Classic Vettes are on the upswing in values this year, with the $3.2 million earned by this 1967 L88 Sting Ray Convertible at Mecum’s Dallas auction the highest total yet for any example of America’s sports car .
Corvette collection can become an obsession thanks to the huge variety of models, special editions and racing derivatives over the model’s 60-year history. Just like a bag of chips: once you pop... you can’t stop collecting these iconic machines.
Valuations for these models are incredibly sensitive to the car’s history, rarity and restoration quality. Beauty and the driving experience take a back seat to the engine specification and matching serial numbers. As such, this investment-grade L88 convertible’s huge earning at auction is a bit confusing to outsiders.
Part of a giant Bobby Herin collection sold by Mecum Auctions, to an outsider’s eye there seem to be many more special and beautiful examples out there, including some from Mr. Herin’s garage as well.
But they provenance of this L88 convertible is beyond reproach, with all the required documentation, the fuel tank sticker, and the other minute details collectors look for when purchasing a car at these prices. The authenticity of the interior adds patina, as does the car’s NHRA drag racing championship, old drag racing time slips, and the painstakingly-recreated original Marlboro Maroon paintjob.
Click past the jump for the full review of the most valuable Corvette (and perhaps any American road car) ever sold at auction, this 1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Convertible.
This Corvette is one of the rarest examples of the Stingray 427 specification, of which there were only 20 original factory versions created. A lightly disguised racecar , this huge engine offered almost a 30-percent gain over the already-speedy Corvette s in other configurations.
The styling of this example is quite plain in comparison with the swoopy panels of the Corvette in the 1950s, and the creased fender flares that became a staple the year after this car, in 1968.
This 1967 could be said to represent the final evolution of the original Corvette ethos: small and luxurious but also quite potent on a track. The following years would see every-declining performance and power outputs as the Arab Oil Embargo strangled most American V-8 engines by 1973.
This example is the final evolution of the C2 body style, and brought a few styling updates over the previous 1963-1966 models, including re-profiled and sharper fender flares, central reverse lights and the trademark four round lights.
This model also included the last example of external, chromed bumpers and the functional hood scoop for the C2 series, as the future models adopted embedded 5-mph impact bumpers inside the fiberglass nose and tail cones.
1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Convertible - Mecum Auction Highlights
- 1 of 20 L88 Corvettes produced in 1967
- Documented with the Tank Sticker, vintage photos and time slips including the first run on a new car at Puyallup Dragway in Washington
- Purchased new by Jim Elmer of Portland, Oregon at Lyman Slack Chevrolet
- Winner of the 1967 NHRA A/Sports Nationals at Indianapolis
- Campaigned mostly in the Pacific Northwest running 11.12 seconds at 127.45 MPH with only 7 inch slicks and headers
- Sold to Rob Robinson who raced the car for the rest of its career, consistently placing among the Top 4 or 5 in the national points standings
- The third owner, Tim Thorpe, began restoring the car before selling it to Buddy and Nova Herin in 1996
- The Naber Brothers completed the restoration in the factory color combination of Marlboro Maroon with Black stinger and soft top, the interior has original door panels and seat covers with new carpet
- Mr. Herin reached out to DuPont to recreate the correct factory Marlboro Maroon hue for this car that is now used as a guideline by the NCRS
- Retains its original body panels, factory side exhaust
- L88 427/430 HP engine, M22 4-speed manual, 4.11 rear end
- J56 heavy duty brakes, J50 power brakes
- Kelsey Hayes bolt-on wheels, Firestone non-DOT redline tires
- Bloomington Gold L88 Invasion participant in 2008
- Regional NCRS Top Flight in 1997
- The Herin family wishes to retain the personalized Texas license plates currently being displayed on the cars. The license plates are not included as part of the sale.
1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Convertible - Exterior Detail
1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Convertible - Exterior Detail
The interior of this example is marked by its absolutely original condition. This is important for a factory racer, as most were stripped out completely for competition use. The convertible top of this example is also a major rarity for a performance car, as the mid 1960s was about the last time convertibles would be considered safe on the tracks and drag strips of the world.
Lacking a roll cage and the heavy back glass and roof of the coupe, this L88 convertible has one extra trick up its sleeve: an extremely flexible body-on-frame chassis. Why was this flex an advantage at the drag strip? Because it allows the body to squirm more at launch, helping the tires to hook up and achieve a great quarter-mile time.
The L88 includes the original fuel tank sticker that almost always gets removed over the years. Its addition might count for perhaps $400,000 in additional value, so these details are important in the Corvette scene.
Mounted just behind the shifter and noting the car required a higher octane rating of gasoline. This is an important piece of documentation to prove the car’s history and authenticity.
Because these models are so desirable, there is a whole industry devoted to replica versions of these cars, based off the smaller-engine or less-optioned factory examples . While the best replica might recreate every detail from the originals, it will always struggle to earn even a tenth of the price for the real thing.
