When the '67 L88 race cam became available, Dick asked if I'd help him install one. He no longer cared about his car's "sleeper" status because no one would now race him on the street. His 'Vette had made its mark. With some basic front-end chassis mods and 11.0-15 M&H slicks, he now ran 11.70s at 120+ mph. And the 'Vette never broke. The factory original big-block driveline components including U-joints and axle shafts proved their moxie.
At my urging, Dick pulled the engine in late 1967 and had the short-block rebuilt and the rectangle port heads cc'd and ported. I don't think he ever rev'd the engine over 7,200 rpm but he still turned easy 11.40s. By this time, Corvette Chief Engineer, Zora Arkus-Duntov put slicks on a '67 L88 Corvette mule and ran 10.70s at 130 mph at the GM Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan. The L88 had headers, 12.5:1 compression and could not be street-driven. Dick was happy with his '66 L72. I got married in late 1967 and lost track of him. Years later, rumor had it that he got drafted, went to Viet Nam and never returned.
1966-'67 was an unbelievably great two year time period-not only to work within Chevrolet Engineering or at a high performance Chevy dealership but just to own a high performance Corvette or other Chevy. With ALL of Chevrolet's race plaudits earned since 1955, virtually no other RPO engine could compare to the power, revability, prowess and longevity of the '66-'67 Mark IV SHP 427. As a result of its immediate popularity, there was soon a multi-month wait to buy an L72 crate engine through the approximately 5,500 Chevrolet dealership parts departments nationwide. Earlier Chevy and Corvette owners were installing these monsters in '55-'64 Chevys and '57-'65 Corvettes. I did not do much street racing for obvious reasons but I know a lot of fast Chevys and Corvettes previously running modified 283 and 327 small-blocks were now sporting highly modified L72 427s. One of the drive-in /street racing rules back then was you did not get to see the other guy's engine. So much for cleaning house! Corvettes ruled back then.
The Legendary L79
An absolutely superb factory small-block V8 engine was the '65-'68 RPO L79, 350hp 327-first born in 1964 as the RPO L76, 365hp 327. It was the exact same engine except it had a high performance hydraulic lifter camshaft (#3863151). It revved to 6,000+ rpm and ran great day-in and day-out. With the optional RPO K66 transistor ignition, it never fouled spark plugs while offering winning acceleration-especially with steep gears. With a highway gear ratio, an L79 Corvette could get surprisingly good fuel economy while out running the best Brand X small-blocks-and many big-blocks out there.
Corvette Cruising And Street Machining
Like hundreds of thousands of others, my "thing" has always been Chevy and Corvette performance. Let's turn our attention to those who weren't-either due to aptitude or parental controls. There were untold thousands of Corvette owners who just liked to drive them-everywhere. Of the 27,720 Corvettes sold in 1966, 9,755 had the base 300hp 327 engine. In 1967, 22,940 were sold and 6,858 had the base 300hp 327. Some examples of owners or lucky drivers would definitely include most every son and daughter of most every dealership owner and executive. Corvettes were almost always the car-of-choice.
They were everywhere. For the record, mini-skirts also came on the scene for the first time in 1966. Many of my college friends still blabber about the hottest Corvette gal on our campus. Her name was Marta Mounce and her parents owned a Chevrolet dealership. Her Stingray roadster color of choice was red. She was in a class of her own with Miss America looks. Most of us turned into "Barney Fife" of Mayberry RFD TV fame whenever she drove by. Today Marta is in her 60s and we bet she still drives a red Corvette.