Chevrolet Corvette L88 - Classic Sports Car Review - Muscle Car

Chevrolet Corvette L88 – Classic Sports Car Review

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Written by Elise

17th May 2021

Chevrolet Corvette L88 – Classic Sports Car Review
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Chevrolet Corvette L88 – Classic Sports Car Review

By Hamed Paydarfar

Few cars are as known throughout history as the Chevy Corvette. With the new C8 generation still in production, the Corvette has one of the longest-running production lines in the history of automobiles. The reason behind its long history is apparent; the Corvette has been an icon that defined eras with each of its generations. 

From a cute little two-seater to a racetrack-conqueror and powerful V8 engine, the Corvette has been able to set the bars of production sports cars with each generation. No wonder it is ranked number one among the 100 coolest cars ever in Automobile Magazine.

Many engine variations and specs options have been available for Corvette buyers to choose from. However, the L88 engine was the most astonishing one in its own time, due to both its mind-blowing power and its rarity, as only minimal numbers were ever produced.

History of the Chevy Corvette

The first generation of the Corvette was introduced to the world in 1953 as “Corvette C1.” It was nothing more than a small two-seater sports-car-wannabe. While it tried to look like a trendy sports car in its own time, it couldn’t live up to the notable sports cars of the 50s in terms of performance; at least, not until Chevrolet started taking it more seriously. 

For the 1955 model year, Chevrolet tried to go with a different approach for the Corvette and focused heavily on the performance. Now along with the 3.9 inline-six that generated nothing more than 150 horsepower, an amazingly popular 4.34 L V8 was also an option for the Corvette. 

The V8 engine quickly caught a lot of attention on the market. It became so overwhelmingly popular that Chevrolet managed to sell only six units of the previous inline-six in 1955, and more than 1900 unsold units were left in Chevrolet’s inventory. The Corvette entered a new league with its V8 and quickly faced competition, two of which were the Ford Thunderbird and the Studebaker Speedster.

Chevrolet didn’t stop there. A year later, for the 1956 model, the Corvette came with a new body. For the 1957 model, Chevrolet managed to mass-produce one of the first American engines in history to reach one brake horsepower per cubic inch thanks to the “Ramjet” fuel injection that came as an option for the Corvette. Chevrolet heavily relied on this feature in their advertisements and used “one hp per cubic inch” as their slogan for the 283 bhp 283 cu-in (4.64 L) small-block engine of the Corvette. 

For the 1961 model, Chevrolet enlarged the 4.64 L small-block to a 5.36 L in standard form that could produce 250 bhp, and the fuel-injected version could produce as much as 360 bhp; now, the Corvette could easily stand against big-name sports cars on the racetracks such as Mercedes-Benz 300 SL and the Jaguar XK-140MC. 

The second generation of the Corvette (C2), also known as the “mid-years” of the Corvette, started strong in 1963 with the Stingray model. The body was still made out of fibreglass panels, but saw drastic changes in concept and design. This time the body was more petite, yet the idea was more aggressive. One of the primary inspirations for Bill Mitchell, the styling director of the Sting Ray, was a mako shark he caught while deep-sea fishing. 

The 1963 Sting Ray came with iconic hidden headlamps, decorative hood vents, and a split rear window which Mitchell thought of as one of the significant design elements in the Corvette Sting Ray. However, the chief designer Zora Ankus-Duntov disliked the split design since it blocked the driver’s view and demanded a full-width rear window and removal of the non-functional hood vents for the next model year.

The maximum power output in the first year of the C2 generation was 360 hp. The following year, for the 1964 model, the Sting Ray could produce as much as 375 hp thanks to the improvements applied by Chevy. 

For the 1965 model, Chevrolet introduced a big-block engine as well as four-wheel disk brakes. The new engine was a 6.49 L V8 that could boast 425 brake horsepower. Chevrolet saw the successful sales of this powerful engine and decided to go even bigger and better for 1966; the 6.49 L was upgraded to a 7.0 L. 

Specs That Made L88 Exceptional

For 1967, the final model year of the C2, the Corvette Stingray reached perfection. In terms of design, everything was now well thought out and complete. And in terms of performance, Chevrolet went with nothing short of miraculous.

L88 was the code Chevrolet used for the holy grail and ultimate engine for the Corvette. It was the closest thing to a pure racecar engine that Chevrolet had ever made for a regular production car. Aluminium radiator, small-diameter flywheel, lightweight heads, bigger ports, and a single huge Holley four-barrel carburettor made the L88 one of the most potent engines of production vehicles of its time. 

Chevy designed the L88 engine for racetracks and only produced minimal numbers of it for the 1967 model. In order to discourage the casual buyers from going for an L88, people at Chevrolet advertised the L88’s ratings extremely conservatively; they said it could produce 430 bhp at 4600 rpm, so despite the additional $1,500 over the base $4,240.75 price in the US, you weren’t getting much more power compared to the L89 model that costed less. 

But the official ratings were a scheme; the true power of the L88 race car was far beyond that, generating an unbelievable number of 560 bhp at 6400 rpm. Chevrolet was well aware of the real power of the L88, and to make sure Corvettes with the ultimate engine came with all the best performance options, buyers had to include Positraction, heavy-duty suspension, power brakes, and PRO C48 (which removed the radio and heater) in their purchase before they could go for the L88 engine.

One of the reasons for removing the radio and the heater was to cut down on weight. Another reason, however, was to discourage those who were seeking a casual drive from buying this car even more and reasonably so; only a megalomaniac with an undying thirst for speed and power could truly appreciate the L88; someone who was oblivious that terms like “safety” or “comfort” can ever correlate with such cars.

Chevrolet sold only 20 units with the L88 engine in 1967. The L88 was also available in the early years of C3 (third-generation) models, but no more than 216 units were available to purchase at the time.

Fame and Fortune For the Vette

The Corvette was able to gain a lot of fame even in its early years. Spotting one in movies throughout different decades isn’t hard. Besides, many celebrities, athletes, and almost every American Astronaut in the 70s drove Corvettes, which helped to increase the Corvette’s already colossal reputation.

Con Air, starring Nicolas Cage, is one of the famous movie examples in which C2 Corvettes were used. Clambake starring Elvis Presley, Corvette Summer, which is self-explanatory, and the cult-car lover’s classic King of the Mountain are some of the prime examples of classic movies that Corvette fans love to watch over and over; we don’t judge them; we are guilty of the same thing. 

A lot of celebrities with a thing for sports cars drove Corvettes. Jimi Hendrix, for example, bought a ’68 Corvette as soon as his band started to gain a lot of success; it was his first-ever car. After the insurance company processed the car, he went out and bought a Cortez Silver ’69 Corvette to replace the previous one.

L88: Ultimate Classic Sports Car

Corvettes are generally (in)famous for their unique design, power, and speed. While different models and variations of the Corvette were notable sports car competitors in their own time, one model stood out as the greatest Chevy could do with a Corvette: the L88. 

At the time that they were produced, almost no other street-legal sports car could match the power and the ruthlessness of L88 engines. Combined with a spectacular design inspired by a sea predator, I believe the Corvette L88 marks history as the ultimate classic sports car. 

Author: Hamed Paydarfar

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