1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Convertible - Interior Detail
Drivetrain, Engine and Brakes
The drivetrain is where this car really starts to become its own hero versus the smaller-engined versions that are far more common. One of only 20 road-going versions produced, this 427-cubic-inch, big block V-8 was quoted at the time as producing 430 horsepower. Through the M22 "rock crusher" transmission, many unofficial tallies put the horsepower count at closer to 560.
Either way, this is quite a powerful Corvette . With none of the handling finesse or technology from the latest generations, this example was lucky to even get an independent rear suspension versus the C1 version in the 1950s.
The huge power and relatively tiny proportions and weight really make the L88 Convertible a uniquely terrifying experience. This car came with numerous drag strip time cars, citing a best-ever run of just 11.1 seconds in the quarter-mile. No other factory machine came close to this speed for another 20 years.
1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Convertible - Mechanical Details
|Engine||7.0-liter OHV V-8|
|Powertrain Layout||Front-engine, Rear-drive|
|Torque (Pound-feet)||380, est|
|0-60 mph (Seconds)||5.9, est|
|Top Speed (MPH)||151, est|
|EPA Fuel Economy MPG (City/Highway/Combined) - Manual||11/14/12, est|
This very example sold for $3.2 million at the Mecum Dallas auction, held September 4-7, 2013. Check out the video below to see five minutes in automotive auction history while this car crossed the block.
Inspiring The Future
The L88 Convertible seen here is quite an influential achievement in the Corvette history books. That may explain why its Marlboro Maroon paint is the launch color of the 2014 Corvette Stingray Convertible.
The exterior styling of this L88 example is most significant because it is the only one of its series to keep its factory body panels. The rest of the group, says Mecum, were changed for competition and the original panels and construction are not intact.
Even so, this example is special not only for its originality, but because it represented the end of an era for the Corvette ’s first two generations. As an inspiration for the future C4 ZR-1 and C6 ZR1 examples, all Corvettes and car guys owe a debt to this dragstrip-dominating Convertible L88 Sting Ray.
As for the upcoming 2014 Corvette Stingray Convertible ? Meet your famous grandfather - a hero to all men and machine.
- Incredibly original
- All the best options like side exhausts and huge engine/gearbox
- The Corvette to mark both the end of an era, and the beginning of another
- Color is a little dark when not in sunlight
- Original L-88 license plates are not included in the sale
- Leaving the public eye for a new private collection
Purchased new at Lyman Slack Chevrolet by Jim Elmer of Portland, OR, this 1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 convertible is one of twenty L88 Corvettes produced in 1967. Elmer bought the car to race; he made his first pass with the new car fresh out of the box at Puyallup Dragway in Puyallup, WA, running a scorching 11.47 with the sole additions of exhaust headers and 7-inch slicks.
That set the tone for the car’s extensive drag racing career, which first made headlines when it captured the A/Sports class win at the 1967 Indy Nationals. Elmer ultimately ran a best of 11.12 at 127.45 MPH, but soon after his Indy win he damaged both the transmission and the rear end, only to have his warranty claim rejected when he showed up at the dealership with the car in full competition trim, including sponsorship decals and elapsed time stickers on the windows!
Unwilling to pay the costs of repair, Elmer sold the car to his friend and fellow racer Rob Robinson in February of 1968 for the princely sum of $5,000. In partnership with local GM parts man Clayton Cotardi, Robinson campaigned the car in NHRA A/Sports through 1968 and 1969, running all the popular West Coast venues - Irwindale, Half Moon Bay, Woodburn, Seattle, Puyallup and sometimes in Boise, ID.
Described by Robinson as “totally impressive for its era” and “in a class of its own”, the car consistently ran between 11.1- and 11.3-second times at 125-130 MPH and placed among the top 4 or 5 in NHRA national points standings. In 1970 Robinson returned the L88 to street trim. It was later purchased by well-known Corvette restorer Tim Thorpe of O’Fallen, IL, who began restoring the car before selling it to Buddy and Nova Herin in 1998.
The Herins turned to the Nabers Brothers of Houston to complete the restoration in the factory color combination of Marlboro Maroon with Black stinger and soft top, adding Kelsey Hayes finned aluminum bolt-on wheels and non-DOT Redline tires.
In the process, Buddy Herin found that the color sold as Marlboro Maroon did not match the hue he had seen on unpainted original cars, so he reached out to DuPont to produce a paint that correctly matched the original factory color; that formula has been adapted by the National Corvette Restorers Society in its restoration guidelines.
Still retaining its mostly original interior, this L88 convertible is presented in its full glory, including the L88 427/430 HP engine, M22 “Rock Crusher” 4-speed manual transmission, 4.11 rear end, J56 heavy duty brakes and J50 power brakes, factory side exhaust and F41 Special Suspension; it is also believed to be the only 1967 L88 convertible to retain its original body panels. Winner of a Regional NCRS Top Flight award in 1997, it was also a participant in the 2008 Bloomington Gold L88 Invasion.
Documentation for this rare first-year L88 convertible includes the tank sticker, vintage racing photographs and time slips, including the first one issued after its maiden run at Puyallup Dragway.