This 1968 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Tribute Wants To Kill You

Automotive enthusiasts usually pick a side: is the Chevy Corvette a muscle car, or is it a sports car? No matter where you land, it’s one of the most iconic American vehicles ever made. Sure, it has changed quite a bit over the past eight generations (size, design, and engine layout) but the 1968 Corvette L88 is a shining display of the core philosophy behind Chevy’s halo model: brute strength.

Marketing executives from Chevrolet planned a secret reveal for the launch of the third-generation (C3) Corvette, which ran from 1968 to 1982. The problem was, however, communication lines crossed between marketing and product planning and Hot Wheels debuted a “custom Corvette ” a few weeks before the official launch. whoops! Chevrolet didn’t mind too much as both RWD burnout enthusiasts and people experiencing their midlife crisis gobbled up the new style. In fact, the C3 experienced the most sales of any generation to date.

The success was due in large part to the design but also to what was under the hood. In 1968 the Corvette came with a few engine options: the classic 327 ci small block V8 and variations of the 427 ci big block V8 including the race-oriented L88. Those truly heavy-footed customers opting for the L88 needed race fuel to power the underrated 430 hp rocket (actual output was closer to 550 hp) and enjoyed upgrades like a high-capacity 4-barrel carb, special air-induction system, and an ultra high compression ratio.

These L88 models were very rare and today can fetch prices above $600,000. This particular 1968 Corvette L88 is a tribute vehicle. Essentially, it’s a restored 1968 Corvette convertible with modifications to be more inline with a true L88 spec with one major difference. In place of the 560 hp V8 that required racing fuel is a more discreet 430 hp non-race fuel version. The downside to a tribute is that many will bemoan, “it’s not a real L88,” but the upside is you can enjoy the same insane driving thrills for a fraction of what the “real” ones go for. So when we found one at Motorcar Studio in Atlanta, we had to get behind the wheel.


Key features

  • L88 tributes
  • 430hp V8
  • 4-wheel disc brakes
Specs

  • Model: corvette
  • Engine/Motor: 7.0L V8
  • Horsepower: 560 hp
  • Torque: 470 lb ft
  • drive train: RWD
  • Transmission: 4 speed manual
pros

  • As a tribute, it’s more affordable
  • The C3 design is timeless
  • Big engine, light fiberglass body
cons

  • Small interior
  • Lack of safety

The Exterior Will Stop You In Your Tracks

When we walked into the garage slash showroom at Motorcar Studio, many beauties dropped our jaws. We saw a BMW E39 M5 and a 1969 Oldsmobile 442 W30 as well as many others. Once we got a little deeper into the showroom, however, we spotted the Corvette. It’s easy to see why this was the best-selling generation ‘Vette in the past 60 years. Known as the “Coke bottle” design, the lines are curvy, sexy, and inviting. Like Frodo Baggins hearing Gollum’s quiet whispers, we stopped and stared at the racing-green L88 as it said, “Drive me.”

Characteristic of all the big block V8 Corvettes, this Chevy has a bulging hood with the large number “427” on each side indicating the 427 ci engine living below the massive fiberglass hood. The exaggerated wheel arches of the racing green fiberglass body combined with the drop top silhouette are a perfect design combination. At the front, the angular nose has a subtle Corvette logo showingcasing the crossing flags, one checkered to mark their pedigree in the race world and the other one for the Chevrolet flag. The small grill hides the pop-up headlights which use vacuum power to flip into place. And there is a large chrome bumper which looks like it would destroy a brick wall before a scratch would infest the L88. Sitting on the trunk is a small luggage rack which seems to be the equivalent of decal headlights in NASCAR. Doubtful it would get much actual use, but it looks superb. The factory rally wheels and Firestone Wide Oval tires plus the fender vents do a great job of communicating: “I’m going to be a very loud and very fast car.”


Related: Served With A Modern Twist: The Chevrolet Corvette C3 Speedster

The Inside Of The Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Is More Like A Plane Than A Car

Opening up the door using the ingeniously concealed push-button door handles we climbed into the L88 to see a cabin more reminiscent of a small airplane than a car. The console houses various aeronautical-inspired gauges measuring oil pressure, water temperature, fuel, and battery as well as the large chrome-ball topped shifter for the 4-speed Muncie M21 manual transmission. A small radio and manual e-brake were pretty much the rest of the “features” on this car. In classic late 60s fashion, the seats were cushy barber chairs with no headrests (they would become mandatory the following year) and the driver seat belt wasn’t working, but it didn’t matter. Keys in hand, we fired up one of the most iconic American cars ever built.


Lighting Up The V8 And Taking Off Is An Intense Experience

The sound of the engine firing up was more like a WWII fighter plane getting ready for take off. We turned the key, heard “tick, tick, tick,” then an explosion of rumble as our ears and butts shook from the 430 hp, 7.0 L big-block V8 and Holley four-barrel carb coming to life. To put the car in reverse we had to lift the t-bar on the shifter and after a few attempts finally found the reverse gear. No power steering, no traction control, but four-wheel disc brakes were a welcome safety element. Chris from Motorcar Studio warned us about how easy it was to break the giant rear tires loose thanks to the light fiberglass body and massive power going to those tires, so we gently let out the clutch and headed out.


The roads in midtown Atlanta are beautiful, lined with trees, but sadly full of traffic so we decided to head out a little further to some longer stretches of asphalt to knock through a few gears. Once an open stretch appeared we gently pushed the throttle and blasted down the road. A shift to second brought another wave of power that let us know we were barely scratching the surface of what this convertible wanted to do. The steering was stiff, the suspension nearly absent and at every turn the vehicle wanted to sprout wings and fly. Like breaking in a wild horse, this car didn’t care very much how we wanted to drive. It was exhilarating and brought a whole new appreciation for the early days of racing when drivers must have used every ounce of concentration and arm muscles to coax the vehicle into compliance.

Related: Check Out This C3 Corvette Wearing A C7’s Face

Final Thoughts On This Iconic 1968 Corvette L88 Tribute

After a few more turns, Chris got a call about someone wanting to meet up to buy one of his vintage Ford Broncos, not just write about his cars and take pictures, so we headed back to the shop. As we moved the C3 into place for our photos there was a realization that, of course, this car was born during the space race of the late ’60s. It’s the type of car that demands your full attention while driving. The lack of power steering coupled with an overwhelming amount of “oomph” with very little between the occupants and the outside world means all senses have to be on full-time. It’s tiring. The pilot of the L88 must have the same bravado necessary to be an astronaut sitting on the tip of a rocket knowing this thing is trying to kill them. In this case, it’s a gorgeous, curvy rocket with street cred for days. So maybe it’s worth the risk after all.


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