1968 Corvette Art Prints
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Restored famous old race cars have become hot commodities. The Corvette world was rocked in August 2008 when the Grady Davis Gulf One 1962 Corvette race car sold for a staggering $1,485,000. Six months later Davis’ ‘63 Z06 Gulf One sold for $1,050,000. So in August ‘12 it was surprising that the Owens Corning Fiberglas ‘68 L88 Corvette was a NO SALE when bidding stopped at $730,000. at the RM Monterey Auction. The #12 OCF Corvette has an astonishing record, and the team of Tony Delorenzo and Jerry Thompson were equally impressive. Tony was the son of GM executive John DeLorenzo and Jerry was a GM engineer. The two men honed their skills on Corvettes and Corvairs before they co-drove the Hanley Dawson Chevrolet-sponsored ‘67 L88 Corvette at Sebring and Daytona in ‘67. DeLorenzo pitched Hanley Dawson to sponsor a new ‘68 L88, but since all ‘68 L88 Corvettes was spoken for, they built their own. DeLorenzo later said, “Avoid this.”
The ‘68 L88 was first raced at the ‘68 Daytona race as part of Don Yenko’s 3-car DX team consisting of one ‘67 L88 Coupe and two “built” ‘68 L88s The ‘67 L88 won the GT class, but the “built” ‘68 L88s ate up nearly every rotating part in the chassis. With help from Duntov, the team sorted out the problems. Midway through the ‘68 season, DeLorenzo wrote a sponsorship proposal to Owens Corning Fiberglas that Dolly Cole (GM president Ed Cole’s wife) delivered to Owens Corning Fiberglas chairman and retired USAF General Curtis LeMay saying, “Curtis, I think you should help these boys.” What a better way to promote “fiberglass” than with a fire-breathing, hot-looking racing Corvette? But sponsorship money doesn’t mean easy sailing. The car was so banged up at Daytona and Watkins Glen, that the frame had to be replaced twice. After a crash at the Glen a crowd stole all the bodywork! At the end of the season the ‘67 L88 was replaced with a new factory-built ‘69 L88. The two-car team raced in the SCCA A/Production and FIA GT series. While racing in two series, the team won 22 races in a row, with car #12 winning 11 times from ‘69 to ‘71! The team’s most spectacular race was the ‘71 24 Hours at Daytona. This was the fourth time they had competed in the 24-hour event and were by then seasoned pros.
To prep for the race, both cars were sent to Logghe Stamping for the full roll-cage treatment. A team of 20 men, including drivers Thompson, DeLorenzo, Don Yenko, and John Mahler, the two Corvettes, parts, tools, and two rented mobil homes made the trip to Florida from Michigan. Competition in the GT class consisted of 914-6 and 911T Porsches, as well as the Corvettes of Dave Heinz and John Greenwood. Thompson qualified #1, DeLorenzo #2, and Greenwood #3, ahead of a few 917 Porsches and a 312P Ferrari.
Endurance races aren’t just about preparation and speed, luck plays a big part. Two hours and 45-minutes into the race, OCF Corvette #12 broke a timing chain and was out or the race. At 9 pm Don Yenko, driving #11, pitted to replace the voltage regulator and alternator. By noon the following day, after many cars dropped out, the OCF team found themselves in 5th place overall, first in the GT class, and 36 laps ahead of the Heinz Rebel Corvette. Tony DeLorenzo got the last driving stint and to take the win in the GT class and 4th place overall! While the team thought they would party like it was New Years Eve 1999, after 30-plus hours with no sleep, their celebration went off with a whimper.
When the OCF sponsorship expired, DeLorenzo and Thompson sold off the cars, but it wasn’t off to pasture for #12. The car had seven more owners and was raced in SCCA, Trans-Am, and IMSA events until ‘89. Owner number seven, Budd Hickey had the car restored in 2000 and then shown at the ‘02 Pebble Beach Concours for the celebration of the Corvette’s 50th anniversary. The car also appeared at “Chips Choice” in ‘07, at Amelia Island Concours in ‘08, and Quail Motorsports events. In ‘09 #12 was on display at the National Corvette Museum’s Hall of Fame as part of Jerry Thompson and Tony DeLorenzo’s induction into the Hall of Fame. Will the Owens Corning Fiberglas #12 Corvette eventually be back on the auction block? Odds are, yes. - KST
In March ‘65 Bill Mitchell showed GM’s upper management his new Mako Shark II. After the attendees got their breath back, the first question was probably, “When can we have it?” Publicity photos were made and the non-running Mako Shark II was shipped off to New York City for the 9th Annual International Automobile Show, then to the New York World’s Fair. Meanwhile, two orders were given: build a running prototype, and begin work on a production version. Unbelievably, GM management wanted the new design to be a ‘67 model! That meant only 18 months to design and develop the car.
