1967 Chevrolet Corvette L-88 Roadster
2017 Scottsdale Auction
ESTIMATE: $1,900,000 - $2,600,000
CHASSIS NO: 194677S115484
427 cid RPO L-88 V-8 engine, single Holley 850 CFM four-barrel carburetor, est. 560 HP (factory-rated 430) at 6,400 rpm, Muncie M22 close-ratio four-speed manual transmission, four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes, independent front suspension with A-arms and coil springs, independent rear suspension with lateral struts, radius rods, and transverse leaf spring; wheelbase: 98"
Despite the tireless development applied to the Corvette by Zora Arkus-Duntov and his engineering team, and the car's rapid rise to credibility and success on the track, the Corvette was seriously challenged during the early 1960s by Carroll Shelby's Ford-powered Cobra. Compounding the problem, Duntov's promising Grand Sport racing program was halted almost as it began by GM's self-imposed anti-racing ban of 1963. However, Duntov could not be deterred from making the Corvette supreme.
During 1966, Duntov began development of what would become Chevy's massive counter-attack to the Cobra, the track-intended, 427-powered L-88 Corvette. While it was hoped that production would begin in '66, the L-88 was only greenlighted by cautious Chevy brass for a 1967 release. Providing the firepower for the Corvette to compete and win – anywhere – and on its own terms, the purpose-built L-88 surpassed both the triple-carbureted RPO L-71 427 engine and the aluminum-head L-89 variant of the 427 big-block engine. Redlined at 6,500 rpm but engineered to take far more punishment, the tough L-88 427 included forged internals, 12.5:1 compression, an extreme mechanical camshaft, heavy-duty valvetrain, and 850-CFM Holley carburetor breathing – actually gulping – mass quantities of fresh air through an aggressively bulged hood with functional cold-air induction. A choice of the GM/Muncie M-22 "Rock Crusher" close-ratio four-speed and heavy-duty Turbo-Hydramatic 400 automatic transmissions were available with the L-88, along with a wide range of rear-axle ratios. Air-conditioning, power steering, power windows, and a radio were not. Mandatory "options" included RPO (Regular Production Option) J-56 heavy-duty disc brake calipers, J-50 power brakes, F-41 high-performance suspension, K-66 transistorized ignition, and a G-80 Positraction rear-axle assembly. For the inaugural 1967 model year, L-88 Corvettes were also given the C-48 heater delete option.
The introduction of the L-88 caused equal amounts of excitement and confusion among potential buyers with Chevrolet actively discouraging orders from anyone but professional racers with established relationships in Detroit. Cryptically designated as an "off-road vehicle" with a laughably conservative 430 horsepower rating and stiff pricing ($947 for 1967), the L-88 appeared to the casual observer as being less powerful at more than twice the option price of the readily available 435 horsepower, "Tri-Power" L-71 unit. Even the exotic aluminum head L-89/L-71 engine was less costly and seemingly easier to obtain at your friendly local Chevy dealer. However, the L-88 produced well over 500 horsepower in reality and its combined features rendered it virtually track-ready. According to Chevy experts, only 20 L-88 Corvettes were built for 1967, the final year for the celebrated second-generation 'C2' Corvette design. Production of the L-88 would continue with the release of the third-generation, "Mako Shark" show-car inspired Corvette, with 80 and 116 examples of the L-88 routinely quoted for 1968 and 1969 production, respectively.
The incredible power delivered by the L-88 and the Corvette's outstanding handling and balance made these thinly-disguised racing cars capable of using every bit of the engine's monstrous output. According to conservative test results, the L-88 Corvette was more than capable of breaking the 150 mph barrier straight from the showroom floor. Per Tony DeLorenzo, one of the most successful Corvette L-88 racers in period, a 155 mph straightaway blast at an early race was sufficient to deter his dad, a GM marketing executive, from attending his races for the next two years. With proper gearing, stickier tires and some basic tuning, plus a competent driver hitting the loud pedal, 11-second elapsed times in the quarter-mile were easily achieved with the L-88.
Rooted in development work led by Duntov since 1962, the competition engine, originally known internally at Chevrolet as the "Heavy-Duty 427," found its way to the track beginning with a phone call during which Duntov explained that he would like it "field tested" with Roger Penske's Sunoco-sponsored team at the 1966 Daytona 24 Hour Continental race. Two of a small batch of prototype L-88s were set aside for Daytona, then race-prepped at a frenzied pace. When the smoke cleared at Daytona, Penske's team broke the GT-class record, took first in class, and finished 11th overall, proving the effectiveness of Duntov's "baby" and endowing the L-88 with an outstanding competition pedigree. Next, at Sebring, one of Penske's L-88 cars led its class from start to finish and came in 9th overall, the best-ever finish there for a Corvette. Needless to say, these victories cemented its L-88's eventual status as a regular – albeit limited – Chevrolet production option.
