In the world of collectible Corvettes, it’s all about the options. Corvettes are not rare cars for the most part, so the really special ones require a closer look. A top example has to have the right combination of engine, performance equipment, color, and convenience features. On some Corvettes, options can put two visually identical cars in entirely different price brackets, to the extent that a properly equipped example could feasibly be worth twice a base car. When it comes to production Corvettes, the 1967 L88 tops most people’s “must have” list; it has the perfect mix of rarity, performance, motorsports pedigree, high cost when new, and a certain mystique.
The L88 was essentially Chevrolet’s way of transforming the Corvette from America’s sports car into an internationally competitive racing car. It was a special treat for the customers who could read between the lines; rarely does a company downplay its own product, but GM never actively promoted the L88. Indeed, Chevrolet took steps to discourage people from buying it.
L88 Corvette nuts and bolts
The L88 package was unavailable with otherwise popular creature comforts, and the thunderous 427 engine ran on 103 octane fuel, which was either very difficult or downright impossible to find depending on where you lived. To drive the point home, a sticker between the seats on an L88 even reads “Warning: vehicle must operate on a fuel having a minimum of 103 research octane and 95 motor octane or engine damage may result.” The biggest impediment for the L88 option, though, was the cost: a whopping $1500. For that, the buyer got a car rated at 430 hp, which was 5 hp fewer than the already excellent triple-carbureted 427-cubic-inch L71. That engine cost just $437.10, so why would someone shell out all that extra cash for a car with less power?
First off, the L88’s quoted power figure was arbitrary. It was essentially what the engine made at 4600 rpm—well below its peak. The actual figure is believed to be well over 500 hp, and closer to 600 in full race trim. To accomplish this, the engine featured 12.5:1 compression, transistor ignition, aluminum intake, heavy-duty bottom end, forged aluminum pistons, forged connecting rods, hardened pushrods, and an aluminum cross-flow radiator. It was coupled to the famous M22 “rock crusher” four-speed, which featured a small diameter flywheel and high-capacity clutch. Handling bits included F41 suspension, heavy duty brakes and Positraction.
The L88 package automatically deleted items like radio, heater /defrost and air conditioning. All of this made the L88 an excellent choice for racers, but the L88 was a poor street car that, in addition to being expensive and hard to find gas for, was also hard to start when cold and was notorious for overheating in traffic. Just 216 were sold over three years from 1967-69.
Why it’s all about the ‘67
Any L88 is special, particularly if it is a significant race car, but the 1967 model is generally considered the one to have. Not only is 1967 the only year for the L88 in the more desirable C2 (1963-67) body style, 1967 was also the lowest production year for the L88 by far with only 20 built, (less than 10 percent of total L88 production).
Given the rarity, racing provenance, phenomenal performance and the somewhat murky nature of buying one in the first place, the 1967 L88 has the perfect recipe for collectibility, and it shows in the prices. When it comes to value, 1967 cars are worth well into seven figures and several times as much as an equivalent ’68 or ’69 car, so it’s big news whenever one comes to market. The most recent results have been for a convertible sold at Mecum Dallas in 2013 for $3,424,000, a coupe at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale in 2014 for $3,850,000, and another convertible sold at Worldwide Scottsdale last year for $1,980,000.
A perfect, Sunfire Yellow storm
The crown jewel of Mecum’s enormous annual Indianapolis sale this year is another ’67 L88 Coupe, represented as the only example finished in one of the C2 Corvette’s most eye-catching shades—Sunfire Yellow.
An older restoration, it was used as a daily driver by its first owner who, after probably realizing what a terrible daily driver an L88 makes, began to take it to the drag strip by towing it behind a 1963 Corvette. It reportedly ran in the 11s at tracks in Kansas and Arkansas. After an accident, it sat for many years but was fully redone in the 1990s and is the real deal, with the all-important Bloomington Gold certification to show for it. Since the ’67 L88 is the ultimate classic production Corvette and since it’s such a rare sight on the market, we’ll be keeping a close eye on this one, and it may be your last chance to get one of these gems into your garage for quite some time.