Classic Muscle & Modern Performance
19 June 2010
The Classic Muscle | The Corvettes
1969 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Coupe "Automatically Yours"
To be auctioned on Saturday, June 19, 2010
Sold for $211,750
- Chassis no. 194379S710256
When it was first offered in 1967, Chevrolet’s RPO L88 427 option was shrouded in a veil of mystery. Although it was clearly listed on the Chevrolet order form, its 430 horsepower rating and stiff $950 price tag made the L88 appear to be less powerful at twice the price of the L71 427/435 tri-power engine! In fact, the L88 produced in excess of 500 horsepower, and Chevrolet’s disinformation campaign was intended to discourage the sale of the L88 to customers who were not professional racers. In company literature, Chevrolet also cryptically declared the L88-equipped Corvette as an “off-road vehicle.”
Optimized for operation at the upper reaches of its rpm range, the 427 cubic inch L88 engine was based on a four-bolt main cylinder block with a forged reciprocating assembly, topped with lightweight aluminum cylinder heads to improve the Corvette’s front/rear weight bias. A single Holley 4150
four-barrel carburetor and a radical 12.0:1 compression ratio, along with a high-lift/long duration camshaft and a high-rpm valvetrain, dictated the use of 103 research octane gasoline and was unsuited to anything but higher-rpm operation at speed. The bulging hood, with “427” emblems and cowl induction, served as the only notice of the L88 engine lurking underneath, aside from the menacing exhaust note.
While a heavy-duty Turbo-Hydramatic 400 automatic transmission was available with the L88 in 1968 and 1969, along with a variety of rear axle ratios, such comfort and convenience items as air conditioning, power steering, electric windows and a radio were not available. Instead, the L88 buyer was required to select a number of “mandatory” options including heavy-duty brakes, a special-purpose suspension, transistorized ignition and a posi-traction rear axle.
Just 20 L88-equipped Corvettes were built in 1967, followed by 80 more for 1968 and another 116 for 1969. Their combination of incredible power with the Corvette’s sleek bodywork, stout drivetrain and very competent chassis meant that these cars were capable of top speeds approaching 170 mph depending on rear-end gearing, right off the showroom floor! Even though the original Firestone bias-ply tires erupted in smoke at the drag strip and hampered elapsed times, the L88 was easily capable of 11-second quarter-mile performance with slicks, an open exhaust and little more. Its straight-line performance was impressive, but the L88 was actually a thinly veiled endurance-racing car, capable of taking on the world’s finest GT cars with careful preparation and expert driving.
A long list of the greatest team owners and drivers entered and drove L88 Corvettes in FIA GT, IMSA and SCCA events at tracks from Daytona, Riverside and Sebring to Le Mans, where John Greenwood hit 211 mph on the Mulsanne straight in 1972 with his “Stars and Stripes” L88 Corvette. As a result of their sheer rarity, high performance and racing cachet, L88-powered Corvettes continue to rank among the most desirable and valuable high-performance automobiles, and their offering at auction is an opportunity not to be missed by Corvette enthusiasts.
Just 116 L88-powered Corvettes rolled off the St. Louis assembly line in 1969. This Bloomington Gold-certified example is rarer still as one of only 17 units originally equipped with a Turbo-Hydramatic 400 automatic transmission. When new, it was drag raced on the East Coast by Bard Chevrolet and appropriately named “Automatically Yours,” in reference to its rare powertrain.
Later, the car was owned by Ken Heckart of Pennsylvania and John Leonard of Georgia, who commissioned a body-off-frame restoration by the highly regarded Nabers Brothers of Houston, Texas. In testament to the quality of the restoration, the Corvette was awarded a coveted Bloomington Gold certificate with a score of 99.5 out of 100 possible points.
Next, the Corvette was owned by businessman John Moores, who donated it and 26 other automobiles to the Scripps Research Institute for Childhood and Neglected Diseases, which in turn sold the Corvette in 1998 with Christie’s at La Jolla, California. Pro Team Corvette Sales acquired it in 2006, and shortly thereafter, the L88 joined the current owner’s private collection.
As offered today, this Riverside Gold L88 Corvette shows just 21,121 miles. It is well known by prominent Corvette enthusiasts and marque experts.
The engine bay is clean and proper, with the correct components and finishes in evidence, along with the original-specification emissions equipment. Equipped with a T-roof, power brakes and rolling on period-style Firestone red line tires, the car is also offered complete with an original Corvette sales brochure. “Automatically Yours” is an outstanding example of what has become one of the most coveted high performance cars ever built in the U.S. With documented history, an automatic transmission and an award-winning restoration, it is one of the finest L88s in existence.
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