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Relentlessly developed by Zora Arkus-Duntov and his engineers, Chevrolet’s Corvette defied all challengers and even General Motors’ self-imposed racing ban enacted in 1963. By late 1967, the L88 was released, providing the firepower to compete and win on its own terms. Purpose-built for racing, the L88 surpassed both the triple-carbureted L71 427 engine and the aluminum-head L89. With a 6,500 rpm redline, the tough L88 427 included forged internals, 12.5:1 compression, an extreme camshaft, and an 850-CFM Holley carburetor breathing through an aggressively bulged hood with functional cold-air induction. The M22 close-ratio four-speed and heavy-duty Turbo 400 automatic transmissions were available, along with a wide range of rear-axle ratios; however, airconditioning, power steering, power windows, and a radio were not. Mandatory “options” included RPO (Regular Production Option) J56 heavy-duty brakes, F-41 heavy-duty suspension, and G80 Positraction.
The L88 caused excitement and confusion following introduction, as Chevrolet discouraged orders from anyone but professional racers. Cryptically designated an “off-road vehicle” with a laughably conservative 430 hp rating and stiff pricing ($1,032 for the option by 1969), the L88 appeared less powerful at twice the price of the L71. In reality, the L88 produced well over 500 hp. Just 20 L88 Corvettes were built in 1967, followed by 80 for 1968 and 116 for 1969. Their incredible power and outstanding handling made these cars capable of exceeding 150 mph from the showroom.
A serious contender everywhere it appeared, the L88 first took victory at the 1968 24 Hours of Daytona, where Jerry Grant and Dave Morgan reached 194 mph en route to the GT-class win. In the hands of Jerry Thompson and Tony DeLorenzo, the model dominated American SCCA racing, winning the A/Production title for 1969. In 1972, an L88 Corvette entered by the North American Racing Team scored a class victory at Le Mans.
Due to their brilliant performance, competition legacy, and extreme rarity, L88 Corvettes rank highly among the most desirable and valuable high-performance automobiles today. All are not equal, however, and this L88 Coupe from 1969 is unquestionably one of the finest and lowest-mileage examples remaining today, having traveled just over 2,000 miles from new. In addition to being one of just 116 L88s built for 1969, this vehicle is one of the 99 equipped with the M22 four-speed manual gearbox and one of just a handful equipped with a 4.56:1 rear-axle ratio. Originally finished in the rare and striking color scheme of Tuxedo Black paint with black vinyl upholstery, this late-production L88 was equipped with the revised open-chamber aluminum cylinder heads, yielding slightly lower (12.0:1) compression.
Sold new at New Jersey’s Wigder Chevrolet, this L88’s unusual delivery is documented by a 1996 letter from long-time employee Tony Franchi, who recalled the purchaser did not take immediate delivery; rather, after some time, a flatbed arrived to pick it up. When asked about the intended use of the car, the purchaser simply stated that the plan was to “put it away.”
After passing among several owners, the L88 was restored by acclaimed Corvette specialists the Nabers Brothers of Houston, Texas, during the early 2000s. During this process, a great effort was made to retain the car’s original features and source rare NOS components, such as date-coded Firestone Super Sport tires. Following completion, the restored L88 earned Bloomington Gold certification in 2004, followed by an NCRS Top Flight award at the November 2004 Texas Regional meet. A testament to its impressive restoration and distinctive factory specification, the Tuxedo Black L88 was invited to take part in the 2008 Bloomington Gold L88 Invasion Special Collection.
As offered, this legendary and exceedingly rare L88 is accompanied by documents including the aforementioned letter, award certificates and judging sheets, the all-important Corvette Order Copy, and a certificate dated November 2014 from Al Grenning of Classic Car Affirmation Services documenting the cylinder case pad stamping as original. Simply put, this L88 from 1969 stands tall as one of the most significant Corvettes remaining today.