
This Corvette would find its way through a few collectors before
arriving at Canepa. Originally purchased for Canepa's inventory,
the decision was made to fully restore the car to its former and
proper JLP Racing livery. With the decision to restore the Corvette
to IMSA-spec of 1978, the concours-level restoration began on one
of the most unique racing Corvettes to ever grace the IMSA
The blue fiberglass bodywork was carefully removed and stored away
while the majority of the mechanical work was underway. Each and
every component was removed from the chrome-moly chassis, labeling
and cataloging each item down to the last nut and bolt. Parts
needing replating were sent out, pieces needing new paint were
addressed and mechanical components needing replacing were
fabricated to the highest degree. All mechanical systems were
either rebuilt, refinished or replaced to be in better-than-new
condition. The all-aluminum 500 cubic inch V8 engine was sent down
to Ed Pink Racing Engines where it was completely rebuilt to eke
out every horsepower from the former Can-Am era powerplant.
Suspension and brake systems were disassembled, crack checked,
x-rayed, refinished and brought back to the IMSA-spec of 1978.
Unique to this Corvette are the magnesium brake calipers, borrowed
from the Porsche 935 in period. New aluminum panels for the chassis
were fabricated and powder coated black. With this concours-level
restoration, nothing was left untouched.
With the tube-frame chassis now stripped down of all its parts, the
entire chassis and body work were then stripped of their remaining
paint. Canepa thoroughly addressed any parts of the chassis and
body work that needed attention before heading to the body shop.
Countless hours were spent on sanding and prepping the chrome-moly
tubing for its signature grey metallic paint, which is stunning to
see in person. The long and swooping blue body work received the
same thoughtful treatment with new bright baby blue paint. The hood
and rear wing, the most standout features of the car, were painted
bright JLP Racing yellow. Once the frame and body were finished,
Canepa's Motorsport division went to work on reassembling the IMSA
Corvette. Over the course of many months, the baby blue IMSA racer
began to take shape. With components slowly reinstalled, the car
began to take on its original form and return to its former 1978
glory. With all components now assembled onto the car, the final
fitment of the bodywork gives the Corvette it's menacing stance,
hiding the trick chassis underneath the sculpted fiberglass
This 1977 Chevrolet Corvette, with its astoundingly-innovative
chrome-moly chassis, Can-Am era powerplant, driven by JLP's own
John Paul to success in the 1978 season and fully restored to the
exacting standards of Canepa, is now the must-have Corvette from
the 70's IMSA era.