Friday, December 20, 2013

The Second Annual
Corvette Enthusiast’s Night Before Christmas 2013
By Rick Tavel © December  1, 2013 All Rights Reserved


 Twas the night before Christmas, the garage was prepared
For the one gift I asked for, nothing else could compare.
The tools put away and a space had been cleared
For the Stingray I hoped Santa’d bring me this year.

My other six Vettes had been stored for a reason
All cleaned, waxed, protected, for the whole winter season.
Out of the weather and put safely away
Dreamin’ of sunshine and warm summer days.

When out in the driveway there arose a commotion
I sprang from my bed in a fit of emotion.
Worried about thieves, the garage was unlocked
I searched for my colt making sure it was cocked.

I turned all the inside and outside lights on
To catch the intruder before he was gone.
What I saw in the spotlight was a sight to behold
A customized sleigh painted Riverside gold.

With sidepipes and tailfins it was quite a sensation
Led by tiny Corvettes one from each generation.
Duntov was driving, Harley Earl rode shotgun
Shouting commands to Corvette’s favorite sons.

He called out directions to seven small Vettes
That darted in front of him, faster than jets.
Driving the Vettes were engineers and designers
Who built America’s sports car there were none any finer.

McLellan, Juechter, Palmer, Hill was there too
Shinoda, Peters and Mitchell completed the crew.
Performance and styling, both praised and extolled
Each gave the Corvette a part of his soul.

They guided Zora’s sleigh this Christmas eve night
At incredible speeds, an astonishing sight.
Engineers and designers driving one of the seven
Generations that pulled Harley’s sleigh through the heavens.

The quiet was shattered by the dual mode exhaust
And with navigation they could hardly get lost.
The large sleigh was packed with all things Corvette
From new logo shirts to embroidered mat sets.

Everything possible with crossed Corvette flags
Mugs, wallets, hats and even handbags.
The logo was etched on mugs for the bar.
There were books on the history of America’s sports car

The night almost over, his sack still not depleted
His biggest delivery must still be completed.
Zora parked the contraption by my garage door
I thought I’d pass out right there on the floor.

Harley Earl then stood up, shouted another command
To his esteemed helpers just like it was planned.
They got out of their Vettes then walked to the back
And lifted a huge box out of Harley’s large sack.

I watched as they carried it to the garage
Lifted the door Zora called out to Tadge.
“Look at each one of the six generations
Each in its time caused quite a sensation.

And now your C7 will join all the rest
And like each of the others will become simply the best.
Each generation has raised the bar
Keeping the Vette the number one car.

So place the C7 in the space that’s been cleared
Among the six others, they’re all so revered. 
A Stingray in white, a red leather interior
The consummate Corvette, none more superior.

Now close the door and let’s get it in gear.
We’ve gifts to deliver so let’s disappear.”
Each of the helpers ran back to their cars
Started their engines and took off for the stars.

Guiding Harley and Zora in their prototype sleigh
Seven generations of Vettes leading the way.
I heard Harley exclaim when their task was all done
If you like the C7 you’ll love ZR1.

Have a great Holiday!


Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Super Bowl of Auctions


The Super Bowl of Auctions  Barrett-Jackson  vs Mecum January 2014

By Rick Tavel© November17, 2013 All Rights Reserved
Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2013 (Photo: Barrett-Jackson)

 As the football season is winding down and college teams are battling for prestigious bowl invitations and the NFL teams are fighting for a spot in Super bowl XLVIII, as automobile enthusiasts we get the added thrill of our own “super bowl”, better known as the January collector car auctions and this year is shaping up to be one of the most exciting extravaganzas in recent memory, especially if you are a Corvette fan.  As expected the battle for the best consignments, particularly for
outstanding Corvettes, is taking place 
Mecum Kissimmee 2013 (Photo: Mecum)
opposite sides of the country between the two giants of collector cars, Mecum® and Barrett-Jackson®.   As in prior years both auction companies will pull out all the stops to present their spectacular display of exceptional collector cars, several of which are significant, important parts of automobile history.  As in the past, Corvettes will be key players contributing to the success of the January auction season.    Both Mecum® and Barrett-Jackson® will be auctioning hundreds of Corvettes and both are featuring historically important Corvettes as their “headline” cars of the auction.  

Barrett-Jackson® kicks off their January spectacular in a brand new auction facility, still located at West World in Scottsdale, Arizona, January 12th through the 19th.  Once again they will offer their Salon collection, a special group of the most important and historically significant cars consigned and which make up the centerpiece of their Scottsdale event.  Last year Barrett-Jackson designated 53 cars as a part of their Salon collection and their combined sales exceeded $29M.  This year the Salon collection, which consists of pre war classics, exotics, sports cars, muscle cars and of course Corvettes, will cross the block on Saturday, January 18th, the day the very best cars of the eight day event are scheduled to sell.

Dana Mecum will kick off the largest of his twelve annual collector car auctions 2100 miles to the east in Kissimmee, Florida, January 17th through the 26th, , just as Barrett-Jackson® will be wrapping up their event in the west.  And while neither company’s consignments are finalized at this point, both already have a sizeable and impressive offering of Corvettes consigned.  Mecum, which has offered an amazing array of Corvettes at each of his twelve major automobile auctions during 2013, is offering some important historically significant Corvettes as the highlight of the ten-day, 3000 car event.  Mecum will be offering two Corvette collections: thirteen Corvettes from the Roger Judski Collection and eight Callaway Corvettes, including the renowned “Sledgehammer” C4 and a Callaway powered Corvette speed boat from Richard Berry’s collection will help anchor the hundreds of other Corvettes which will cross the block.

