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1968 Chevrolet L88 Corvette Singray - High Performance History Lesson

How This '68 L88 Stopped Time

Kevin Shaw Jan 1, 2006
Corp_0601_01_z 1968_chevrolet_l88_corvette_stingray Silver_passenger_side_front_view 2/1

Here at Corvette Fever, unusual topics of conversation arise. One of which was, "If you could go back in time, what would you do?" The answer repeated more than any other was, "I'd go load up on some of the best cars when they were brand spankin' new."

The logistics of time travel are best left to advanced-quantum physicists and Hollywood screenwriters, but every now and again something slips between the cracks and survives for over 37 years without showing its age.

One prime example is Carl and Kathy Hatcher's time-defying '68 L88 Stingray. Preserved under the Texas sunshine with every imaginable scrap of original dealership and factory documentation, this L88 is a purebred, blue-blood-pedigreed racing machine.

Rolling off the factory line in May 1968, this Silverstone Silver L88 was built with one intention- to win the coveted place as the fastest streetcar in production. At the height of the musclecar wars, all three of America's automakers were in tight competition. Dodge and Plymouth had battered the Bow Ties and Blue Ovals with their nearly unstoppable 426 Hemi, which produced nearly 500 ponies when properly tuned. Ford countered the Mopar Elephant with several manifestations of the beastly 427 FE, most notably the Cammer, a single-overhead cam big-block, never available in a production vehicle. Halfway through the '68 production year, Ford introduced the 428 Super Cobra Jet in an attempt to intimidate the Shark with another Mustang. Chevrolet countered the threat with the aluminum-headed 427 in late 1967. The big-block-labeled L88-was lightweight, torquey, and so fierce on the street, the combination with the fiberglass-bodied Corvette forced corporate to attach a label to the center console that demanded high-octane fuel and street-use limitations.

Chevrolet quickly learned the ropes when it came to offering a thoroughbred race car on the showroom floor. The '67 L88s came with radio and heater delete, an option that was altered slightly the next year when federal regulations mandated that all cars be equipped with defrosters due to cold-weather climate safety issues.

The L88 special-performance option added a substantial boost to the Corvette's already exclusive price tag. Free from gaudy stripes, colors, or the badging typical of the time, the '68 L88 Corvette was only distinguishable to the untrained eye by its minimal icons reading simply "427" on the new, much larger, L88-specific cowl-induction hood, the mandatory radio delete, and-most obvious-the blistering performance.

This particular vehicle was atypically ordered with as many special options as available for the '68 model year; black leather interior; a lift-off removable top; and all the special add-ons for the L88 package, e.g. the M22 close-ratio four-speed transmission, 3.55 G81 posi rear axle, J50/J56 brake upgrade, and the F41 beefy suspension. Lightweight and agile, the '68 L88 was the rolling definition of the saying, "Those who are well behaved rarely make history."

Carl and Kathy Hatcher, adamant musclecar collectors, share an expansive and daunting collection of Motown iron: six Corvettes ranging from '64 through '03-two of which wield 427s and one Anniversary coupe-a Shelby GT350 Mustang, and a '69 COPO Camaro.

When opportunity came knocking at their door, the Hatchers answered. After a lengthy evaluation by Rich Koehler and David Mullins of Corvette Corner in Houston, the Hatchers purchased the convertible.

Rich and David extracted the chassis from the Stingray and initiated the restoration process. Eight months dragged by as the Hatchers anticipated the finished Vette. But the end result was worth the wait-a factory-floor showpiece that harkened back to the greatest season in American automotive performance.

The L88 427 convertible now resides in a climate-controlled garage. Only at shows does it prove it has withstood the tests and trials of time, as well as the ferocity of the tempted owner's lead foot.

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