Over the course of its brilliant racing career, the '69 L88 Corvette shown here amassed a win record previously thought impossible for a non-professional crew and driver team. The car was special-ordered by Orlando "Or" Costanzo, sales manager of Ferman Chevrolet in Tampa, Florida, and an enthusiast who raced Corvettes at high-profile races. Costanzo had been racing a '66 427 Vette for three years and felt it was time for an upgrade.
Originally delivered in its factory color of Daytona Yellow in January 1969, the car was promptly disassembled and prepared for the upcoming '69 12 Hours of Sebring. Newly released fender flares were bonded in place, headers and sidepipes were installed, and wider wheels and tires were bolted on. Costanzo recruited veteran sports-car driver Dave Heinz to be his copilot.
What is an L88?
L88 was a regular production option, or RPO, designed to create a track-ready Corvette right off the showroom floor. In an effort to limit public exposure, L88 cars were only available to a select handful of dealerships and hardcore Corvette racers. In fact, although RPO L88 was offered for three model years, from 1967 to 1969, the factory made no mention of it in the '67 or '68 promotional literature. When it finally showed up in the '69 brochure, the major automotive magazines clamored to test one. Only a few were given the opportunity, but the word was still out: Chevy was building factory race cars.
While the L88 option code referred specifically to a special, high-performance 427ci engine, L88 buyers were required to select a few other "mandatory options" to complete the ordering process:
- M22 4-Speed Manual Transmission, Close Ratio, Heavy Duty
- K66 Transistor Ignition System
- J50 Power Brakes
- J56 Special Heavy Duty Brakes
- F41 Special Front and Rear Suspension
- G81 Positraction Rear Axle
- C48 Heater and Defroster Deletion (1967 only)
As for the L88 itself, it contained ultra-high-compression (12.5:1) pistons, which necessitated the use of leaded gasoline with a minimum octane rating of 103. A high-lift cam with solid lifters opened larger-than-normal valves in specially cast aluminum heads, while a high-rise aluminum intake manifold fed the engine with the help of an 850-cfm Holley carburetor.
Horsepower was rated at 430 with the restrictive factory exhaust manifolds, and at an rpm much lower than the engine's actual peak level. When headers and side exhausts were bolted onto an L88 Corvette, 560 hp was commonplace with the closed-chamber cylinder heads. Power levels well in excess of 585 were achieved with the open-chamber heads.