Record Setting 1967 L88 $3.2M (Photo: Mecum)
Throughout 2014, Corvettes auction prices have been red hot and outpaced the collector car market overall.  In September a 1967 L88 Marlboro Maroon convertible from the prestigious Buddy Herin collection set a world’s record price for a Corvette at auction selling for $3.2M ($3.5M including fees) in Mecum’s Dallas auction.  Though prices have been strong for most restored Corvettes, the hottest segment of the Corvette market was undoubtedly first, second and third generation documented cars in impeccable condition with high horsepower engines.  Blue chip Corvettes that also had a documented racing heritage saw prices that often topped a million dollars.  The three hottest categories of Corvettes during 2013 were: (1) all Corvettes with documented racing heritage, especially 1963 Z06s, 1967 through 1969 L88s, and 1970 ZR1s and 1971  ZR1s and ZR2s (2) early generation historically important  Corvettes with rare or unique production options, such as big brake, big tank or “airbox” cars and (3) numbers matching, big block, high horsepower C2’s and C3”s.   Restored or survivor, numbers matching, second generation cars in exceptional condition and those which received NCRS or Bloomington Gold awards were highly sought, especially those with big blocks and typically brought in excess of $100K while small blocks sold in excess of $50K.  It will be these categories that Barrett-Jackson® and Mecum® will feature in their 2014 auction previews and schedule for the best auction days.  Though consignments will still be open through December, both Barrett-Jackson® and Mecum® already have several important Corvettes already consigned to the January events. Here is an abbreviated look at some of the most important.

"Asteroid" by George Barris (Photo: Barrett-Jackson)
Last year Barrett-Jackson® offered over 125 Corvettes as a part of the 1200 cars auctioned during their January event and by the time consignments close for 2014 that number will likely be exceeded.  As is customary for Craig Jackson’s January extravaganza, expect Corvettes representative of every segment of the collector hobby,  from celebrity owned or customized, to state of the art restomods, as well as a full assortment of impeccably restored Corvettes from every generation.  One of the feature cars will be “King of the Kustomizers,”  George Barris’s famous “Astroid” 1963 Corvette coupe.  The dazzling metallic copper Corvette was fully restored earlier this year and is jointly owned by Lance Miller of Corvettes at Carlisle® fame and Randy Koettel owner of Desert Autosport® .  As Barris customized creations go, the Corvette would be considered “tame” and was built for the successful business entrepreneur and offshore powerboat champion Bob Nordskog to serve as a street car, a race car, and show car.

The Rebel (Photo:Barrett-Jackson Bill Erdman)
 Throughout the sixty years of Corvette history there are relatively few cars with the background, impressive credentials and significance of the renowned #57 1969 L88 racecar known as “Rebel” and Barrett-Jackson® will be offering it on Saturday, January 18th.     The highly successful #57 Corvette was painted in a striking but controversial rebel flag motif, in response to arch-competitor Don Greenwood’s cars which were painted in an American flag design.  The “Rebel,” raced against other legendary Corvettes like the "winningest Corvette in history”, the Owens-Corning #12 Corvette, which was sold at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale in 2013 for $1M.  The “Rebel” won four of five IMSA events in 1971 and captured the first IMSA Championship.  During IMSA’s finale race at Daytona, Bob Johnson and Don Yenko drove the #57 Corvette to the race win and GTO championship and in the process Yenko broke the class speed record on a tri oval at 201.4 MPH.  The following year at the 1972 12 Hours of Sebring, the Rebel qualified as the 13th fastest car, but  Dave Heinz passed the pole position Corvette (the ex Owens-Corning #12) on the first lap and led the GT class for the entire 12 hours, finishing 4th overall and 1st in GT. It was a record that stood until Pratt & Miller’s 2003 results.

Magnificent 1967 L88 Coupe Duntov Mark of Excellence Award Winner (Photo: Barrett-Jackson)
The third star and perhaps the most precious jewel of the Barrett-Jackson® Corvette offerings is a 1967 L88 coupe which has a history of drag racing on Detroit’s drag strips and restored almost fifteen years ago by the famous Nabers Brothers Corvette restorers of Houston.  Only twenty 1967 L88 Corvettes were ever produced and this is the only red on red one.  In addition to being inducted into the Bloomington Gold Hall of Fame and appearing in the Bloomington Gold Special Collection, it has also received an NCRS Top Flight Award and Performance Verification, and is the only L88 on record to have achieved the coveted Duntov Mark of Excellence. Ray Sinor, well-known, recently-retired National Corvette Restorers Society national judging chairman and one of the experts Barrett-Jackson uses for Corvette consultations, believes this may be the finest of the nineteen 1967 L88’s known to exist.

Legendary L88 engine (Photo: Barrett-Jackson)
 In addition to these rare and award-winning cars  you can expect several more outstanding Corvettes, like the all original survivor 1953 Corvette once owned by Alan Jackson, or the fully restored red on red 1956 convertible with a 283/265HP dual quad engine with a Duntov cam.  There is also a 1961 convertible that has received four Top Flight awards, the Performance Verification Award and the Duntov Award of Excellence. 

 If you prefer second generation Corvettes you can choose from several, like the 1967 Marina Blue, fully optioned convertible with the factory original 427 engine and transmission.  Or perhaps you’d like to pick up the frame-off restored 1967 Lyndale blue coupe with a teal interior that has received Bloomington Gold, NCRS  Top Flight, Gold Spinner and Triple Crown Awards.  There is also a yellow/black 1966 427/425 award winning coupe that has original maintenance records.  The list of great second generation Corvettes goes on and on.

 Third generation Corvettes are also well represented throughout the auction.  One of the rarest of all C3’s is the ZR2 and on Saturday afternoon, January 18, a Brands Hatch Green 1971 LS6 ZR2 will be auctioned.  In addition to the high performance 425 HP, 454 cubic inch engine the award winning C3 also has the M22 “rock crusher” 4 speed, the J56 power dual pinned caliper brakes, F41 heavy duty suspension,   and a 4.11:1 positraction rear end.  Only ten ZR2 coupes and two SR2 convertibles were built, making this one of the rarest of production Corvettes.    Another offering, and only slightly less rare than the 1971 ZR2,  is the Monza Red 1970 LT1 ZR1 coupe, one of only twenty five built.  Like the ZR2 the LT1 ZR1 was built for performance and included the J56 power dual pinned brakes, the F41 heavy duty suspension, M22 “rockcrusher”, and the 4.11:1 positraction rear end.  The major difference from the ZR2 is the ZR1’s 350 cubic inch 370 HP engine.   

