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1969 L88 Corvette

Not For The Faint Of Heart

Tom Shaw May 8, 1997

Step By Step

This song and dance was created by Chevrolet back in 1967 when the L88 first saw the light of day. You see, the L88 was never intended to be driven down Main Street, USA. It idled like the throttle was stuck open and it had a stiff ride, but Chevrolet knew the L88 Corvette had these tendencies and did everything they could to make sure these cars made it into the right hands. The L88 was not listed among the available options, and even if you wanted one, it would easily remove an extra $1,000 from your wallet. Chevrolet even rated its horsepower level at 5 less than the 435 horsepower L71 427 to discourage buyers, thinking the L71 would be the hot ticket. Even so, they couldn't control the publicity the L88 would garner on the tracks of America. By 1969, the L88 was the "hot thing to have," according to (and much to the chagrin of) the legen-dary Zora Arkus-Duntov. Duntov knew that most of the people who purchased L88s were clueless about exactly what they were, and furthermore, didn't know how to take care of these beasts.

The let's-not-put-it-on-the-option-sheet game did keep production numbers down for the L88 Corvette, though. There were only 20 L88s in the 1967 model run. That number increased to 80 for 1968 and peaked in its final year of production in 1969, at 116. If you were lucky enough and rich enough to own one of these beasts, you had the world by the tail. You could show just about anything how good the back of a Corvette looks. The only competition to the L88 came in the form of A/C-bodied, 427-powered Cobras. One L88 owner reported never losing a single drag race to anything, including the formidable Cobra, and had recorded a best quarter-mile ET of 11.14 at 123 mph. Car Life couldn't quite match that number for its June 1969 issue. Their test L88 could only muster a 14.101 at 106.89 mph; and judging by the mph, it looks like the L88 imposed its will on those poor little F70 tires. If set up right (gears, sticky tires, headers and sidepipes), the L88 would annihilate anything in its path. Even though handicapped with 3.36 gears and an automatic (1 of 17 built with an automatic), the L88 did shine for Car Life by posting a top speed of 151 mph. The editors pointed out that the car could have gone faster if pushed to the very edge, but they chose to keep it safe.

At the time these photos were taken, Tim Thorpe of O’Fallon, Illinois owned the ´69 L88 convertible featured here, but since then the Corvette has changed hands a few times and the current owner is unknown. Nonetheless, this Monaco Orange 4-speed convertible carries on the tradition of a car not designed for the masses, but one Corvette that would leave everything else in its wake.

Hence the name, Acceleratus Maximus.

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