Debuting in 1967 was the L88 427 engine, which became the granddaddy of powerful Corvette engines.
Still sporting the Stingray nomenclature Chevy introduced in 1963, the 1967 Corvette may well be the most popular of the second -generation Corvette models that were produced from 1963 to 1967.
This popularity stems from its beautiful sportscar convertible-hardtop curves and engine availability, the latter encompassing both a 327 small block and several 427 big block V8 engines. Coming close in rarity is the 1963 Stingray, the only year Corvette offered a split rear window.
What wasn’t available in 1963, however, was the Chevy big-block V8. Ranging from a 375-horse 396 in 1965 to the numerous 427 engines in 1966 through 1967, it is the big block engine that earned Corvette its true dominance badge, which thrill seekers quickly found when they floor-matted the throttle.
Debuting in 1967 was the L88 427 engine, which became the granddaddy of powerful Corvette engines. However, back then most of the Corvette high power consumers went for the 435-horse “Tri-Power” V8, which came with three two-barrel carbs and developed 435 horsepower. The 435 option cost just $437, which was less than the L88’s $947 price.
The L88 was strictly a race-bred engine and “hidden” on most Chevrolet dealer order sheets. Listed at “just” 430 horses and sporting a single Holley 4-barrel carburetor, this power fact dissuaded many buyers from ordering an L88, as the 435 horse engine seemed the way to go.
In reality, the L88 produced 560 horsepower and came with a special high lift solid lifter cam, bigger valve aluminum heads and a stronger crankshaft and rods (bottom end) to handle the power. The drawback was the L88’s propensity to eat spark plugs during city driving, its high 12.5-1 compression pistons (103 grade fuel necessary) and temperamental tuning demands that involved regular lashing of the valves to keep the engine producing at maximum.
Clearly, Chevy didn’t want this car on the street, and made it even more difficult as a radio and heater delete for the L88 was mandatory. Yet, if you had an L88, you could run the quarter-mile in 11.8 seconds at 114 mph with a set of headers and a minimum 4:56 rear gear.
As for collector value, only 20 lucky buyers ordered an L88 Corvette in 1967. Accordingly, Mecum Auctions just reported that the very first L88 convertible built in 1967 sold for $1.25 million at its Monterey Auction in August.
That’s not a surprise at all, even in this tough economy.
Greg Zyla writes for GateHouse News Service each week and welcomes reader questions on auto nostalgia and collector cars at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840, or e-mail him at email@example.com.
1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88
Top speed: 194 mph
Price today: First L88 built recently sold for $1.25 million