Back in the late '60s, it was determined that there were more possible build combinations of Chevrolets than there were molecules in the known universe. That determination (by researchers with too much time on their hands) was based on the number of passenger car lines in Chevy's lineup then (six), multiplied by the number of body styles in each line, and the number of factory options, interior combinations, and exterior color choices available. All that might help explain some Corvettes' original equipment-especially where a lot of convenience features appear on a car that's also equipped with a high-performance powertrain.
Such is the case with Greg Horton's L71-equipped '68 Corvette. "This car is loaded with stuff," he says from his Troy, Missouri, home. "Somebody ordered this car. There is no doubt in my mind that this guy in California (The first owner-Ed.) had to have ordered this car." That could be, or maybe that first owner bought a loaded example directly from the showroom floor.
As it is, Greg says there are some unusual options-unusual on a Shark built with the L71 435-horsepower 427 and an M-21 four-speed. "It has Speed Minder, which is pretty rare on these cars," he says. "It's got F41 suspension, A31 power windows, J50 power brakes, N36 red stripe tires, and P01 bright-metal wheel covers. The car has power steering on it, which looks to be factory. The pump's been changed, but it looks to be factory." Also factory: the spare tire, which Greg determined to be the original, once he pulled it from its mountings.
Greg says he found this C3 at a dealer that specializes in high-performance cars, but not necessarily Corvettes. "I bought it from a dealer in Oklahoma, who was more into Chevelles, Camaros, Mopars, and vintage-muscle stuff," he says of the dealer who'd scored this '68 from a collector in Arizona. Even though the dealer wasn't a Corvette specialist, Greg found plenty to document the car's history-all the way back to its build and delivery dates. "This car was originally delivered in Hawthorne, California, on January 5, 1968," he says. "The car's body build date was December 28, 1967. The engine was assembled at Tonawanda on December 12, 1967."
Greg-a Corvette collector who has a number of other high-output Vettes in his collection (all in red and/or black)-says that when he found it, he wasn't specifically looking for a first-year Shark with an L71. "I'd been looking for big-block Vettes, and I ran across this car," he says. "I called this guy, and he faxed me a bunch of stuff on this car-he wasn't a big Vette guy, so he didn't know much about it, though he did have a lot of information and he checked a lot of stuff on it."
One big item that was unchecked: the three-Holley-two-barrel carburetors and the linkage that topped the Tonawanda-built 427. "I remember that the biggest thing he complained about was how hard it was to get it to run right because of the tri-power," Greg recalls. "He couldn't get it to stage right-he said. 'I'm having a hell of a time getting this to run.'" The solution: Bring the Shark to some master mechanics with experience troubleshooting multiple-carburetor systems. "I took it to a couple buddies of mine that are old-school mechanics, who can make anything purr," says Greg. "It didn't take much at all-it was a matter of rebuilding the carbs, but a couple of other things were not exactly right. We took care of that problem, got 'em tuned a little bit better, and it now runs like a top."
Or, more precisely, it runs the way a '68 Corvette with about 32,000 original miles should run. What's it like to drive? Greg compares it with another Mark IV V8-equipped Vette in his collection, a '66 L72. "The difference is, on fast acceleration, it's not as quick in response as a single-four-barrel car, but it has that ability to keep going, and I don't know if you want to get where it ends. It keeps pulling as long as you have your foot in it. As long as you're willing to stay there, it'll keep on pulling."