 The list of award winning Corvettes at Barrett-Jackson® this year is lengthy.  Whatever your taste in Corvettes you can bet that Barrett-Jackson® will have a selection from which you can choose.  Gary Bennett, Barrett-Jackson’s® vice president of consignment, has put together an impressive array of quality Corvettes in preparation for the super bowl of auctions in January.

Mecum sold Harley Earl's Personal Corvette in October for $1.5 (Photo: Mecum)
 On the other side of the country Dana Mecum will kick off the world’s largest automobile auction, offering upwards of 3000 cars during his extraordinary ten day event January 17th through the 26th at Kissimmee’s Osceola Heritage Park.  One of the foundations to his success over the years has been America’s sports car, the Corvette, one of Mecum’s® primary business focuses.  Each of his dozen 2013 auctions were earmarked by extraordinary and often historically significant Corvettes.  It was during his Dallas auction in September that the world’s record price was set for a Corvette selling at auction, $3.2M.  Then in his next auction only a few weeks later in Chicago, he sold Harley Earl’s personal and specially built 1963 Corvette for $1.5M.  Each of his auctions offers a vast selection of Corvettes, usually highlighted by an extremely rare or historical headline car.  “The dealmaker,” as Mecum is known, will kick off his 2014 auction venue with the same intense focus on remarkable Corvettes.  

By the time consignments close you can expect Mecum® to offer have almost 400 Corvettes consigned and even at this early date they are well on their way.  Traditionally Mecum’s® Kissimmee event has more than double the number of Corvettes consigned to Barrett-Jackson’s® Scottsdale event.  This is proportional to the auction overall where Mecum® traditionally offers almost double the number of cars offered by Barrett-Jackson®.  Mainly this is due to the large number of entry level cars offered at Mecum’s® Kissimmee auction.  This fact is supported by the fact that Barrett-Jackson’s® average selling price for all cars is almost double Mecum’s® (B-J’s Salon collection also impacts the average selling price).  Though the Corvette market is red hot, “good buys” can still be found during the initial days of Mecum’s® ten day event.  So even though Mecum® has several “blue chip” Corvettes being sold, there are Corvettes available for every budget and every level of collecting in Kissimmee.

The Corvette that saved the Corvette Brand 1956 SR Prototype (Photo: Mecum)
The main attraction of this year’s Mecum® Kissimmee extravaganza is one of the most important cars in Corvette’s sixty year history, the car that was virtually responsible for saving the brand from extinction.   The car has become known as “The Real McCoy” as a result of a 1956 advertisement celebrating it’s Sebring class win and helping promote the car’s performance credentials.  The
The Real McCoy Ad 1956 (Photo: GM)
details and exciting history of this car are too long to adequately cover in this article but suffice it to say that Zora Arkus-Duntov built this car in an effort to demonstrate the Corvette’s performance credentials.  There is little dispute that the initial Corvettes were not performance-based cars, nor did they offer many comfort and convenience amenities.  In 1954 and 1955 sales fell so drastically that GM seriously had the Corvette on the chopping block.  When Ford® introduced the well-appointed Thunderbird in 1955 Corvette’s fate was virtually sealed.  But Duntov convinced GM executives to not give up on the car, but rather transform it into a true performance car, a real sports car but with added amenities.  Duntov built a prototype 1956 Corvette with a special bored-out 307 cubic inch engine with dual Carter 4-barrel carburetors and a special grind camshaft which has become known as the “Duntov cam.”  Duntov set a “Flying Mile” speed record at Daytona averaging 150.582 MPH in his prototype Corvette and then after further preparation by Smokey Yunick, John Fitch and Walt Hansgen drove it to a class win in the 1956 Sebring race, helping establish the Corvette as a legitimate performance sports car.  As a result the Corvette brand was saved from extinction.   The 1956 SR prototype has been inducted into the Bloomington Gold Great Hall and will cross the block in Kissimmee on Saturday, January 25th.

 If you are a dedicated Corvette enthusiast you probably have heard the story of the 1954 Corvette that was entombed by the original owner in a sealed brick vault inside one of his grocery stores in 1959.  Then in 1986, long after the original owner who entombed it had died, the car was liberated from its 27 year entombment and spent the next ten years in the living room of the original owner’s daughter. Though the original Polo white paint had yellowed and blistered due to the moisture inside the brick tomb the rest of the car was in remarkably good condition and is one of the lowest mileage, unrestored, first generation Corvettes in existence.  The daughter of the original owner agreed to sell the car to a collector with the provision to preserve the car and not to restore it as a tribute to her father. The collector has honored the agreement.  The car has been displayed in the Bloomington Gold Special Collection in 1996.  This storied car will be sold on Saturday January 25th 

1963 Z06 originally raced by Dick Lang (Photo: Mecum)
 One of the second generation main attractions will be the concours winning 1963 Z06 originally raced by Dick Lang.  Owned by Terry Michaelis of ProTeam Corvettes®, the car was impeccably restored by Nabers Brothers of Houston at a cost of over $220K and appears as it did when raced at Daytona.  During 2013 the Corvette has won awards at concours d’elegance events throughout the country.  The Riverside red Z06 was one of 199 1963 Z06’s built and like most was taken immediately to the track. Dick Lang, owner of a Chevrolet dealership and avid Corvette racer, successfully campaigned the car throughout the Midwest and Eastern parts of the country.  Like all Z06’s it was powered by a 327 cubic inch 360 horsepower fuel injected engine and came with a close ratio 4-speed transmission, heavy duty suspension, sintered metallic power drum brakes with forward self adjusters, and a positraction rear.  In addition, it is one of the early “batch built” Z06’s and also has the rare 36 gallon “big tank”.  The car has been the recipient of several awards and was recently given the coveted NCRS American Heritage Award. 

