The Super Corvette: The L88


 

During the muscle era, GM's hot engine was the 427 cubic-inch V-8, which first appeared in the 1963 Daytona 500 stock car race. It was later offered in GM full-sized cars, but it was the Corvette Sting Ray, with its irresistible combination of big block power and aggressive body style, that made the engine famous. Having a Corvette with "427" emblazoned on the sides of the hood scoop was quite a status symbol. Not only did it mean your car was packing some serious horsepower, but it was also fair warning to any potential competitors. However, the emblem, alone, didn't specify your car's power, because not all 427 engines were created equal.

 

Initially offered in '66 Corvettes, the 427 engine, known as the L36, had a horsepower rating of 390. Its successors, the L68 and L72, with improved performance options, boosted the Vette's horsepower to 400 and 425, respectively; and even higher on the food chain, the L71 and L89 versions of the 427 engines were each rated at 435 horsepower. However, to many, the Holy Grail of the Corvettes of the '60s was the elusive L88, which was offered in only 216 Corvettes from 1967 through 1969.

 

GM intentionally reported the L88 as having 430 horsepower, instead of the 550 that was actually housed under its hood. Their reason for misrepresenting the L88s power was to encourage buyers to select other engines, such as the L71 or L89, which seemed, at least on paper, to have more power. Therefore, the L88 cars remained a limited-production vehicle purchased mainly by professional and weekend racers who knew the real potential of this special engine. But, a few of the L88 Corvettes were initially purchased as street cars, or later after they retired for racing, they were driven on the streets. These L88 survivors from the '60s are some of the most sought-after Corvettes today, commanding six- and, sometimes, seven-figure prices.

 

Their rarity is only part of their appeal. The mystique of owning the most powerful Corvette offered by the GM factory during the heyday of the muscle car era is what seals the deal.


L88 Package Special Features

 

  • Light- weight aluminum engine/radiator
  • 850 CFM carburetor
  • Solid lifters
  • Oversized valves
  • 12.5:1 compression ratio
  • Transistor ignition
  • Heavy duty suspension
  • Larger brakes
  • M22 “Rock Crusher” 4-speed

 

Features Absent in L88 Package

 

  • Radio
  • Heater
  • Power Steering
  • Power Windows
  • Air Conditioning
  • Fan Shroud

 

The story of the bowtie 427 engine would not be complete without the mention of one other very special variant of this power plant. In 1969, an option was offered for an extra lightweight 427 L88 motor, designated the ZL1. Because of the added cost of this option (almost $5,000), only three Corvettes were ordered with this unique setup.

 

Yearly Sales for the L88

 

  • 1967: 20
  • 1968: 80
  • 1969: 116

 

 

Here are some of the hammer prices for L88s sold at auction in the last several years.

 

 

Recent Years of Corvette L88 Sales

Company Location Sale Year Car Year Color Coupe/Conv. Hammer Price
Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2007 1969 Green Coupe $240,000
Mecum St. Charles 2009 1968 Blue Coupe $300,000
Mecum Monterey 2010 1967 Black Convertible $1,250,000
RM Auctions San Diego 2010 1969 Red Coupe $365,000
Mecum Indy 2010 1968 Silver Coupe $150,000
Mecum Dallas 2011 1969 Black Coupe $562,500
Mecum Kissimmee 2012 1969 Yellow Convertible $610,000
Mecum Kissimmee 2012 1969 Blue Coupe $270,000
Mecum Indy 2012 1968 Blue Convertible $600,000
Mecum Monterey 2012 1968 Black Convertible $575,000
Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2013 1968 Owens/Corning Coupe-Racer $1,000,000
Mecum Kissimmee 2013 1968 Red Convertible $550,000
Mecum Monterey 2013 1968 Black Convertible $800,000
Mecum Dallas 2013 1967 Red Convertible $3,200,000
Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2014 1967 Red Coupe $3,500,000
Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2014 1969 Red (w/stars & stripes) Convertible $2,600,000
Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2014 1968 Blue Convertible $800,000
Mecum Kissimmee 2014 1968 Burgundy Coupe $530,000
Mecum Kissimmee 2014 1969 Fathom Green Convertible $510,000
Mecum Dallas 2014 1969 Black Convertible $680,000
Mecum Monterey 2015 1969 White Convertible $850,000
Mecum Monterey 2015 1969 Blue Convertible $750,000
Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2015 1969 Red Coupe $450,000
Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas 2015 1968 Red Coupe $300,000
Gooding & Company Scottsdale 2016 1969 Black Coupe Undisclosed

 


1967 L88 Coupe
Sold at 2014 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction ($3,500,000)

 


1967 L88 Convertible
Sold at 2013 Mecum Dallas Auction ($3,200,000)

 


1968 L88 Coupe
Sold at 2014 Mecum Kissimmee Auction ($530,000)

 


1968 L88 Convertible
Sold at 2014 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction ($800,000)

 


1968 L88 Convertible
Sold at 2012 Mecum Kissimmee Auction ($550,000)

 


1968 L88 Coupe Racer, Owens/Corning
Sold at 2013 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction ($1,000,000)

 


1969 L88 Convertible Race Car, #57 Race Car
Sold at 2014 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction ($2,600,000)

 


1969 L88 Convertible
Sold at 2014 Mecum Kissimmee Auction ($510,000)

 


1969 L88 Convertible
Sold at 2012 Mecum Kissimmee Auction ($610,000)

 


L88 Engine in 1969 Corvette
The L88 engine has a spark arrestor cover on the carburetor (the air cleaning is inside the hood scoop)

 


Note on the steering wheel: "Lift Hood Before Starting -- May Start Fire

 


1969 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Convertible
Sold at 2015 Mecum Monterey Auction ($750,000)

 

 


Three (3) Documented Factory 1969 L88 Corvettes with ZL1 Option