Editor's note: In our March issue, we told you about the legendary "Rebel" Corvette, an L88-powered '69 convertible that achieved unprecedented success on the road-racing circuit in the early 1970s ("Best of the Best"). Not long after our story hit, the car sold for $2.86 million at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction, making it one of the most highly valuated Corvettes of all time. Given that impressive showing, we've decided to revisit the story of this legendary racer, this time with a greater emphasis on period photography. We've also asked one the car's original crewmembers, longtime VETTE contributor Walt Thurn, for his insider's perspective.
Back in the early 1970s, this author was part of a privately funded Corvette racing team based in Tampa, Florida. Although each team member worked a full-time job outside of racing, and development and construction work took place on nights and weekends, the team regularly placed on the podium in the events it entered.
Many people contributed to this success, but Orlando "Or" Costanzo, Dana English, Warren Clapp, Kenny De Vane, Toye English, and Steve Leonard deserve most of the credit. They had but one race car, an '69 L88 Corvette that evolved into the famous No. 57 "Rebel" L88.
Following its successful three-year run in IMSA and SCCA competition, the car was sold to Alex Davidson for $7,400 at the end of 1972. Like many retired Corvette race cars of the era, it quickly dropped out of sight.
Years later, restorer extraordinaire Kevin Mackay and Corvette historian David Reisner launched a search for the Rebel, relying on a single clue they obtained from Davidson. The car's former owner told the pair he had sold it "to a dentist named Charles in the Carolinas." After a lot of searching, Mackay and Reisner managed to track down the Rebel at a scrapyard in South Carolina.
This author provided Mackay with an assortment of contemporary photos to confirm that he had located the right car. Armed with this information, Mackay and his team at Corvette Repair Inc. in Valley Stream, New York, restored the Rebel to its 1972 Sebring-winning trim. The finished car was unveiled a part of the 1994 Bloomington Special Collection, after which it appeared in the National Corvette Museum, the Bloomington Gold Special Collection, and the Corvettes at Carlisle show. It also received the NCRS American Heritage Award.
On January 18, 2014, the Rebel sold for nearly three million dollars at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, setting a new record for third-generation L88 Corvette race cars. Contributing to this impressive sum was an extensive collection of original paperwork and photography, along with the imprimatur of the original team members. With its unique options set and unmatched record of on-track success, the Rebel ranks among the most impressive racing Corvettes in existence today.