|Vehicle:||1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 coupe|
|Number Produced:||20 in 1967|
|Original List Price:||$6,600 (approximate)|
|Tune Up Cost:||$1,000|
|Distributor Caps:||$350 (NOS original)|
|Chassis Number Location:||Stamped into frame on driver’s side rear|
|Engine Number Location:||Stamped on engine pad in front of right hand head|
|Club Info:||National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS), Bloomington Gold|
|Alternatives:||1966 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C, 1948 Tucker Torpedo, 1971 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda convertible|
This car, Lot 5035, sold for a record $3,850,000 at Barrett-Jackson’s auction in Scottsdale, AZ, on January 18, 2014.
Here we go again… the continuing Corvette L88 story. In the November-December 2013 issue of American Car Collector, I wrote on the ex-Piscitello 1968 black roadster that sold for $856,000. Also mentioned in the article were a Lynndale ’67 at $3m and a maroon ’67 sidepipe roadster at Mecum that made a then-record $3.4m.
But the sale of Barrett Jackson’s Lot 5035 set an all-time new record, and not just for L88s, but for any other Corvette ever sold at auction. It’s the new high-water mark.
This car was the only 1967 red/red L88 coupe produced. The 12-mile ex-Judski ’67 L88 coupe was red/black and sold in a private deal for a reported $2.8 million. The ex-Herrin maroon sidepipe roadster, sold through Mecum several months ago, brought $3.4 million. These sales all seemed to be bell ringers at the time, but the cars now seem to be very well bought in a tide that’s rising.
What makes an L88?
First of all, GM used Regular Production Option (RPO) number-letter sequence codes for each of their specific options. In 1967, ’68 and ’69 only, the RPO L88 was offered in the Corvette line. It was the street, drag strip and road racer’s dream come true for extremely heavy-duty, high-performance, out-of-the-box American muscle. In the simplest terms, the L88 was a fire-breathing 427-ci V8 with 12.5:1 compression, aluminum heads, and a whole lot more grunt than its 430 hp rating led buyers to believe.
That single option added almost 40% to the base price of the Corvette, and the cars were purpose-built with weight reduction in mind — no radios or heaters. Few were actually ordered: 20 were built in ’67; 80 in ’68, and 116 in ’69.
Up and away
Values of the original 216 1967–69 L88s have grown exponentially over the past 10 years. Overall, the rarer ’67s have typically maintained a 3:1 value ratio over the ’68s and ’69s, and there are a couple of good reasons for that. First, 1967 maintains its position as the greatest year in Corvette styling/performance history even though that year was actually meant to be a Shark year (C3), not a mid-year. Chevrolet meant to introduce the Shark body style for ’67, but they had trouble with the fiberglass production as well as some other engineering challenges that delayed the launch. So the mid-year cars continued through ’67, but with some fantastic options not seen before, such as the L71 435-hp Tri-Power 427, and the top-dog L88.
Second, in the world of L88s, the ’67s are simply the most scarce, and that drives value. It was not an easy task to get an order for one of these through your Chevrolet dealership, as GM wanted them to go to racers to help promote the brand. You almost had to be “known” by someone at GM to get your hands on one. That, along with their high price, kept production low.
This car’s history
This red L88 was ordered through Mike Savoie Chevrolet on Woodward Avenue in Birmingham, MI (Zone 44, dealer 405). With help from a well-placed GM executive, a friend of the dealership owner’s family got this car even though the dealership had been in business only one year. Immediately after getting the car (which was equipped with 4:56 gears; only five were so ordered out of 23,000 Corvettes built in ’67), it went to the local drag strips and ran unbeaten for three years.
It had to run in the modified class since camshafts from the car’s sponsor, General Kinetics, were used and replaced weekly to provide and maintain its record-setting ETs and speed through the traps.
After three years of running at 10/10ths of redline, the motor blew up, and the car was sold to its second owner.
The third owner was Maxie Reamer, an automotive instructor at a vocational school in the Detroit area. At some point, the brakes became an issue, and when the dual-pin calipers were removed, he noticed they were unique. Reamer took them to his friend Werner Meier, a GM engineer. Meier suggested that Reamer drop the gas tank to view the build sheet and determine what else came on this car. He did so and discovered it to be one of the 20 L88s.
It changed hands for the fourth time at about $175,000. This seller provided a next-to-impossible-to-find motor to go with the car: a complete, GM, across-the-counter, L88 long block from Chevrolet. Every casting date, casting number and date code preceded the build date of the red car. It was the perfect replacement and new in every respect. The pad surface was stamped “IT,” indicating the purpose-built designation for the L88. I’ve dealt with a lot of Corvettes, and I’ve never seen a factory long block like this before or since.
The VIN number of this red car (15971) was purposefully NOT stamped on the pad, as is usual and customary from the factory; it remains in that state today.
At this point, the car was sold again (for the fifth time) to Gary and Ken Naber for Ray Norvell, their client from Nevada. Some of the finest, most unusual Corvettes ever built have passed though Ray’s hands. It was at this point the car was meticulously restored by the Nabers Brothers and subsequently taken to Bloomington Gold.
“Corvette Mike” Vietro also counted Ray as an excellent customer, ended up acquiring the car from him and selling it to a significant Ferrari/car collector in the San Diego area (the car’s sixth owner).
After a year of ownership, the San Diego collector ended up selling it for about $320,000 to a seventh owner in the Eastern U.S., where it remained until its new owner bought it at Barrett-Jackson for $3,850,000.
Again, that’s a big number. But if the car had still been fitted with its factory-installed L88, it would be worth even more.
Where are they going from here?
This wasn’t the only L88 sold at Barrett-Jackson this year. In addition, an original well-documented and papered blue ’68 L88 convertible with less than 14,000 miles sold for $880,000 as Lot 1318. This preceded Lot 5022, a Kevin Mackay-restored full-race-spec ’69, known as the #57 Rebel. It was described as one of four lightweights built, and had Daytona and Sebring race history in its provenance. It was sold at $2,860,000, the second-highest sale at B-J. The ’68 set a new record price for L88 street cars, and the ’69 did the same thing for ’69s, both street and race cars.
Prices like these are tempting to long-term owners, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more good L88s come to market in the near future in hopes of capitalizing on the trend. And while these prices may seem over the top, just like the $3.4m sale of the Mecum ’67 might have a few months ago, I’m willing to bet it won’t take long before we’re seeing them in a new light. With that, I’d call this ’67 a deal, even at its record price.
(Introductory description courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.