1963 Corvette Z06 (Photo: Mecum)
Though the 1963 Lang Z06 is one of the main features of several outstanding second generation Corvettes, it is not the only choice of a rare 1963 Z06.  Lot S172 is a Sebring Silver 1963 Z06 coupe with a fully documented history.   The car was owned in the 1970s by Eric Gill, Corvette Z06 historian and restorer.  Like the Lang Z06, this one was also the recipient of an outstanding body-off restoration by Nabers Brothers.  The car is optioned with the standard Z06 performance options plus the addition of the N03 “Big Tank” option, N11 off road aluminized exhaust, A01 tinted glass,  A 31 power windows and full wheel covers.   In addition to being the subject of several articles it has received awards including Bloomington Gold and NCRS Top Flight.  The beautiful Z06 has been displayed at the National Corvette Museum and has won Best of Class awards at the 2012 Santa Fe Concorso and the 2012 Hilton Head Concours d'Elegance.   

Custom interior of Mrs. Harley Earl's Pink Corvette (Photo: Mecum)
There will be almost 100 second generation Corvettes crossing Mecum’s block, encompassing a vast assortment of factory colors and production options.  Several will have the desirable big block engine.  Not a big block, but a 1963 pink, “styling” coupe specially built for Harley Earl’s wife is on the docket.  And if you want something a little more aggressive, there is an exciting 1964 Grand Sport resto-mod replica updated with a LS engine, 6 speed transmission, air conditioning and updated power and comfort amenities.   

1969 L88 (Photo: Mecum)
The headliner of third generation Corvettes will undoubtedly be the 1969 Lemans Blue L88 convertible, S163.  This is one of only 116 1969 L88s and one of the total 216 L88 production cars ever produced.  This is unquestionably the most coveted production engine in Corvette history.  This Corvette has undergone a recently-completed, frame-off restoration by Roger Gibson, noted Corvette restorer and took nineteen months and over 5000 hours at a cost of $242K.  The convertible has the auxiliary black vinyl hardtop and has been verified by the NCRS Shipping Data Report and Documentation Validation Service records for the tank sticker.  In addition there is a complete comprehensive photographic record of the restoration, copies of all receipts and a complete and detailed description of the work performed by Gibson and his team.

SLEDGEHAMMER  Formerly World's Fastest Street Car (Photo: Mecum)
Frequently in Mecum® events an entire collection is consigned and at Kissimmee two major Corvette collections have been consigned with several impressive models.  If you are a C4 enthusiast the Richard Berry Callaway Collection is an outstanding collection of Callaway Corvettes.  The cornerstone of the collection is one of the most famous Corvettes in history, the renowned Sledgehammer.  The Sledgehammer was purpose built for speed and to showcase the abilities of Callaway’s turbocharged engines.  The silver Sledgehammer owned the record for the fastest street-driven car in the world when John Lingenfelter drove it from Callaway’s headquarters in Connecticut to the 7.5 mile Transportation Research Center oval track and attained a top speed of 254.76 MPH on October 26, 1988.   The C4 has a modified Callaway Aero body and a 898 HP modified turbocharged Chevrolet engine.  Incredibly the car also has air conditioning and a radio.  The Sledgehammer held the record for world’s fastest street car for 25 years.  In 2013 this incredible, historic car was inducted into the Bloomington Great Hall which recognizes 50 people and 50 Corvettes that significantly influenced the Corvette.  The Sledgehammer and its other seven stable mates will cross the block on Friday, January 24.  In addition to Berry’s Callaway collection there are an additional 16 additional Corvettes that are part of his collection from other generations that will cross the block over the ten days of auction. 

The Roger Judski collection is a group of thirteen Corvettes, primarily C4’s, four of which are ZR1s .  Except for the two Corvette Challenge race cars as a part of the collection, all of the rest of the collection are extremely low mileage cars, most of which have less than 10 original miles. 

Based on the impressive line-up of some of the finest Corvettes in the world, January’s super bowl auction season is poised to be one of the most exciting in recent memory.  So if you are in the market for a collectible Corvette you probably want to make your reservations now for the week of January 12th in Scottsdale and the following week in Kissimmee.  And if you get any resistance from your “significant other” both Arizona and Florida are winter vacation destinations so you could always bring them along.  I mean, after all, how could they resist leaving the cold winter weather behind?  They probably wouldn’t even care if you spent all day checking out beautiful Corvettes while they basked in the sun.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Crown Jewel of 1967 L88s

1967 Crown Jewel Corvette L88 to be Offered by Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale
By Rick Tavel© November 7, 2013 All rights reserved. Photos Courtesy of Barrett-Jackson

1967 L88 - Only 67 L88 to win the NCRS  Duntov Mark of Excellence  Photo Courtesy of Barrett-Jackson
The high performance Corvette market is red hot.  One of several recent examples was the worlds record price set this past September for a Corvette at auction, a 1967 Corvette L88 sold for $3.2M.  You can bet that owners of high performance Corvettes who want to sell will be jumping on the bandwagon to take advantage of the sizzling Corvette market and the huge audience the Scottsdale auctions provide.  Obviously one of the rarest and most sought after of all Corvettes is a 1967 L88 coupe with a competition heritage and Barrett-Jackson will have one at their Scottsdale auction.   But this is not a Corvette that recently “jumped on the bandwagon” to take advantage of the hot market, consignment of this rare L88 began almost a year ago, long before the record setting September sale. Nor is it just any  1967 L88 coupe, this is the crown jewel of 1967 L88 Corvettes, the only L88 coupe of record to receive the highly coveted Duntov Mark of Excellence Award.  The Corvette will be auctioned as a part of Barrett-Jacksons Salon Collection and scheduled to cross the block on Saturday afternoon, January 18, 2014.  This red 1967 L88 Corvette is fully documented and is being represented at the request of the owner by Roy Sinor, well-known, recently-retired National Corvette Restorers Society national judging chairman and one of the experts Barrett-Jackson uses for Corvette consultations.  Sinor spent over seventeen years at the NCRS and is one of the foremost experts on Corvettes.  This outstanding example is the only Red on Red example of the only twenty L88 Corvettes produced in 1967 and has been validated by both GM and the NCRS.  It is the recipient of an NCRS Top Flight Award, Performance Verification, and the only L88 on record to have achieved the coveted Duntov Mark of Excellence. The car has also been inducted into the Bloomington Gold Hall of Fame and appeared in the Bloomington Gold Special Collection.

