Chevrolet’s Corvette, especially with mighty L-88 power, carries a truly special place in high-performance and international racing history. In fact, its stunning performance and victory tally have conferred near-mythical status since the cars were new. This L-88 Corvette racecar marks the maturation of the L-88 Corvette into a proven race-winner capable of challenging for outright, as well as class, victories everywhere it appeared. In fact, while many lesser racing cars had already retired from the track, L-88 Corvettes continued to set the standard in the world’s toughest road races and endurance contests on both sides of the Atlantic, well into the 1970s and beyond. Proving the point in 1972, an L-88 Corvette, an unlikely entry fielded by Ferrari stalwart Luigi Chinetti’s North American Racing Team (N.A.R.T.), won class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Just 216 factory-built “production” L-88 Corvettes were built in all during the model’s three-year production run. Soon, by the early 1970s, L-88 parts and technology filtered down to committed privateers who continued to very successfully carry the L-88 banner in front-line competition. This 1968 L-88 Corvette racing car is a particularly successful and very well-known example.
Fred Kepler built this Corvette in 1972 from an original L-71 “Tri-Power” 427 car to race in IMSA, FIA, and SCCA Trans Am and A/Production. Fred hailed from Elmira, New York and raced in the SCCA Northeast region, being highly respected as one of the era’s best independent Corvette racers. Always a front runner, he prepared very competitive Corvettes, and this car was no exception. It was prepared to full L-88 specification with a 650-HP 427 and Muncie M-22 “Rock Crusher” four-speed, and sponsored by VelveTouch. This car contested both SCCA Trans Am and IMSA events as car #26 and #36 respectively with co-drivers Bob Sharp and John Orr. Bob Sharp is known as one of America’s finest drivers over his long career spanning 1960-1976, with 80 race entries at top U.S. events including 17 wins and 33 podiums. He also introduced screen legend Paul Newman to racing in 1971. As a team owner, Sharp’s famous Datsuns dominated IMSA GTU and won numerous races and championships through the 1970s and 1980s. John Orr was a successful SCCA veteran driver from 1967 through 1979, whose early-1970s rides included Robert Luebbe’s ex-Don Yenko/Sunray-DX L-88 Corvette offered here at Pacific Grove.
Given the personnel involved with this Corvette, it is hardly surprising that it placed 2nd in GTO and 4th Overall at the Bryan IMSA three-hour race in September 1972. In November 1972, this Corvette also finished a creditable 5th in GTO and 10th Overall at the season finale IMSA Daytona 250. In 1973, at the Watkins Glen six-hour FIA race, the Corvette finished 10th in the GT class. During the 1973 and 1974 seasons, the car also competed in SCCA Trans-Am at Watkins Glen. Ultimately in 1973, Fred Kepler won the New York Region SCCA A/Production Championship and was invited to compete at the elite-level American Road Race of Champions (AARC) at Road America. However, after leading for the first three laps, the Corvette was classified DNF with brake failure.
In 1974, Fred Kepler sold the Corvette to Tom Rynone, the hard-charging driver who continued to campaign the car in SCCA A/Production, Trans Am and IMSA races. Tom held the SCCA A/Production lap record at Watkins Glen for several years. Co-drivers with Mr. Rynone included Neil and Michael Wiernicki, Mike Oleyar, and David Kicak. Venues included Watkins Glen, Nelson Ledges, Mosport, and Trois-Rivières, with the best result 4th at the August 20, 1977 Mosport Trans-Am.
Eventually, the Corvette was retired following an accident at the FIA July 12, 1981 Watkins Glen 6-Hour. During 2000, Mr. Rynone sold the Corvette to the current owner, who had it totally restored with the frame off to its 1972/73 livery and maintaining many of the suspension components and fine details from the early 1970s. Following completion, the Corvette returned to the track at the invitational 2010 Rolex Monterey Historic Races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, with the owner’s son finishing 2nd to the fastest Porsche 935; next, at Sonoma, he took pole and won class against that same 935. At the 2011 Monterey Historics, this Corvette was awarded a prestigious Monterey Trophy for performance and historic presentation.
Learn more about this beautifully restored, highly documented, and very potent L-88 1968 Corvette here for the full catalogue description and to bid on it, register for the Pacific Grove Auction on the Monterey Peninsula here.