August is a busy month for most of the preeminent automotive auction houses and RM Auctions is no exception. This weekend they host their highly anticipated Sports & Classics of Monterey event in Monterey, California. One of the Corvettes that will be offered for sale is the 1968 Chevrolet Corvette L88 “Scuderia Filipinetti” Le Mans race car which is expected to fetch in the neighborhood of $500,000 â€“ $700,000.
The Corvette L88 Scuderia Filipinetti Le Mans Racer holds a significant place in Corvette’s racing history. With a coil spring front suspension and an L88 engine prepped by Zora Arkus-Duntov and smuggled out the back door to circumvent GM’s ban on racing, the L88 was driven at the 1968 24 Hours of Le Mans by Henri Greder and Umberto Maglioli. The car dominated the Porsches and led the GT class until the 6th hour when a carburetion problem melted a piston.
The Corvette returned to Le Mans in 1969 where it again dominated the competition and led the GT class for 16 hours before it retired due to another mechanical failure. Greder then drove the L88 Corvette that September in the Tour de France, a 5,000 km marathon over nine days including 11 events at 9 different tracks. Despite a constant engine misfire, Greder and co-driver Vigneron captured seven of the eleven events. This account of the race at Clermont is awe-inspiring:
Despite encountering a constant engine misfire which replacing the carburetor, plugs, wires and even the gas tank didnâ€™t cure, Greder and his co-driver Vigneron captured seven of the eleven events (NÃ¼rburgring, Rouen, Le Mans, Cap FrÃ©hel, Charade, Albi and le Tourmalet).
At Clermont they finally swapped the distributor for one from a Camaro and the L88â€™s power returned. Starting the race at Clermont Ferrand (then known as Charade) from the back of the field, Greder (â€œI was very tired, and so happy to have the power back,â€ he recalled) passed every car on the straight after the start, went straight across the next two corners, spun and backed into a utility pole. Restarting, again at the back of the field, the rejuvenated Corvette (its driver’s enthusiasm unconstrained by the tachometer, which didnâ€™t work after the distributor swap) charged through the field, catching Gerard Larrousse’s leading Porsche 911R at the start-finish line at the end of the first lap.
“Larrousse said he thought I was out for good and was so startled when he saw me in his mirrors he almost went off,” Greder remembered. But it was too late to catch Larrousse in the overall standings. Greder and the Corvette finished second and won the GT category earning the description â€œLa phÃ©nomÃ©nale Chevrolet Corvetteâ€ in Maurice Loucheâ€™s history of the Tour de France Automobile.
The L88 Corvette was then sold to Jean-Claude Aubriet who campaigned it four more times at Le Mans from 1970-73, finishing as high as 18th overall and 2nd in class. The L88 Scuderia Filipinetti Le Mans Racer holds the record at Le Mans for single chassis starts (six).
Today the Corvette has been restored and now sports a 70’s vintage 454 made to look like the classic L88. It retains the coil spring front suspension developed by Zora as well as its M22 “Rock Crusher” close ratio gearbox and J56 heavy duty brakes. Documentation includes copies of the original A.C.O. entry forms from its six appearances at Le Mans.
Check out the new GT2 Corvette C6.R photos and the official press release after the jump.
The full auction catalog description is a must-read for any Corvette racing enthusiast. The 1968 Corvette L88 Coupe will be auctioned on Saturday, August 15, 2009.