The L88 was raced at Motor city drag strips in the late 1960's 
Photo courtesy of Barrett-Jackson
Like all twenty Corvette L88s produced in 1967, this one comes with the C48 Heater Defrost Delete, F41 Special Front and Rear Suspension, G81 Positraction Rear Axle, J50 Vacuum Power Brakes, J56 Special Heavy Duty Brakes, K66 Transistor Ignition, L88 427 ci, 430 hp (factory rating) Engine, and the M22 Heavy Duty, Close Ratio, 4 Speed Transmission.  In addition it also has the RPO A85, shoulder belts.  Another feature which sets this L88 apart is the special order rear end ratio of 4.56:1, the drag racing rear end of choice.  Most 1967 L88s were ordered with rear end ratios more suitable to road racing.  This car was originally ordered by a General Motors executive for a friend of his sons and was delivered through Mike Savoie Chevrolet, then located on Woodward Avenue in Birmingham, Michigan.  Savoie is well known for servicing and delivering GM employee cars and his dealership was only a year old when he delivered this L88. 

The Corvette has an extensive competition background;  the first owner raced the Corvette most weekends at drag strips around the Motor City.  It made several appearances at Motor City Dragway, Lapeer Dragway and Detroit Dragway in the late 1960s.  The Corvette was also used to test competition camshafts for the General Kinetic Camshaft Company.   Local legend is this car never lost a race at the local drag strips.

The highly sought 560HP L88 engine  Photo courtesy of Barrett-Jackson

Following the first few years spent racing, the car was eventually sold in the early 1970s to a high school auto shop teacher, Fred Reamer.  While doing some brake work on his car Reamer, not a racer,  was intrigued when he unexpectedly found the dual pin calipers which only came with the J56 RPO.  This discovery prompted him to investigate his car further.  He contacted Werner Meier, then a General Motors engineering group manager.  Today Meier owns Masterworks Automotive Services specializing in Corvette restoration and was inducted into the National Corvette Museum Hall of Fame in 2013.  Meier encouraged Reamer check drop the gas tank and check the tank sticker.  When he found the original sticker it indicated that his car was one of the rare, original production L88s.  Word quickly spread among Corvette enthusiasts and collectors that Reamer was in possession of one of the rarest of all production Corvettes.  Several collectors tried to acquire the car but it was J.D.Pervis, well-known collector, that literally made the auto shop teacher an offer he could not refuse.

The Nabers Brothers did a full restoration in the late 1990's
Photo courtesy of Barrett-Jackson
When Pervis acquired the car the original engine, like most all L88s that were raced, had been replaced and he managed to get an actual GM over-the-counter, date correct L88 IT motor that never had the VIN stamped on it. Most factory L88s have “restoration” blocks but it is rare to find an L88 with a date correct IT block.   Pervis also did some other restoration work on his car but a full restoration was not completed until the car was sold to Ray Norvelle.  Norvelle commissioned renowned Nabers Brothers from Houston to do a full restoration on the important Corvette in the late 1990’s.  Shortly after Nabers Brothers completed the restoration Norvelle sold the car to the current owner in 2000.  Since then the car has been professionally maintained by a GM mechanic and kept in a climate controlled garage.

This L88 was ordered with the rare 4.56:1 rear for drag racing
Photo courtesy of Barrett-Jackson
Legendary stories of General Motors vaunted L88 Corvettes are epic among enthusiasts.  In order to meet certain government regulations, insurance guidelines and even GM company policies, L88’s published HP was under-rated by the factory at only 430.   Dyno tests have shown the actual horsepower rating to be closer to 560 HP.   The L88 427 cubic inch engines were significantly different from other 427 GM engines.  They had a forged and Tuftrided crankshaft, 12.5 : 1 pistons,  a 850 CFM 4 barrel carburetor, aluminum heads and a cold air induction.  The published horsepower for the L88 engine, unlike horsepower ratings for other engines, was not the “peak performance” horsepower, so technically the publicized numbers were not fabricated, just not the numbers for peak HP.   
GM published horsepower @ 430 but it actually produced @ 560
Photo courtesy of Barrett-Jackson

Corvettes with the L88 package were clearly designed for use on the track and GM discouraged street use. In addition to the brute engine the legendary M22 4 speed “rock-crusher” transmission was required as well as a performance suspension and brakes.   Using these cars as daily drivers was not only discouraged but challenging since they would overheat in stop and go traffic since they were delivered with no fan shrouds.  In addition, choosing the L88 RPO also required deleting the radio and heater.   So an L88 Corvette wasn’t the most comfortable Woodward Avenue cruiser. 

Zora Arkus-Duntov, the vaunted Corvette Chief Engineer, personally oversaw the building of a prototype version of the C2 L88 in 1966 to insure it performed as anticipated.  Satisfied, he released it for production in 1967 and the prototype test car was destroyed according to GM policy.

This impeccable L88 example will cross the block in Barrett-Jacksons totally new auction facility at West World in Scottsdale.  Pundits could go on and on comparing this car to the worlds record L88, but the knowledgeable collector who seriously considers investing the money it will take to own this car will understand why  it is incomparable and truly belongs in a class of its own.  It is the crown jewel of all production 1967 Corvettes and will certainly be the main attraction for Corvette enthusiasts at the Barrett-Jackson extravaganza in Scottsdale.  Keep in mind that this car is being offered in Scottsdale at Barrett-Jacksons most famous, most elaborate and largest auction event.  If things go as they have in past years the event will be overflowing with not only spectators but with well-healed, qualified bidders and collectors.  And when international champion and Hall of Fame auctioneer “Spanky” Assiter begins his chant on this unique Corvette there is no telling where the bidding will end when his hammer falls.  It should make for an exciting afternoon for enthusiasts, especially if for Corvette enthusiasts.
Photo courtesy of Barrett-Jackson

