IF YOU'RE OLD ENOUGH to recall the heyday of the C3, it's likely you also remember the Corvette Sportwagon. Originally designed by Chuck Miller (and later adapted to the rubber-bumper '74-'82 Corvettes by John Greenwood), the Sportwagon and Sportwagon body kits were marketed through such companies as American Custom Industries (ACI) and Eckler's, and they allowed owners of C3s to convert their coupe or convertible Vettes into cargo-compatible wagons.
As the story goes, Miller was commissioned to create the first Sportwagon by a rock-band drummer, who needed some extra cargo room for his skins. There were some inherent problems with the first design, however. Because there was no functional hatch, cargo had to undergo a difficult ingress-and-egress process through the side doors. And aesthetically, the original Sportwagon looked awkward. It just didn't blend together well.
In 1976, John Greenwood thought he could do the Corvette wagon one better. According to Mike Guyette of Greenwood Registry (www.greenwoodregistry.com), "Greenwood went to it with a clean sheet of paper. His prototype proved to be an immense improvement [over the Miller design], not only functionally, but aesthetically as well. The roofline was continued at the same slope and curvature as the T-tops, ending shorter and lower than the original. The slant of the rear coincided nicely with the angle of the bumper. The side 'glass' was extended up into the roof and was made from formed Plexiglas. Flush mounted, these windows were glued into place with no molding-aerodynamic cues taken from [Greenwood's] race-car experience that would become mandatory in future body designs. The biggest improvement, however, was the rear-opening 'hatch' that allowed access from the back of the car."
Norm Bogiel, one of Greenwood's employees, is credited with the development work on the Sportwagon. "The roof itself was copied from [Miller's design]," Bogiel recalls. "His roof didn't have windows on the side or rear, though. For the rear, Charlie Selix and I took a Pinto glass and cut it down. We molded it into the roof and then cut out what would be the hatch. We used the Pinto hinges and struts on the prototype and a solenoid release. I also built special speaker caves into the interior posts and did a few other little innovations."
The prototype was built on Greenwood's then-girlfriend's Sharon Vaden's street car. "It was originally white, but we painted it a brown metallic," Bogiel continued. "We put it in the back of a rental truck and sent it off to the SEMA show [Anaheim, California, 1976]. It was a huge hit and John came back with a number of orders."
From the onset, Greenwood was unhappy with the Sportwagon's hatch and was adamant that it be reengineered. "He was undaunted in his quest to build the ultimate hauler, so his brother Burt came up with an idea to remedy the hatch problem," Guyette explains. "He managed to eliminate the troublesome fiberglass surround, and used instead a flat, tempered piece of glass with holes drilled to accommodate the hinges and latch. A rubber weatherstripping encompassed the opening, ensuring that no water could enter. The glass was supported by two gas struts that held it open at any angle. Access through the rear glass was via a solenoid electrically activated from the driver's inside B-pillar. An airfoil was located on the roof where it managed airflow and kept the glass somewhat clean."