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Ten More Than Before

Swapping out three twos for two eights.

Story Andy Bolig / Images Bill Erdman - December 06, 2012 10:00 AM

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We’re a unique lot, us auto enthusiasts. When given the opportunity, more often than not, we want more than what we’ve currently been blessed with.

Say for example, you’ve got this gorgeous base-model midyear Corvette. Do you find yourself saying, “Yeah, it’s not a high-horsepower version but …” And, if you have a great-running small-block, do you find yourself secretly pining for a large valve-covered one? If you were lucky enough to find a big-block under the hood of your ride, would a triangulated air cleaner make it better? Ultimately, if you had all that, where would you go from there?

In the case of Guy and Pat Marwick, their 1967 Sting Ray already had a tri-power big block under the hood. They didn’t say whether it was initially a 390 or 435-horse version but either way, they still had aspirations for their favored midyear. No matter what engine a midyear might have been installed with, there’s always one option that trumps them all in the eyes of the performance enthusiast – L88.

On paper, it looks like the L88 might give up a few ponies to the larger tri-powered engine, but don’t be fooled. While the GM books show the L88 at 430hp and the L71-equipped (tri-power) version at 435, there was a story not being told by GM. The L71’s listed 435 horsepower rating was acquired at its peak of 5,600 rpm. Obviously, the L88 was ABLE to reach its listed horsepower of 430, but what wasn’t said, was that it did it about 1,000 rpm below its max engine speed, where horsepower danced around 560. Picking a rating from earlier in the engine’s rpm range kept insurance companies, government agencies and even GM’s top brass from looking too closely at the option that was designed specifically for racing.

In Guy and Pat’s situation, wanting more meant that the multi-carbed intake would need to go, being replaced with a factory-style single-four intake, topped off with that oh-so-cool bird’s nest of a flame retarder on top. Making use of the discarded item, it was exchanged for the L88-necessary items that would allow Guy and Pat to convert their Corvette into the car they wanted. They swapped it for an NOS cowl-induction hood and a radio-delete dash. Now turning a Corvette into an L88 clone, or tribute car, takes more than simply a hood and a dash, so other items were sourced that would make the change more authentic. The special J56 (Special HD Brakes) were added, along with a whining M22 transmission and of course, that beast of an engine that makes the RPO the darling of many an enthusiast.

Rainmakers at GM had more reasons to downgrade the L88 than simply circumventing various agencies. The engine, while a god in a horsepower-hungry world, really wasn’t suited for on-road driving with its 12.5 to 1 compression and wildly-timed camshaft. Also, it didn’t have a choke, which made it finicky until the engine reached operating temperature. Since Guy was creating his car to suit his standards, he was free to depart from the parts listings in various restoration manuals and opted to defer to drivability, rather than numbers-matching. The “351 block” was built to operate like the vaunted L88, but was designed with a slightly lower compression to run on pump gas. He used a COMP Cams’ camshaft that was much more suited to street driving. It still operates the valves in those original aluminum GM heads, which have been ported and polished for a little more flow. Before the entire powerful package was assembled, everything was balanced and blueprinted.

The rest of the package is equally impressive. The color combination of black and red is visually appealing and striking. Lacking comforts such as a heater or radio, the car cradles the passengers in leather seating, allowing them to comfortably enjoy the sound of the engine. The duet of that M22 “rock-crusher” transmission and those sidepipes is surely more melodic over anything the airways might have to offer. The red interior is still seasoned with hints of chrome from more meaningful items, rather than from some silly radio dials on the dash. The interior color bubbles up over the cowl and onto the Stinger of that requisite big-block hood.

The entire package comes together to show not only what an L88-equipped ’67 Corvette can do, but also what it can be with some modern advancements. Whether you agree with the practice of building “tribute” or clone cars, you can’t argue that Guy and Pat’s Corvette is an awesome one. Something that many enthusiasts, whether secretly or openly, would love to have in their garages. The Marwicks can empathize with them all but likewise stand as an example that you don’t have to be content with only a dream.

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