Photo courtesy of Barrett-Jackson

The author wants to thank Gary Bennett, vp of consignment for Barrett-Jackson, Tim Heit, digital content manager for Barrett-Jackson, and Roy Sinor, retired NCRS National judging Chairman, for graciously taking the time from their busy schedules to assist in the production of this article. 
Link to Barrett-Jackson HomePage where you can view featured cars in their upcoming January 2014 auction:



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Legendary Corvette “Rebel”

Legendary Corvette “Rebel” To Cross Block at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale

By Rick Tavel© 11-5-2013 All rights reserved


Legendary L88 1969 Corvette known as "The Rebel"
 Throughout the sixty years of Corvette history there are relatively few cars with the background, impressive credentials and significance of the renowned #57 1969 L88 racecar known as “Rebel”.  The Rebel was so famous and celebrated that Revell® offered a replica model kit of the car in 1:24 scale.  On Saturday afternoon, January 18, 2014, Barrett-Jackson will auction the legendary racecar during their annual Scottsdale auction extravaganza.

Revell Model Kit of the Rebel Note Year On Kit
 Originally painted Daytona Yellow the L88 was one of only 116 produced for 1969 and was delivered in early January to Orlando Costanzo, SCCA racer and sales manager for Ferman Chevrolet in Tampa, Florida.  The car was one of only four prototype lightweight L88’s that had new open-chamber heads and released early by GM engineers to selected racers in order to get real world experience and feedback.  Because of the early release some thought the car was a 1968 model but rest assured it is a 1969.  In addition to the new open chamber heads, these rare lightweight L88s also included the new  ZL-2 cold air induction hood, heavy duty clutch, smaller flywheel and a heavy duty cross-flow aluminum radiator. Though the radio and heater delete option RPO C-48 was eliminated in 1968 the lightweight L88’s had those items deleted and also included the deletion of all sound insulation and rear cargo area carpet.   The lightweight L88s also included an oil cooler, headers, and headlight kit in the trunk for the owner to install at their discretion.

1969 L88 Engine
 The second generation, open-chamber head L88s would not be available to other buyers until June of 1969.  In addition to the second generation L88 open-chamber engine and other lightweight features, Costanzo’s Corvette came equipped with the mandatory L88 RPO’s:  M-22 “rock crusher” four speed transmission,  J-56 heavy duty brakes, F-41 special front and rear suspension, J-50 Vacuum Power Brakes, and the K-66 Transistor Ignition. 

 Costanzo and co-driver Dave Heinz had an impressive race history in the SCCA and in the newly formed IMSA (International Motorsports Association) race series.   Costanzo repainted the #57 Corvette in 1971 in a striking but controversial rebel flag motif, a takeoff on competitor Don Greenwood’s cars painted in an American flag design.  The “Rebel,” as it became known, raced against other legendary Corvettes like “the winningest Corvette in history”, the Owens-Corning #12 Corvette, which was sold at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale in 2013 for a $1M.  But the Rebel’s archrival was Don Greenwood’s #48 and #50 L88 Corvettes both painted in the Stars and Stripes livery. 

RED Racing's Rebel
 In mid 1971 Costanzo sold his car to his team manager, Toye English and his son Dana, who formed RED (Racing Engineering and Development) racing team with Dave Heinz as his lead driver and Don Yenko as his co-driver.  English decided to keep the Confederate flag paint scheme on the car because he thought it drew attention to the rivalry he had with Greenwood in his Stars and Stripes painted L88’s.  The competition went beyond the racetrack as RED’s L88 was the official test L88 for Goodyear® Tires and Greenwood’s L88’s were the official test cars for BFGoodrich® tires.
These cars were the contenders for the famous "tire wars" which took place in the 70's.  In addition the L88 was a southern sponsored car based in Florida and Greenwood’s L88 hailed from Michigan.  Both teams had a large loyal fan base and the livery of the cars only helped stoke the fires.

Greenwood's Stars & Stripes
In RED racing’s debut at Watkins Glen in July the Confederate flag #57 Corvette driven by Heinz and Yenko finished second to the Greenwood’s #49 American Flag motif Corvette co driven by Bob Johnson.  But the “Rebel” team went on to win four of five IMSA events in 1971 and captured the first IMSA Championship.  During IMSA’s finale race at Daytona, Bob Johnson and Don Yenko drove the #57 Corvette to the race win and GTO Championship.  In the process Yenko broke the class speed record on a tri oval at 201.4.

 The following year at the 1972 12 Hours of Sebring, the Rebel qualified as the 13th fastest and second fastest in GT.  Dave Heinz passed the pole position Corvette (the ex Owens-Corning #12) on the first lap and led the GT class for the entire 12 hours, finishing 4th overall and 1st in GT. It was a record that stood until Pratt & Miller’s 2003 results.

 By the mid 1980’s the car fell into obscurity.  It was found in 1991 by legendary Corvette historian and restoration specialist Kevin Mackay, owner of Corvette Repair in Valley Stream, Long Island.  After tracking the ownership history of the legendary race car he located it in a junk yard and purchased it for $7000.  Amazingly the car had all the original body panels, steering wheel, gauges, shifter, and seats. In 1993 he resurrected the L88 restoring it to the way the car appeared during as the Rebel in the early 1970s.  Mackay is famous for tracking down, researching and restoring historic Corvettes.  He spent several years trying to find the long lost Lemans winning C1 for Chip Miller of Corvettes at Carlisle.  Eventually Mackay’s persistence paid off, he tracked the car down, acquired it and restored it for Miller.  The saga became the subject of Michael Brown’s outstanding, award winning documentary “The Quest”.  (

 Corvettes with a documented race history have become the hottest category of collector cars.  In September a 1967 L88 Corvette with a documented drag racing history set a record for the price of a Corvette sold at auction, selling for $3.2M.  Second generation Corvette Z06s are selling for $500K to over $1M and even authentic L88s without a race history are selling above $500K.  Barrett-Jackson is offering another historically significant L88 as a part of their Salon Collection and will be sold the same day in Barrett-Jackson’s brand new Scottsdale auction facility.  If you’re a Corvette enthusiast or collector Barrett-Jackson is the place to be on Saturday, January 18. (
Sebring 1972

