John Hollansworth Jr., courtesy of Mecum Auctions

• One of 80 built, with fewer than half as convertibles

• No-hit body restored by the Naber Brothers of Houston

• After its frame-off nut-and-bolt restoration, this 16,000-mile L88 received the honor of being Bloomington Gold Certified and invited to many Bloomington Gold Special Collections

• Retains its “born-with” original motor

• The only black L88 convertible known from all three years of production with its OEM original engine

• Al Grenning of CCAS has certified the engine to be original to the car

• Finished as-original in Tuxedo Black and still retains its original black leather seats and mostly original interior

• Documented with the Protect-O-Plate, original order sheet, dealer invoice and title application

• Options on the NCRS-authenticated original documents are full transistorized ignition, 3.70 Positraction, M22 4-speed transmission, white soft top, tinted glass, F41 suspension, J56 heavy-duty brakes and N11 off-road exhaust

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1968 Chevrolet Corvette L88 convertible
Years Produced:1967–69
Number Produced:216 total (20 in 1967, 80 in 1968, 116 in 1969)
Original List Price:$6,305.35
SCM Valuation:$420k–$850k
Tune Up Cost:$1,000
Distributor Caps:$350 (OEM)
Chassis Number Location:Stamped into frame on driver’s side rear and sill
Engine Number Location:Stamped on engine pad in front of right-hand head
Club Info:National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS), Bloomington Gold
Alternatives:1963–65 Shelby Cobra 289, 1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Investment Grade:A

This car, Lot S158, sold for $856,000, including buyer’s premium, at the Mecum Monterey auction in Monterey, CA, on August 17, 2013.

From production line to pole position

Few options stand out in the domestic performance automotive world as clearly as Corvette’s L88, offered from 1967 to ’69. It was Corvette’s top-dog race-spec option — the kind of thing you ordered if you wanted to hit 200 mph flat out or run 10s in the quarter mile. And you could get it directly from your friendly local Chevrolet dealer — provided you knew the package existed.

Only 216 Corvettes were built as L88s out of 91,000 units produced from 1967 to ’69. Twenty were ordered in 1967, 80 in 1968, and 116 in 1969. The heart of the beast was a hand-built 427 big block with four-bolt main-bearing caps, aluminum heads, large valves (2.19 intake and 1.84 exhaust), a high-lift cam with solid lifters, 12.5:1 slugs, HD springs, and a Holley 850 double-pumper carburetor.

You couldn’t get a radio, heater, choke or fan shroud, but you had to order and pay for J50 vacuum power brakes, the J56 special master cylinder with a proportioning valve and dual-pin calipers, F41 HD suspension, M22 Muncie rock-crusher 4-speed, G81 Positraction rear end and K66 transistor ignition.

And speaking of paying, at $948 in ’67 and ’68 and $1,032 in ’69, the L88 was the most expensive available option on the order sheet. It cost almost a quarter of the price of a base car.

Intentionally underrated

The L88 wasn’t advertised as being the monster it truly was. According to dealer literature, the highest horsepower available on paper was the Tri-Power L71 solid-lifter motor, which put out a reported 435 horsepower. The L88, on the other hand, was rated at only 430 horsepower despite actually putting out close to 560 horsepower. How did GM get away with that? Simple. By rating the engine at well under its peak power RPM on the dyno.

That lower rating helped keep these race-bred beasts out of the hands of inexperienced drivers — especially the ones who wandered into their local Chevy dealer looking for the hottest thing available for street use. Those guys ended up with slightly more user-friendly L71 427/435s.

And it was for the best, as the L88 didn’t like being treated as a driver. These cars all required a minimum of 102 octane leaded gas and were totally impractical on the street. The lack of a fan shroud gave them a nasty habit of overheating, no choke meant rough cold starts, and the lack of a radio or heater limited comfort. In-town cruising wasn’t part of the vision; street and track racing were.

On the track, these cars really shined. A ’67 L88 coupe made 186 mph at Daytona in 1970, and other versions achieved 10.82 ETs at 156 mph in quarter-mile drag competition. Those are impressive numbers for factory-delivered C2 and C3 Corvettes.

Cubic dollars

When documented, original ’67 L88s sell, they bring big money. The only known original-motor ’67 convertible was purchased about 10 years ago for $550,000 in a private sale. It was recently sold to a group of investors for around $4m. The maroon sidepipe ’67 convertible that sold at Mecum Dallas in early September for $3.4m is the latest example of supply and demand.

But those cars are top of the hill in the world of L88s. The later cars, like our profile car, aren’t quite as scarce. But they’re still rare and expensive, especially when they have good documentation.

Rumbling L88 market

This black L88 convertible had just 16,000 miles on the clock when it was sold for $856,000. Noted muscle-car collector Chris Piscitello of Texas was the seller. It had its original engine and had been restored by the renowned Nabers Brothers restoration shop.

This car’s paperwork was second to none. It included the car’s original shipping record and the dealer’s order copy, the original Protect-O-Plate, the owner’s manual, its Bloomington Gold Award Certificate, the first owner’s original registration, the original dealer’s retail order, its Blooming Gold L88 Invasion certificate, Al Grenning’s CCAS letter of authenticity, and an NCRS Document Validation Service letter confirming that the build order copies submitted for comparison to official GM shipping data records were original.

Within a day of this sale, Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach auction sold another L88 coupe. This was a 1969 model, complete with its original sidepipes. It also had its original engine and drivetrain and happened to be a 1971 AHRA quarter-mile world record holder. Offered as Gooding Lot 29, it sold for $726,000 (ACC# 227440).

Follow the leader

Ultra-rare first-year ’67 L88s have seen exponential increases in value lately. At ACC’s Corvette Market seminar at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale this past January, I spoke about the private sale of the red,

12-mile ’67 L88 from Roger Judski’s collection to a buyer in Illinois. That car sold for well over $1m. In August, a ’67 Lynndale L88 sold for $2m in another private deal, and was resold only days later for $3m to new owners in Washington. And then, on the first Saturday in September, that maroon ’67 L88 made $3.4m at the Mecum auction in Dallas.

Lately, the ’68 and ’69 L88s have been tracking very close to one-third the value of comparable ’67s, coupe or convertible. Chalk that up to the ’67 mystique, because the option package and specifications are almost identical. Regardless, the ’68 and ’69 sharks are being bootstrapped by the ’67 sales.

And it all makes sense. Think about the traits that make some cars special and valuable investments for collectors: factory equipped with the highest-performance options, best colors, convertible tops, big tanks, HD brakes, original condition, great paperwork and race history. An L88, especially our subject car, fills out most of these squares.

So, at the end of the day, while this car was expensive, I still think it was bought well. If the best early cars continue to rise in value — and it looks like that’s what’s going on — these will, too.

(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.

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