By the time the checkered flag flew, they had broken the GT record, won First in class and Eleventh overall. The L88's strong showing as a stock qualifying engine and modified race engine cemented in Duntov's mind that this needed to become a production option, and impressed Sunoco enough that they extended sponsorship to the upcoming 12 Hours of Sebring.
Back in the Penske shop, the body damage was repaired; the fenders widened a bit, and at the sponsor's request, painted the classic Sunoco colors.
At Sebring, the L88 coupe was joined on track by the Grand Sport (Chassis No. 001) roadster, which Penske owned. The Grand Sport spun during the race, knocking the exhaust into the oil pan, eventually forcing its retirement. But the big L88 coupe opened up a six-lap lead over the second place Corvette of Harold Whim and Don Yenko. Despite fading brakes in the closing hours, the L88 led its class start to finish and came in Ninth overall-best finish ever for a Corvette.
A month later, Penske sold the Sunoco Special, the development L88 Corvette, to Joe Welch, who raced it the rest of the season as a Penske entry. At the '67 Sebring race, the new owner asked Penske's newly hired driver, Mark Donohue, to qualify their car. He did.
Until 1972, this irreplaceable Corvette thrived in its racing career. After that, it was converted into a street driver.
Kevin Mackay, owner of Corvette Repair in Valley Stream, New York, saw it at a New Jersey Corvette show back in 1983, when production L88s were going for $25,000 to $35,000.
"It was Nassau Blue with a tri-power setup," Mackay says. "All its original exterior and interior trim were in place. The owner knew what he had and had a $100,000 price tag on it." A strong price, but it sold in 1987 for much more. New owner Gene Schiavone shipped the car to Dick Guldstrand to determine if it was the genuine item. It was. Schiavone restored it to its '66 Sebring appearance and vintage raced it along with the No. 001 Grand Sport, which he had also bought.
The prized racer had gotten away, but Mackay kept watching and waiting for the right opportunity. In 2001, the planets aligned and he became the proud owner of the racing legend. "My dream was to have this car completely restored exactly as it raced as No. 9 at the '66 12 Hours of Sebring," he says. "Our extremely talented staff started the restoration on October 1, 2001, and finished on August 1, 2002, nine months later."
The body was stripped and all previous damage was repaired with only perfect N.O.S. panels. All seams were reglassed using no filler, and endless hours were spent on the body to ensure perfection. Mechanically, the frame had only 13,646 miles. Everything that could be rebuilt was, and the only replacement parts used were parts with correct numbers and date codes. Gib Hufstader helped provide exact replacement racing seats.
After long days and 2,750 man-hours, the unique L88 went on a national tour, hitting Meadowbrook, the NCRS National Convention in Monterey, California, then Pebble Beach. Last stop was Corvettes at Carlisle, where it was photographed for this feature.
A trumpet fanfare to all who dreamed, built, raced, preserved, and restored these incomparable examples of Corvette royalty.
From the National Corvette Musuem web site, http://www.corvettemuseum.com/library-archives/timeline/1960.shtml. The National Corvette Museum cites these sources:
Popular Hot Rodding's Corvettes 1980
Corvettes-The Cars that Created the Legend, by Dennis Adler, 1996
Vette, January 1993, Volume 17, Number 1