By October ‘65 the running Mako Shark II was complete and shown to the press, then shipped off to the Paris Auto Show. The running Mako II used a 427 big-block and was festooned with every imaginable special feature. It was a classic GM Motorama-type dream show car designed to stoke the press and Corvette fans. Hot Rod Magazine put the car on the December ‘65 cover with the headline, “Is This The ‘67 Corvette?” This was VERY exciting stuff!
Meanwhile, engineers and stylists discovered that translating the Mako II into a mass-produced car that buyers could live with was a major challenge. By the time Larry Shinoda was promoted to Chief Designer at Chevrolet Studio 3 in April ‘66, it was obvious that the car needed another year, but should have been given two.
The new Corvette used the existing frame and running gear, so it seemed that designing a new body and interior wouldn’t take too long. Early clay studies used much of the Mako II design elements, but aerodynamic problems quickly surfaced. A ‘65 Corvette needed 155-HP to hit 120-mph, whereas the initial clay design needed 210-HP and lifted the car at both ends with increased speeds. Although the front looked low, there was a lot air going under the car. Plus, the sexy rear spoiler was pushing the back end down, which made the front rise even more.
Then there was the visibility issue from inside the car. The front fender humps were trimmed the rear spoiler reduced to a subtle lip. To improve rear visibility the roof line was changed and the center beltline was raised to maintain the front grille proportion and add a slight air dam. And to reduce front lift, vents were added to the front fenders. New tests showed that only 105-HP was needed to push to 120-mph and the front end lift was reduced from 2-1/4-inches to just 5/8’s of-an-inch. A solid coupe makes any car more rigid, so a t-bar was added to the roof section to keep the body as stiff as possible and still offer the quasi-convertible feature. The interior had its challenges too, as the seats had a 33-degree angle, whereas the Sting Ray’s seats were a more upright 25-degree angle.
The car was completed for the ‘68 release but wasn’t really finished. Before the summer press preview it was discovered that the big-block cars had a overheating problem. Duntov’s quick-fix was to cut two slots ahead of the air dam and doubled the depth of the chin spoiler for increased radiator airflow. The big-blocks ran hot but didn’t overheat. Compared to the Sting Ray, the new car added 100-pounds, was 7-inches longer, the front/rear track was wider, the width was the same, and the height 2-inches lower. The stylists and designers were happy with the translation from show car to the production car, although the interior and trunk was smaller.
The press preview were very well, but when production cars arrived, it wasn’t pretty. The December ‘67 issue of Car and Driver thrashed the car and canceled the road test because their 2000-mile test car was literally falling apart. Body panels were too loose or too tight, the fiberglass was wavy, doors and locks were stiff. There were rattles, water leaks, a loud resonance at idle, an overheating engine, and other problems - 48 in total. Later when they tested an improved 400-hp 427 model they commented, “A brilliant car with all the virtues and vices of an American car.” Car Life said, “Who needs LSD with something like this to get high on?” It seemed that Motor Trend’s “Sports Car of the Year” was a little premature.
Perhaps buyers didn’t catch Car and Driver’s scathing initial review. By the end of the ‘68 run, a new Corvette sales record was set with 28,566 units sold - 9,936 coupes and 18,630 convertibles. At $4,663 for the coupe and $4320 for the convertible, the $275 and $80 respective price increases seemed like a bargain for such an exotic-looking Corvette. Had the ‘67 model been carried over as a ‘68 model to allow more time to groom the car, would it had sold 28,566 units? Probably not. But it was not something Chevrolet would ever try again. - KST
By September 1967, Corvette fans had been teased for 2-1/2 years with the promise of a new Vette. Chevrolet and Bill Mitchell had been showing off the Mako Shark II and everyone was expecting some sort of "shark" Corvette. When the wraps came off, it wasn't quite the Mako Shark, but it was definitely a Corvette, and Chevrolet was taking orders.
Almost from the beginning, there have been those at Chevrolet who wanted the Corvette to be "something else." Along the way there have been proposals to soften the Corvette, add a back seat, and to use steel for the body. The Astro I proposed using an opposed, flat-six, Corvair engine. Fortunately, this was one for the history books.
Almost from the beginning, racing has made the Corvette a living legend. Sports car development in the 1960s was explosive, and at the cutting edge was the Ford GT40 and the Chevrolet-backed Chaparral, both using a mid-engine layout. The Astro II (XP-880) was the first of several experimental, mid-engine Corvettes that kicked off years of exotic sports car anticipation.
By the late '60s, automotive stylists and engineers were seriously looking at aerodynamics. Race cars were using all sorts of exotic wings and spoilers. Even hot street cars were using chin spoilers and rear deck spoilers or wings. C2 Corvettes always had a front end lift problem at high speeds. The new '68 Corvette had a small chin spoiler and a slight up-lip at the back end, but the car still had lift problems.