This 1968 Yenko-prepped L88 Corvette is both a beauty and a beast
Somehow, in between running a dealership and stuffing Camaros with Chevy big-blocks in the late ’60s, Don Yenko found time to race-prep L88 Corvettes for the Sunray-DX race team—and race this one himself. The team was sponsored by Sunray-DX oil company based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and ran Corvettes in the FIA endurance circuit in 1967 and ’68 (naturally, two of the L88’s years). Today, we’re looking at the history of one of the most patriotic race cars possible: the one 1968 L88 Corvette both prepped and driven by Don Yenko.
If you listen closely, and stare at that red, white, and blue livery long enough, you can hear bald eagles screaming. No? Maybe we’ve been working from home too long.
Sunray-DX and Yenko had quite the symbiotic relationship, beginning in 1967 when Yenko leveraged connections to order (and then prep) a C2 L88 for the 1967 season before Chevy had reached homologation requirements for production volume. Yenko pulled the same strings in 1968, ordering a first-year C3 with the L88 engine, but Chevy once again couldn’t complete his order in time for the 1968 24 Hours of Daytona. Yenko was never one to be limited by the factory, however, so he dragged a Rally Red 435/427 convertible off his show floor in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania and got to work frankensteining a race car. In went a full-fledged L88 engine, plus its corresponding Muncie M-22 four-speed, and a race-spec roll bar and fuel cell. Thus, this particular ’68 Sunray-DX car is known as the “showroom car,” not because it lacks a racing resume, but because of its show-floor origins.
Though a Sunray-DX Corvette won its class at the 1968 24 Hours of Daytona, the “showroom” car didn’t earn drivers Don Yenko and Peter Revson the top podium spot; that honor belonged to the Yenko-prepped Corvette from the previous season. Despite the C2’s reputation for pointing its nose towards the sky at speed, the ’67 triumphed thanks to Daytona’s steep banking and the car’s sheer reliability. The C3s fared far rougher, plagued with overheating differentials, but Yenko and codriver Revson scavenged a fourth-in-class finish. (To be fair, a top five finish is hardly embarrassing for any car’s first endurance appearance.) In any case, the cars campaigned by Sunray-DX and prepped by Yenko dominated the three L88 C3s that James Garner’s American International Racing team had received straight from the factory (one retired early and the other finished 29th overall, besting only a Morgan Plus 4).
This car wore the number 8 at Daytona, but in its restored form, it bears the number 2. Why? Though Sebring’s infamous bumps had the final laugh, the Sunray-DX car set a lap record for its GT class at Sebring in 1968. It was at this race it appeared in red, white, and blue livery and displayed the number 2. Yenko again gripped the wheel, this time sharing seat time with Pedro Rodriguez. The car was approved to compete at the 1968 24 Hours of Le Mans, but France had been wracked with strikes, student riots, and protests in May. As of the third week of that month, there wasn’t even any gas; refineries had shut down. (The postponement of the famed endurance race from June until September, then, isn’t a first.)
Sunray-DX’s motorsports program ended in 1969 when Sunray merged with Sunoco, which already had a race team of its own run by a fellow named Roger Penske. Yenko kept the decommissioned ’68 racer where it belonged, however, driving it to an SCCA runoffs victory in the A-Production class. The car continued racing through the 1960s and ’70s, getting a wardrobe change in the process into Frank Joyce’s navy blue with a green, yellow and orange side stripe. In the 2000s, the car was restored and changed back into its ’Murica red, white, and blue in which it ran at Sebring in ’68.
“Yenko-tuned Chevrolets are among the most desirable out there, so to have the most badass Corvette available in 1968 with his name associated with it adds a cool factor that is next-level,” says Hagerty valuation expert Greg Ingold. Though it’s also gone through the hands of Barrett-Jackson and Worldwide Auctioneers, this racer is currently offered for sale by GT Motor Cars of Wallingford, Connecticut. This ’68 L88 hasn’t fared particularly well at previous sales, and has suffered from overall weakness in the L88 market in recent years.
Financial times can—and do—change, but nothing can erase this Corvette’s cool.