Winning Class in 1972 24 Hours of Daytona


Friday, October 18, 2013

The Day the Advertising (and almost the Corvette) Died

The Day the Advertising (and almost the Corvette) Died
By Rick Tavel© All Rights Reserved September 18, 2013

Monument "The Day The Music Died"
 Don MacLean may have written a song about the day the music died but during the very early days of the 1990's Corvette's print advertising did in fact die and during that same time America's sports car came precariously close to dying along with it.   Many Corvette aficionados have no idea of the clandestine corporate actions taking place inside the largest corporation in the world which resulted in a death sentence for the  most iconic American car in history.  Not coincidentally during that same time frame Corvette display advertising virtually ceased to exist.  It set a precedent for marketing the Corvette and laid the foundation for the elimination of Corvette print advertising, other than during new model introductions, ever since. It may seem hard to believe especially since Corvette print advertising was as much a part of the first four generation Corvettes as a Regular Production Option, especially to enthusiasts over 45 years old.  The ads were creative, informative and connected with enthusiasts and potential buyers. They inspired the dreams of not only young boys but millions of men as well.  Countless owners of Corvettes today attribute their ownership to the Corvette dreams of their youth. When the advertisements went away there was no fanfare, no announcement, they simply died.  And like McLean's song, which has been interpreted in several ways, what is undeniable about the lyrics is he is telling a story about a defining moment in America when something had been lost, and we knew it, we felt it.  And though some of us may have been aware that something had been lost when the clever and compelling Corvette print advertising died, at the time few of us knew of the American icon we were in jeopardy of losing, the beloved Corvette.

Dig out some old "buff" magazines from the 60's or 70's and then some from 1992 or later and compare what you find in the way of Corvette advertising.  I used the most popular enthusiast magazine of the day, Car&Driver.  I found a plethora of Corvette ads during the 60's and 70's.  But not in the issues I checked during the 90's.   I found several GM ads during the 90's but the only Corvette I found in advertisements were those pictured in tire ads.  There were several ads for GM’s high volume cars like the Oldsmobile Cutlass and for the high profit cars like the Cadillac Seville and Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo.  And even though extraordinary refinements were being made to one of the finest sports cars in the world, the ZR1, after the initial introductory ads in late 1989 and 1990 there were few if any ads to proclaim the Corvette’s return to its performance heritage. 

During the late 1980’s to mid 1990’s the Corvette’s future was in serious jeopardy; the car came disturbingly close to be cancelled by virtually eliminating the funding for the C4's replacement.  The ZR1 extended the life of the aging C4 Corvette design and breathed temporary life into the current generation, which had already been in production for almost 7 years and due to be replaced in 1993.  The new C5 was already under development and scheduled for a 1993 introduction to coincide with the Corvette’s fortieth anniversary but by the beginning of the 1990’s things inside General Motors took a dramatic but not wholly unexpected turn. 

Roger Smith, CEO, had been making drastic changes in the corporation as he neared retirement.  He was driven to insure that his legacy would live on well past his retirement and as a result made changes throughout the corporation to everything from the ways cars were built, the factories they were built in, and the approval and process required to get a vehicle produced. One of his goals was to achieve record profitability before he left and one of the steps he took to achieve this was to embark on a dramatic cost cutting effort to milk as much profit as possible, known in business as “milking the cows and eating the calves.”  And although Smith was able to achieve his goal, it came at a high cost, mortgaging future results and wreaking havoc throughout the corporation and almost bringing the corporation to bankruptcy shortly after he retired.   His profitability strategy did succeed for 1988, earning almost $5 billion, the most profitable year in the corporation’s history until recently.  Though Smith’s plan did succeed for the year, the longer term outlook was anything but encouraging.  Some of Smith’s decisions had left the company vulnerable in a difficult economy and by the time he turned the corporation over to Bob Stempel, his chosen successor, in 1990, GM had managed to lose almost $2 billion, which doubled the following year and then skyrocketed to a staggering $24 billion loss in 1992.   In only two short years since Smith’s record breaking profitability the corporation was losing billions annually.

By the time Stempel, a former engineer, had assumed the chairman position it was his job to return the corporation to profitability and sort out and resolve the crisis he had inherited from his predecessor.  The overwhelming task would challenge even the most experienced corporate leader, but it took its toll on the rookie chairman as he searched for ways to stop the bleeding.  Overwhelmed by the challenge, one of the ways he tried to resolve the mounting red ink was to turn more control over to the “bean counters” in an attempt to get even more costs out of the operations.  The “bean counters” slashed several programs, some deservedly and others not, to try and reduce expenses.  In their zeal they did almost irreparable damage to the world’s largest automobile manufacturer.  The financially focused decision-makers dictated policies based solely on cost, not quality or longevity, which resulted in poorly made vehicles and which further confused and demoralized workers at all levels.  Plants were closed, union and management employees at all levels were laid off, departments were consolidated and reorganized, more often than not, well beyond the point of peak efficiencies.

Every program within the corporation was looked at for cutbacks, consolidation and downsizing whether profitable or not, all in a frenzy to cut costs and maintain sales of their profitable high volume and high profit cars which were under attack from imports.   Now, not only was General Motors losing massive amounts of money but they were also losing respect throughout the automotive world for shoddy quality and company morale was at an all time low from the constantly changing business plan and almost weekly reorganization efforts. 

And even though the low volume Corvette was both profitable and the expenditure for the entire program was relatively small, it was not immune to cutbacks.  And so, even though the Corvette was operating “in the black,” it came as an unexpected surprise when Bob Stempel announced in a high level executive conference in the fall of 1989 that the Corvette development program was “now on indefinite status.”