Due to their brilliant performance and high-profile competition legacy, L-88 Corvettes, especially the initial production batch of 20 built for 1967, rank firmly among the most desirable and valuable high performance automobiles in existence today. However, all are not equal, and this stellar example is one of just 10 L-88 Roadsters produced for 1967, the first for RPO L-88 and the last for the second-generation 'C2' Corvette series. According to research by NCRS Northeast Division Judging Chairman, Drew Papsun, this '67 L-88 Roadster is the only known example factory-finished in Silver Pearl. The NCRS Shipping Data Report confirms the Corvette's GM official production date was April 4, 1967, and the original delivery dealer was Commonwealth Chevrolet in Boston, Massachusetts.
Purchased new by Richard Rietman of Watertown, Massachusetts, on April 17, 1967, this L-88 Corvette's factory options included Silver Pearl paint, J-50 power brakes, the M-22 Heavy-Duty four-speed transmission, heater/defroster delete, K-66 transistorized ignition, N-14 side-exit exhaust, F-41 special suspension, G-81 3.70:1 Positraction rear end, and J-56 Heavy-Duty brakes. Interestingly, Mr. Rietman purchased this Corvette as a replacement for his 1963 Corvette, which had been stolen and not yet recovered. When he visited his Chevrolet dealer to inquire about a suitable replacement for his 1963 Sting Ray, they told him about a "special high performance model that was intended for racing." He immediately jumped on board with his order for the L-88, which came with a total MSRP of $6,004.70. Within a few weeks after purchasing the L-88, Mr. Reitman replaced the OEM side-exit exhaust system with an "off-road" (racing) system which was supplied by Chevrolet and he auto crossed and drag raced the L-88 on occasion. Also with the car are the original side pipes as delivered, allowing the new owner to display the car either way.
The subsequent owner of this L-88 Corvette was Rob Robinson, followed by a veritable "who's who" list of high-profile automobile collectors, including Otis Chandler, Kevin Suydam, David Christenholz, and the current owner. This first-year L-88, along with two former garage mates a '68 and '69 L-88, was recently featured in the March 2015 edition of Corvette magazine, with the article appropriately entitled "Gods of Thunder."
As offered, this L-88 Corvette retains the original powertrain, apart from the engine block, which was replaced during the mid-1970s, a common occurrence in the L-88 world as nearly all of these cars were raced and required new engines as a result. It should be noted that the engine block in the car is nonetheless correct in every way including the stampings, broached deck, date codes, and casting numbers. During 2012, this L-88 was given a concours-level restoration by Campbell Auto Restoration in Campbell, California. During restoration, great effort was taken to ensure the use of as many NOS parts as possible. The body was completely stripped, removed from the frame, and returned to the level of detail one would expect to see on a car fresh from the factory. The original chassis and original body were noted to be in spectacular condition with all bonding strips in place with the correct color adhesive visible in all areas. Following completion, the Corvette was displayed at the esteemed Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals (MCACN) in Chicago. It earned Best in Class honors at the Hillsborough Concours d'Elegance held in Burlingame, California, and in August 2014, the L-88 received a class award at the Carmel-By-The-Sea Concours on the Avenue. Further honors include Bloomington Gold certification, received in June 1987 under then-owner Rob Robinson. At the time of cataloguing, this outstanding and truly rare L-88 has just 23,518 indicated miles. Documentation includes copies of the original Chevrolet dealer invoice and window sticker, original bill of sale to Richard Rietman, Bloomington Gold certificate, and NCRS Shipping Data Report. Further authentication has been provided by way of Al Grenning of Classic Car Affirmation Services, LLC, verifying the "Wholesale Document" as original as well as the Body Trim Tag. In April of 2016, noted Corvette expert Roy Sinor was commissioned to perform a thorough inspection of this very special Corvette. His complete inspection report verifying this as one of the 20 L-88's produced as well as other highlights is included.
Race-bred, extremely rare, and expertly restored, this 1967 L-88 Corvette is – simply put – one of the finest and most significant L-88 Corvettes in existence today.