Motorcar Studio ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
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Although General Motors has built more than 1.75 million Corvettes since 1953, not all are created equal. it Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible Day 1969 The auction presented at RM Sotheby’s upcoming Phoenix auction is unlike any other. That’s because this fiberglass-bodied two-seater roadster known as the ZL1 packs a stunning all-aluminum 427 cubic-inch (7.0-liter) big-block V8 engine. Only two examples were released to the public to receive this engine ready for competition, this being an open-air body only. It is expected to sell for between 2.5 to 3 million euros,
a very special block
The ZL1 engine is responsible for the very high rating. It is a lighter, more refined block of the powerful all-iron L88 big-block V8 found in other more expensive Corvettes of the time. In addition to the aluminum block and cylinder heads, the ZL1 featured upgraded pistons, stronger connecting rods, a reworked crankshaft, and a higher-lift camshaft. Every ZL1 has an additional four bolts on the cylinder heads to help hold things together. GM claimed a power output of 430bhp, a figure that is hard to believe as later testing revealed that the open chamber version was in fact It was getting close to 560 horsepower. This made the ZL1 the most powerful engine produced by GM up to that time., And it was also the lightest, weighing less than a comparable iron small-block V8.
The ZL1 was designed as a homologation experiment for the FIA and NHRA, and was never intended to be sold to the public., This powerplant was also installed in a limited run Camaro for NHRA drag racing. Only 69 examples were built, corresponding to the 1969 model year, under Head Office Production Order (COPO) 9560. Naturally, they are considered some of the most desirable and collectible Camaros ever made.
a major outlay
Those who wanted an L88 to drive their Corvette in 1969 had to shell out over a thousand dollars extra, which was close to five thousand over the model’s cost at the time. Therefore, it is not surprising that only 200 customers chose this option. With regard to the ZL1, it was necessary to first mount the L88, and then add an additional three thousand dollars. The nearly $5,000 option package nearly doubled the Corvette’s base price,
The ZL1 package also does not include luxuries such as radio, heater, air conditioning, power windows, power steering, and fan shrouds., However, all the drives connected to this particular block were later covered with a fan due to overheating issues. It also brought some performance parts which affected the suspension setup.
Returning to the hero of this story, this is the first Corvette equipped with the engine described, the original owner being John W. Maher of Leechburg, Pennsylvania, who purchased it in December 1968 from Harold Breman’s West Penn Garage. According to RM Sotheby’s, the decision was made after Maher’s friend Don Yenko talked to him about the experimental ZL1 engine., Maher was interested in the fact that the engine could be mated to GM’s M40 automatic transmission, which was perfect for drag racing.
After taking delivery of the car in early 1969, Maher would campaign the Corvette ZL1 in various drag racing, hill climb, and autocross events. Often, he turned to L88 engines supplied by Gulf Research to preserve his beloved V8. The most recent restoration took place in 2014 at the hands of Kevin Mackey and Corvette Repair. It certainly looks better than it did in 1969.
Will it exceed 3 million?
Combine this car’s history, rarity, and condition, and its seven-figure estimated price is nothing short of shocking. This is the first time in 30 years that a ZL1-powered Corvette has been offered for public sale., and only once has it been offered in a convertible format. The RM Sotheby’s auction in Arizona will take place next Thursday, January 26, 2023. If it reaches the aforementioned estimate, this unit would become the third most expensive Corvette ever sold. That title currently belongs to a 1967 L88-powered coupe that sold for $3.85 million. One would think that an original ZL1 has the ingredients needed to surpass this.