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Auction Watch: Pair of 1969 L88 Corvettes Up For Auction by Mecum

Rob

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Over the decades, several special, high performance Corvettes have been built by Chevrolet, but none of them have the beast-like status of the L88 Corvette.

The legendary L88 Corvette was the brain-child of Zora Arkus-Duntov, the father of the Corvette and was specifically built for racing in mind. He wanted to build a high performance Corvette that would put the fear of death into Enzo Ferrari and Carroll Shelby.

Starting in 1967, the L88 Corvette was powered by a highly modified version of Chevrolet's 427 big block engine that produced between 540 and 580 gross horsepower. At the time, the bean counters at GM were discouraging competitive automotive racing. As a result, the L88 was developed in a kind of skunk-works environment and was advertised to the public as only having 435 horsepower to appease the insurance companies, and dissuade the general public from buying the car.

Between 1967 and 1969, only 216 were built. Many of them went on to land in racers' hands and were successfully campaigned in competitive racing around the world. Others were purchased by private owners who knew this was an exceptionally rare type of Corvette and because of their racing nature and lack of casual road-side manners, were rarely ever driven.

These two 1969 L88 Corvettes are a perfect example of that.

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1st corvette I drove was a 69 L88 that a friend's parents bought for him(crazy,huh?). I had a Honda 350 at the time and this friend was crazy about motorcycles so he swapped me for a weekend..I was in 7th heaven all weekend and swapped back on Sunday night. 10 minutes after I left to go home, my friend met up with a tree and broke the car in half. Friend cracked a rib and that was the extent of his injuries..Parents bought him a Mach 1 a week later (crazier).
 
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Rob

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Yesterday when I wrote this article, I published a link to it on Facebook. Someone responded back with some interesting comments about how the Corvette has progressed over the years. Below are his comments as well as my response. What are your thoughts on this?

Mark Young said:
The car was designed with all the ideas and concepts.... it was hand made. That in itself made it special. No robot, or lasers- people made this car and it is obvious they cared and had an investment in this car.The car oozed excitement, style and a new look. It wasn't a make over or an update. Only true creativity could make that. If it had been up to the higher ups at GM, it would never have lived. They would have found a reason to make sure, i did not work, the numbers didn't work , it would cost to much and so on. The Corvette found it's place and only became better every year. Not perfect, growing into something big. I believe that element was lost , proof is to look at what was made after the wonder years.....It got worse, people that managed the car...should have never been allowed to do so. It died a slow death. The new mid engine is quite an accomplishment, but it is not a Corvette to me , I would not buy one. The original things , ingredients that made a Corvette - so exciting are gone. Things change I know , I am a designer. Somehow the car got off it's path, forgot what it was. It is not a Euro style racing car from 20 years ago. It's a car that was fun to drive, made you feel special. 700 hp does nothing for me, where would you even drive it ? How do you get into it? I recognize all the cool things it does now, but really is that more important than just driving it. Get behind the wheel of a 1967 Vette, put it in 1st gear and hit it. The car knew what to do.

The GM team that built " The Corvette " had a common bond. They not only loved cars , but they had a vision of what could be. That took courage and putting your life on the line in a way . Only that type of commitment would reach over time, what the world discovered. An American sports car . While everyone didn't total agree and I am sure there were many arguments and struggles. It almost didn't happen and much was built in a private place. That fact produced versions of what became the 1963 Corvette. Unlike any car before it. The group saw the need for themselves. The customers at first were exited by it, but "New" takes time. Then the interest grew and more people saw what this car was...... If you ever drove any of he early Corvettes you could feel the road, hear the motor and tires transmitted the feeling.

My response:
Mark Young: I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with you. The 1963 - 1967 Corvettes were excellent. There's no doubt about it, but the marque has not lost its way over the years. Did it see its share of trials and tribulations? Absolutely, particularly during the oil embargo years of the late 1970s and early 1980s when maximum horsepower was at an all time low and the public was more interested in gas consumption rather than performance. As technology progressed, all manufacturers found ways to conserve fuel while increasing performance. The Corvette included. While the older Corvettes provided a raw, visceral feel, performance wise - they had major drawbacks. Because of the shape of the C2 generation, once you started to exceed 90 MPH in a mid-year, the front-end would start to lift because the shape of the car acted like an airplane wing. While that particular generation may have been awesome at a drag strip, or stop light racing, it was not good on racetracks such as Le Mans where the Corvette's competition lived. GM has always tried to keep the Corvette's DNA appealing to the masses. That includes casual drivers and race car drivers. So the Corvette has always tried to meet a wide variety of needs so-to-speak. As a result - we now have a Corvette today, that you can easily, and comfortably drive to the race track, take on the competition, destroy it, and then easily and comfortable drive back home from the track. Decades ago, you couldn't easily do that with the Corvette. I own a 1990 ZR-1 which has only 375 hp. The car is completely stock, and I've put 43,000 miles on the odometer over the course of 20 years. It still has that raw visceral feeling that the older Corvettes have. Sounds awesome, is fun to drive and has more than enough horsepower for me to get into trouble with. Fast forward to today, because of my job, I've driven well over 400+ C7 Corvettes - Stingrays, Grand Sports and Z06s. They are definitely much more refined and technologically advanced than my ZR-1 or a mid-year Corvette, but they are no less fun to drive and enjoy. If I had my way, I'd have a mid-year Corvette and a 2019 ZR1 parked right next to my 1990 ZR-1. Why? Because each one has something unique to offer to the overall driving experience, and for me, that's what it's all about. I love driving and I own cars that are fun to drive - that excite me when I drive them whether it's going to the grocery store, or a fun ride to the coast. If the new Corvettes did not enhance the driving experience, I wouldn't want one or still be interested in them. The Corvette did not end with the mid-year Corvette. It continued to improve, while slowly at times, but has become a well respected marque around the world. As for the men and women that built and engineered the Corvette over the years, you will NEVER meet a more passionate group of people in the automotive world. There are Corvette Chief Engineers and Chevrolet General Managers that literally put their jobs on the line to make sure the Corvette continued when GM's bean counters wanted to kill it. In 2013, I had the opportunity to interview several of the engineers that were responsible for developing the C7 Corvette. I was absolutely blown away by the love, passion and dedication that the Corvette Engineering group has for the Corvette. You can read my interviews here: Something Wicked This Way Comes: the 2014 C7 Corvette Stingray is Unveiled: Page 1 of 11 - CorvetteActionCenter.com
 

Tom Bryant

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These are a pretty cool pair of L88s. I had intended to drive over and see them sometime this winter since they were only about a half hour away, but haven't got around to it yet. Now, if they sell, I may have lost my chance.

Tom
 

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