A fine example of Zora Arkus-Duntov’s response to the Shelby Cobra in the 1960s is up for sale at the upcoming 427 L88 that was basically a factory-prepared track vehicle.
The L88 was redlined at 6500 rpm but could take far more punishment with its forged internals, 12.5:1 compression, an extreme mechanical cam, heavy-duty valvetrain, and 850-CFM Holley carburetor. Chevy rated the car at just 430 horsepower, but it actually delivered an estimated 560 horsepower and was capable of breaking 150 mph off the showroom floor.
Surprisingly, the car was available with the choice of the GM/Muncie M-22 “Rock Crusher” close-ratio four-speed or heavy-duty Turbo-Hydramatic 400 automatic transmissions.
Buyers could not, however, check the boxes for air conditioning, power steering, power windows, and a radio. You did have to buy mandatory “options” like 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.
Chevy actually discouraged ordinary folks from buying the L88, setting the price for the engine option at a whopping $947 in 1967. Apparently delivering less horsepower (wink, wink) than the two other lower-priced L89 and L71 427 options, the L88 was not a big seller, with only 20, 80, and 116 sold in three years of production from 1967 to 1969.
This car is apparently the only one to come from the factory with Silver Pearl paint and is one of just 10 L88 roadsters produced for 1967.
Its lineage can be traced all the way back to the original owner, Richard Rietman of Watertown, Massachusettes, who bought it on April 17, 1967 to replace a 1963 Sting Ray that had been stolen. The car, which had a sticker price of $6,004.70, came with 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.
A few weeks into his ownership, Chevrolet supplied Mr. Rietman with an “off-road” (racing) system to replace the OEM side-exit exhaust system (both sets come with the car), and he occasionally autocrossed and drag raced the L88.
It should be noted that the original engine block was replaced during the mid-1970s, apparently a common outcome in the L88 world because nearly all of them were raced and subject to extreme stress. According to Worldwide Auctioneers: “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.”
This L88 underwent a concours-level restoration in 2012 with great effort taken to ensure the use of as many NOS parts as possible. Since completion, the car has earned Best in Class honors at the Hillsborough Concours d’Elegance held in Burlingame, California, and in August 2014, received a class award at the Carmel-By-The-Sea Concours on the Avenue. It also earned Bloomington Gold certification in June 1987.
With just 23,518 miles on the odometer over the past 50 years, this L88 is “race-bred, extremely rare, and expertly restored,” according to the seller, and is “simply put – one of the finest and most significant L-88 Corvettes in existence today.”
As our friend Rick Tavel says, you better “bring a banker” as pre-auction estimates range from $1.9 to $2.6 million!
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