When it comes to the myriad Corvette big blocks available in 1969, it’s easy to get lost in the alphabet soup of option codes. For Corvette’s 2nd year of C3 production, no less than six 427 cubic inch engines were available. The 390hp L36 was the most prolific with roughly half of production getting one installed between the front fenders. At the other end, we had the legendary 430hp (wink, wink) L88 with just 116 produced. In between, there was the 400hp L68 and the highly sought after 435hp L71. One step up from the L71 was the L89 which added aluminum heads. The outlier here, with just two documented cars built, is the wild, all-aluminum ZL1.
In the video below, Peter Klutt from Legendary Motor Car located just outside of Toronto walks us through the differences between the L88 and L89, and touches on the ZL1 as well.
He begins by talking about the unique features of all 3 engines. The L71 uses a steel block with a steel crank and 4-bolt main bearings. With 3 carbs on top, it produced 435 horsepower. From there he moves on to the L89 which is essentially the same motor as the L71, just with aluminum heads added. Klutt surmises that the heads don’t really add any additional horsepower, but they do make the engine much lighter. That’s a good thing especially when that weight is coming off the front wheels.
Next, he’s off to an L88 located nearby in his shop. That engine is like the L71 and L89 but gets stronger internals, more compression, and a single 850cfm carburetor. Anyone who’s tried to tune a tri-power setup can relate to Klutt’s comment that the single 4-barrel carb is way easier to dial in than those 3 2-barrel carbs.
Cost is the next topic. Back in the day, an L89 would set you back about $800, and the L88 cost just over $1000 when ordered. Compare those values to the unobtainable ZL1 which was roughly a $4,000 option that basically doubled the base price of the car itself. If you want any of those 3 today, Peter tells us his 300-mile L89 is for sale for “upper 200’s” while the black L88 will cost $625,000. He then estimates a ZL1 will cost you $3-4million.
From there Klutt goes on to tell us all about their yellow L89 convertible in more detail. The 358 actual mile car has been ground up restored yet still rolls on its original tires and retains its original interior. Why restore an ultra-low mile Corvette? Well, the original owner modified it heavily after purchase, made it into a show car, and just never used it. Finally, after many years, he elected to return the car to its as-built condition.
Lastly, we get a look at all the paperwork associated with this gorgeous L89. The provenance covers everything from the original window sticker to the original dealer invoice. The 3-ring binder of information also includes the tank sticker, the vehicle shipper, the Corvette Order Copy, a typed history of the car, and even restoration photos among other historical items. Overall, this video is a great 8-minute look into the higher end of the 1969 big block Corvette offerings. Now sit back, buckle in, and enjoy the show.
Legendary Motorcar / YouTube
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