The winningest Corvette L88 race car of all time is heading to auction
For all the love given a handful of highly desirable Chevrolet Corvettes—like the first-year 1953 model, the rare and underpowered version of what would become America’s Sports Car; the 1963 coupe, with its legendary one-year-only split-window design; the 1969 ZL-1, of which only two were produced; and the new kid on the block, the mid-engine 2020 Stingray—no ’Vette incites fervent desire among enthusiasts quite like the 1967–69 Corvette L88. And the sovereign of the L88 kingdom is the ’67 version.
Like a smart, handsome high school quarterback who also happens to be class president and plays a mean guitar, the 1967 Corvette L88 has it all. And Chevrolet built only 20 of them. Considering General Motors’ notoriously poor record keeping back in the day, it’s pretty much anyone’s guess how many L88s were coupes and how many were convertibles. Regardless, Chevy built four times as many L88s (80 total) in 1968 and nearly six times as many (116) in ’69 than it did in ’67.
So when one makes its way to public auction, the automotive world stops to watch. Mecum, which to this point is still hoping the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer a threat when its Indianapolis Auction rolls around May 12–17, is offering what it calls “The Ultimate L88 Corvette”—the last L88 to leave the factory in 1967. Mecum says it is the only ’67 L88 to retain its original 427-cubic-inch, 430-hp V-8 engine.
“When it comes to collectible Corvettes, the 1967 L88 is on the very top of the heap, aside from some of the experimental cars and the 1963 Grand Sport race car,” says Hagerty Valuation Editor Andrew Newton. “The L88 engine option cost $947.90 [about $7350 today], which tacked on an additional 25 percent or so onto the base price. It was the only year the L88 was available on the C2 platform, which most people consider the most attractive Corvette, and, of course, a precious few of them were built.
“L88s have near mythical status in the classic car world, mostly because they were built for one thing—racing,” Newton adds. “The L88 meant GM was finally posing a threat to the Cobras in the SCCA’s A-Production championships. GM didn’t actively promote them, and the factory famously underrated the horsepower at 430 when it was likely closer to 550 hp.”
The L88 designation referred to a special set of race-ready equipment upgrades to the standard four-speed Corvette that added power and improved handling—first and foremost the engine, which featured 12.5:1 compression, a hi-lift camshaft, 850-cfm four-barrel carburetor, and aluminum heads. A cowl cold-air induction hood was unique to L88s, which were delivered without fan shrouds and chokes and were a bear to keep running until they came up to operating temperature. And since they were race cars, there was no radio or heater.
Mecum says this 1967 L88 Corvette, serial number 21550, “has an unquestionable pedigree as the best-documented example of its kind in the world. Documented with the original tank sticker, window sticker, order form, shipper copy, dealer invoice, factory inspection form, factory ID card, vintage photos, complete ownership history and a remarkable racing career, there is no other 1967 L88 Corvette with equally extensive or impressive documentation.”
It is also the most successful L88 Corvette race car of all time. At the 1970 Daytona 24 Hour Endurance race, Cliff Gottlob’s privateer racing team surprised the field by finishing second in the GT Class and 11th overall. That was one of an astounding number of podium finishes in eight years—nearly 300—including more than 150 outright wins and a streak of 52 consecutive victories, a record at the time.
Its documented ownership history includes Gottlob (1967–78), Jim Krughoff and David Burroughs (1978–97), Bill McDonagh (1997–2013), and Dana Mecum (2013–present). In 2013, s/n 21550 was inducted into the Bloomington Gold Great Hall as one of the 50 most significant Corvettes of all time. It also participated in the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
A freshly rebuilt, period-correct L88 engine is included in the sale in case the new owner wants to swap out the original engine and preserve it.
The record price for a Corvette is $3.85M for a 1967 L88 two-door coupe at Barrett-Jackson’s 2014 Scottsdale auction.
The most recent 1967 Corvette L88 to cross the block—at Mecum’s Kissimmee Auction in January—was the first L88 and the only convertible produced in Tuxedo Black. The car, driven in competition by Tony DeLorenzo, Jr., was a no sale at $1.8M.
Considering the volatile market in the midst of the current health crisis, it is impossible to know if s/n 21550 will find a new owner in May or anytime soon, but it doesn’t cost anything to dream.