Speaking of Greg's fleet, what else does this '68 share a garage with? "I've got 10 cars," he says. "The oldest is an original red/red '54, which came from California. I've got a red/red '65 fuelie that's a disc-brake-delete with a red leather interior-I've got all the documents on it since day one. I've got an L72 '66 that we just finished restoring-it has F41, side pipes, and leather seats. I have another '66, a black/red coupe with L36, factory A/C, and every option you could get on a Corvette except power steering-it has power brakes, power windows, knockoffs, side pipes, headrests. It's had only one repaint, it's never been restored, it has 82,000 original miles on it, and I've got the complete history of it since day one. Then I've got this car, and I've got four '69s-a 350/350 triple-black convertible with A/C, a black/red L36 factory air coupe, a red/red L36/factory air convertible and a black/black L68 coupe with air. I also have a black/red '90 ZR-1 with 1,700 miles on it." How does he decide which Corvette to drive-especially this one, which won the Celebrity Choice award at Mid America Motorworks' Corvette Funfest last year? "I don't know," Greg says with a laugh. "I just go out there and 'whatever trips your trigger.' It all depends on the mood."
If you're in the mood to add a Corvette to your collection-or start a collection with one-Greg advises to look for a Vette with a lot of factory options on it. "I'd do my homework-there are a lot of opportunities out there right now-but get one with options," he says. "There are a lot of cars on the market right now-a lot of project cars, a lot of cars that are done, and a lot of cars that I would consider to be parts material only. "If you want a car to drive and have fun with, get one with the 390-horse, single-four-barrel 427. If you're looking for collectability, you definitely want to go for the high-horsepower stuff, whether it's small-block or big-block."
Data File: '68 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe
Owner: Greg Horton, Troy, Missouri
Unrestored production '68 Corvette coupe
Bodywork: Chevrolet Motor Division's St. Louis Assembly Plant, St. Louis, Missouri
Paint: Original DuPont Rally Red acrylic lacquer; Paint preparation and applied by Chevrolet Motor Division's St. Louis Assembly Plant, St. Louis, Missouri (with one repair/repaint to left front fender)
Frame: Unrestored production '68 Corvette
Suspension: Original RPO F41 Special Front and Rear Suspension (Front) Heavy-duty coil springs, unequal-length A-arms, tubular shocks and stabilizer bar (Rear) Independent with heavy-duty transverse leaf spring bundle and tubular shocks
Steering: RPO J40 GM-Saginaw recirculating-ball, power-assisted
Brakes: RPO J50 GM-Delco Moraine four-wheel disc brakes, power-assisted
Wheels: OEM 15-inch stamped steel wheels with RPO P01 chrome full wheel covers
Tires: Firestone Super Sport Wide Ovals, F70-15 red stripe, on all 4 corners
Chevrolet overhead-valve Mark IV big-block V8 (RPO L71)
Built By: Chevrolet Motor Division's Tonawanda Engine Plant, Tonawanda, New York
Displacement: 427 cubic inches
Compression Ratio: 11.0:1
Cylinder Heads: Production RPO L71, cast iron
Ignition: RPO K66 GM-Delco transistorized ignition
Induction: RPO L71's 3x2-barrel Holley carburetors: R3659A (front/rear), R4055A (center)
Camshaft: Production RPO L71 with solid lifters
Exhaust: RPO N11 Off-Road Exhaust System with 2 1/2-inch pipes
Horsepower: 435 @ 5800 rpm (Advertised)
Torque: 460 ft. /lbs. @ 4000 rpm (Advertised)
Muncie M-22 "Rock Crusher" heavy-duty close-ratio 4-speed manual (RPO M22)
Shifter: Original '68 Corvette four-speed shifter with spring-loaded reverse lockout
Rear End: RPO G81 Positraction with 3.70:1 rear gears
Unrestored production 1968 Corvette
Factory Options: Tinted glass (RPO A01), power windows (RPO A31), tilt/telescoping steering column (RPO N36), speed warning indicator (RPO U15)
Seats: Production '68 buckets with OEM black vinyl upholstery
Carpets: Reproduction black nylon loop-pile
Instrumentation: OEM '68 Corvette (0-160 mph speedometer, 0-7000 rpm tachometer with 6500 rpm redline, plus fuel level, oil pressure, ammeter, coolant temperature gauges)
Sound System: RPO U79 GM-Delco AM/FM stereo radio
Heater: OEM GM-Harrison heater/defroster
A/C: Remove T-tops, roll down windows, then accelerate briskly