This car could scare the unmentionable out of the small-bore Eurocentric entries in tours, or it could graduate summa cum outlandish from other events.
In 1965, Zora Arkus-Duntov’s Corvette Engineering Group began developing the new 427 Mark IV engine for use in the Corvette as a full-bore endurance-racing engine, and in 1967 their work came to fruition in the form of the RPO L88. Incorporating a forged and Tufftride-treated steel crank, forged rods, 12.5:1 pistons, aluminum heads, a radical solid-lifter cam and a single Holley 850 atop an aluminum intake manifold, the L88 was a formidable power plant. Rated at a paltry 430 horsepower, it could be tuned to approach 600 horsepower. Packaged with the requisite M22 “rock-crusher” four-speed, special heavy-duty power brakes, F41 suspension and bulletproof Positraction rear end, it gave the Corvette almost boundless potential in competition.
The L88 instantly established its racing dominance with this Tuxedo Black 1967 convertible, the first regular production L88 Corvette built. Ordered by Tony DeLorenzo Jr., son of GM Public Relations executive Anthony G. DeLorenzo, it was delivered to Hanley Dawson Chevrolet in Detroit, who also supplied the young DeLorenzo with the equipment and financial backing necessary to mount a campaign in SCCA A Production racing. Delivered into the Hanley shop directly from the transporter, the car was immediately prepped to A Production specs and entered in its first event at Wilmot Hills, WI, which it won going away. At the next event at Elkhart Lake, the car’s 155-mph top speed was such a shock to DeLorenzo Sr., who was watching from the pit straight, that it was two years before he would attend another of his son’s races.
That successful first season qualified the car for the SCCA Runoffs at Daytona Beach, where some of DeLorenzo’s strongest competitors were eliminated in an early, multi-car wreck, which he avoided before driving to a 2nd-place finish behind the Cobra 427 of Dick Smith. DeLorenzo next raced the L88 successfully through the 1968 season, after which it was sold and additionally campaigned for over a decade, culminating in the 1982 Canadian Road Race Championship. It was then retired from the track and expertly restored to its original configuration, earning multiple NCRS Top Flight and Duntov awards, Bloomington Gold certification, and a coveted spot in the Bloomington Gold Special Collection. In 2003, the car was returned to its 1967 SCCA runoffs configuration for the Monterey Historic Automobile Races, where it was reunited with its first owner for one more race.
Of the 20 L88s sold in 1967, only 14 examples are believed to still exist today. As the earliest surviving factory-ordered car with an impressive racing career, this is certainly one of the most historically significant of these L88s. Freshly restored to concours standards, this L88 convertible certainly qualifies as the centerpiece of any Corvette collection, a premiere example of the most powerful and dominant production racer of its era.
|Vehicle:||1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Convertible|
|Original List Price:||$5,188.65|
|Tune Up Cost:||$500|
|Chassis Number Location:||Cross brace under glove box|
|Engine Number Location:||On block in front of right cylinder head|
|Club Info:||National Corvette Restorers Society 6291 Day Road Cincinnati, OH 45252|
|Alternatives:||1973 Ferrari Daytona Spyder, 1965 Shelby 427 Cobra, 1956 Jaguar XK-SS|
This car, Lot S125, sold for $1,325,000 at the Mecum auction in Monterey, CA on August 14, 2010.
The buyer of this audacious Corvette was completely and totally justified in spending more than the GDP of Somalia on it. That’s because it had all of the right things going for it—and no stories. It was a factory-ordered car, and furthermore the first production L88 built. Sent directly to the race-sponsoring dealer, it went straight into the A Production wars, won at the hands of a noted driver, and most importantly, survived. Time has also proven the L88 to be the zenith of Sting Ray performance acumen and legend. Altogether, this means the L88—and this one in particular—will be locked in a freeze frame of magnificence forever.
This Corvette was probably built on January 26, 1967 and it is hugely documented.
In the Chevrolet sales literature, the L88 was rated at 430 horsepower at 3,000 rpm to convince most buyers to instead order the 435 horsepower L71 engine.
The thunderous L88s actually sported 560 horsepower at 6,500 rpm—right off the showroom floor. Why did Chevrolet fudge the facts on the L88? They wanted to make sure L88 Corvettes didn’t fall into the clutches of dangerously inexperienced drivers.
The L88s were all race cars. They required 110-octane fuel at a minimum. They did not have radiator fan shrouds; the Holley 850 double pumper came without a choke. They will almost always overheat if they are not running hard and moving a great deal of air through their ’65 Corvette 396/425 radiators. They could not be ordered with a heater or a radio.
The greatest value of this car is probably the provenance, clear and simple. It has been totally restored to its original form and function using as many N.O.S. parts and pieces as could be procured. It is an excellent, matching-numbers example of what it was the day it was delivered to first owner Hanley Dawson. The original and subsequent owners are still alive. There are hundreds of documents, photographs and memorabilia detailing race entries, wins in various places, invoices for work to repair, replace, rebuild, restore and re-body. After all, this was a RACE car. Things got broken, blown up and crashed.
There are practical benefits to owning this particular car. Should the new owner choose, its provenance will certainly grant it acceptance at virtually any racing event worldwide where such cars compete, such as the Goodwood Revival. It could likewise scare the unmentionable out of the small-bore Eurocentric entries in any vintage tour it was eligible for. Or the car could graduate summa cum outlandish from events like the Woodward Dream Cruise. And if plastic flyers should grace the green at Pebble Beach in the future, this Tuxedo Black roadster is already dressed for the occasion.
From an economic standpoint, it’s interesting to note the enormous difference that a single model year can make in the value of L88s. Fundamentally, the 1967 C2 L88 and 1968-69 C3 L88s were identical, save for the different body designs that separated the two generations. Twenty 1967 L88s were built, compared to 80 for 1968 and 116 for 1969. But the value difference is on the order of 5:1 in favor of the 1967 model. It proves again that the seminal Corvette, insofar as collector values are concerned, is still the mid-year Sting Ray, along with the first-generation solid axles.
When Dad told you to only buy the best, this is what he was talking about. Whoever stepped up for this L88 learned their lessons well. Wisely bought.