On the shelf this time: historical books about the assembly plants which built the Corvette over the years and a series of legendary racing Vettes; and more how-to books, including one from one of Corvette Fever's own experts.
From A "Drive-Away" Garage to a State-Of-The-Art Plant
If you've got an eye for the history of America's Only True Sports Car, and you've got volumes in your Vette book collection that cover your favorite years/generations of Corvettes (if not every single one), there's one more type of book that you need. Namely, one that details where production Corvettes have been assembled, from the early-production '53s to where they're built now.
Mike Mueller's The Corvette Factories: Building America's Sports Car is like a well-optioned Corvette-loaded with lots of features. That includes tons of Chevrolet and GM archival photos showing how each generation of Vette went together at each plant, starting with the first Corvette assembly operations in what was the Customer Drive-Away garage at Chevrolet's Flint Assembly Plant. It then details the move for '54 to St. Louis Assembly and how it (and Corvette) changed over the years-and why Corvette had to leave it if it was to be a real world-class car. Then it goes into detail about the building of Bowling Green Assembly and relocating Vette production there, and about BGA's modernization and expansion that accompanied each new generation of Vette.
There are lots of in-progress photos detailing just about every step of Corvette production over the years that you're likely to give your closest scrutiny, even if they don't show your Vette being built.
There's also an in-depth chapter about the National Corvette Museum, showing the planning, construction, and expansion of the "Good Neighbor" to Bowling Green Assembly, plus historical sidebars covering significant Vettes and moments relating to the three plants. All this and more makes The Corvette Factories: Building America's Sports Car a must-read for anyone interested in Corvette history.
What Makes a Vette a Legend?
In one case, it involved a Regular Production Option (RPO) that was installed on just 216 Corvettes: RPO L88.
Peter Gimenez has written and published a thorough history of that legendary race-only Vette option package, and the ground-shaking engine at the heart of it, in Corvette Racing Legends: The Story of the L88 Option Package. In it, he tells the L88's history by first going back to the roots of Corvette racing in the '50s, and the factory option packages that turned the C1 from a cruiser into a serious race car on street circuits, purpose-built road courses, and airport tracks alike. Then, he takes you through the C2's racing development, from early Z06s to the Grand Sports, to the first regular-production L88s, which arrived at the very end of the 1966 model run (and made it onto the option list for '67) through the all-aluminum ZL1s and the displacement of the factory-built L88 by tube-framed Corvette race cars in the '70s.
The trackside photos are worth the price of this book alone, as you see the L88-powered Sting Rays and Sharks raced by drivers like Roger Penske, Don Yenko, Dick Guldstrand, Tony DeLorenzo, Bob Bondurant, George Wintersteen, Doug Bergen, Bob Johnson, Rex Ramsey, Ed Leslie, Jerry Grant, and Jerry Thompson, on tracks ranging from local SCCA tracks to Sebring, Daytona, and LeMans. It also has plenty of detail about the teams of L88 Vettes that ran in the late '60s and early '70s, including Penske's Sunoco-sponsored ones, the Owens-Corning Fiberglass-sponsored L88s, and James Garner's American International Racing team.
If you remember seeing these all-out racing Vettes run, or if you have an active imagination, you might need a set of earplugs to read Corvette Racing Legends: The Story of the L88 Option Package, as the sound of the L88 (and its all-aluminum sibling the ZL1) will be ringing through your mind the way the sound rang through your ears long after they flew by you!