Many of those in attendance that heard those words interpreted them to mean the future of the Corvette was dead and though demoralizing to those that had worked so hard on the Corvette, no one was really sure what he exactly meant.  But in the austere, cost cutting environment that permeated the corporation anything on “indefinite status” was as good as gone.  It appeared that, minimally, all of the C5 development would cease and possibly it meant that the costs for maintaining programs to support the current C4 would also be cut.  Insiders realized that the aging C4, even with the ZR1, could not compete much longer and if the development of the C5 was cancelled, it virtually meant the end of the Corvette. 

Getting a new C5 to the market was clearly the only way the Corvette would survive so the team had to devise a way to continue the design and development of the C4 replacement.  One of the advantages of being a small program in a large corporation is that it is often possible to just keep doing what you have been doing as long as you keep a low profile and stay under the radar.  Obviously in the largest corporation in the world, and one losing $24B a year, there were bigger “fish to fry” than the relatively tiny Corvette program.  

It was obvious that the Corvette had several loyal supporters within the organization at all levels and they did not want to see America’s sports car terminated.  So those committed managers associated with the Corvette proceeded to just continue to do what they were doing but to do it more quietly and use a little “creative accounting” to hide any costs associated with the C5 development.  But operating “under the radar” and with no development budget it was clear that the C5 could never meet the original target date for a 1993 introduction.

Throughout the corporation things were so bad, moral so low, and with the organizational changes that were taking place almost on a daily basis no department or individual could be held accountable.  Reporting relationships were often blurred and circumvented.  Deadlines were a moving target and resulted in delayed new model introductions.  The new Camaro, with the design and engineering almost complete when the cutbacks were instituted and much further along than the still undeveloped C5, was due to be in dealerships in 1992 and still did not reach the showrooms until late in 1993.   Clearly the Corvette team, operating “under the radar” and with no official development budget, could never meet the original target date for a 1993 introduction.
Jim Perkins  Chevrolet GM

From one day to the next the designers and engineers assigned to the Corvette program were not sure whether or not they would have a job when they came to work.  On more than one occasion the Corvette program had the budgets cut so severely that even being able to fund programs necessary to maintain the C4 seemed impossible.  And yet most of the engineers and designers assigned to the Corvette continued to throw themselves into their jobs and work long hours to insure that America’s sports car would live on.  (In this brief article the truly heroic efforts of the Corvette team to save their car cannot be adequately covered and if you want to learn more about what it took to get the C5 to market I suggest reading James Schefter’s excellent account in All Corvettes Are Red.)  It was only through their dedicated efforts along with a few other executives that managed to save the most iconic car in America.  It was guys like Joe Spielman, head of North American Midsize vehicles (including Corvette), Jim Perkins, Chevrolet General Manager, Dave McLellan and Dave Hill, Corvette Chief Engineers, Cardy Davis and Russ McLean, Corvette Program Managers, Jerry Palmer, Executive Director of Advance Design, John Cafaro, Studio Chief of Chevy #3 (Corvette), Tom Peters, Studio Chief of Advanced Design, and perhaps one of the most important and little recognized team members was Tom Krejcar, Corvette Financial Manager, who put his job on the line by bending the rules, ignoring some directives, and finding new ways to creatively code C5 expenses to fund the continued development of the C5.
Dave Hill Corvette Chief Engineer of C5
 The salaries and expenses of several of the engineers and all of the administrative staff which contributed to the development of the C5 were actually charged to the C4.   Higher level executives that loved the Corvette and wanted it to continue “officially” didn’t know what the Corvette team was doing and closed their eyes to the continuing work on the replacement car.  Several executives, engineers and designers literally put their careers on the line to be able to continue the C5 development.  Jim Perkins, Chevrolet’s GM, believed and openly proclaimed, “There is a little Corvette in every Chevrolet.”  In order to help save the Corvette he went as far as to divert $1M from Chevrolet’s budget to help finance the much needed replacement Corvette.   He knew well the importance of the Corvette in driving other Chevrolet sales.   And though that may not sound unusual to anyone who does not understand General Motors organizational structure, car manufacturers like Chevrolet, Buick, and Cadillac do not develop or fund models.  The divisions within GM are “marketing organizations” and vehicle development is strictly GM’s responsibility.  It was a ballsy move on Jim’s part and one of the reasons we have a Corvette today and also one of the reasons Jim is in the National Corvette Museum’s Hall of Fame. 

CERV IV  Concept car in which the new C5 backbone chassis was tested

In all probability it was the budget reallocations and cutbacks, the need to creatively find money to fund the C5 development as well as the need to keep a “low profile” that caused the disappearance of Corvette advertising from magazines except during new generation unveilings.  Sales fell off in the early 90’s, slipping from approximately 26K cars in 1989 to a little over 20K cars annually in 1991 and 1992.  It is impossible, however, to attribute all of the lost sales to advertising cutbacks, though there is little doubt that it was a major factor.  What cannot be accurately calculated is the net profit impact the reduced advertising cost had in relation to the reduced sales.  But we must also remember that the C4 was over seven years old in 1991 so part of the slip in sales can be attributed to aged model. 

The quality and effectiveness of the Corvette’s marketing is a subject that has been debated for years, and the lack of advertising is one of the major topics frequently brought up.  Even today most of the marketing for the Corvette is put into event sponsorship as opposed to print and TC advertising.  During the televised coverage of the Rolex® 24 Hours of Daytona, which the Corvette won their class, there was no TV advertising to promote the Corvette.  Other Chevrolet models were advertised but not the Corvette even though Porsche® and the Viper® both advertised throughout the race.

  Understanding this era in the Corvette’s history is not only important but also offers a better perspective to perhaps the most critical events affecting the future of the car.  It also illustrates the outstanding quality and commitment of the Corvette team in not only keeping the Corvette alive but at the same time designing and building a beautiful, performance based Corvette that raised the bar for all future generations.   Understanding this part of Corvette history gives the Corvette lover a deeper appreciation realizing how close we came to losing it, who is responsible for saving it and why the award winning Corvette advertising that was so much a part of the first four generations vanished. Thankfully, though the advertising died and the Corvette survived.
The beautiful C5 Corvette.   An example of - That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger