As the horsepower and cubic
inches race escalated in 1965,
Zora Duntov knew that it would be only a matter of time before he
had to place the Mark IV big block engine in his beloved Corvette.
With the availability of the Cobra with either a street or full race version
of Ford's 427 side oiler early in '65, the decision was made for
the option of the big block Chevrolet engine for the Corvette.
The 396 cubic inch version was available with 425 horses
in the Spring of '65. But it was not enough!!
In order for the Corvette to
remain the King, it was necessary
for it to have a better power to weight ratio than the 427 racing Cobra.
More horse power was needed. In the fall of'65, a special
high performance engine code named L-88 was developed, but it needed to be
tested to see if it would be a worthwhile option for the Corvette.
As mentioned in the Grand Sport article, the first assembly line built
Corvette with the L-88 was delivered to Roger Penske.
Special care was given to this red car in St. Louis, and at the end of
the assembly line, the car was met by it's first driver...... Dick Guldstrand!!!
As some assembly line workers
stood by, Dick fired up the L88 car
and found that it was content to idle at 1500 RPMS. It was winter in St. Louis,
and without a heater in this L88 Corvette, Dick found that some blankets
were necessary for the drive to Pennsylvania and Roger Penske's shop.
With its early introduction, the L-88 was originally rated at 425 horsepower.
Duntov completed the
homologation papers for this L88 engine and for
some other competition modifications such as cowl induction
hood modification, oil coolers and fender modifications to name a few.
All required preparation work was performed at Rogers shop in
Newton Square Pennsylvania, and after some shoveling out of snow, the team
headed down to Daytona for the 1966 running of the 24 Hours of Daytona.
Roger was able to strike a one race only sponsorship deal with Sunoco,
so with their help a good pit crew was available as well. Sunoco 260 was the fuel of choice.
To make a long story short.....
after being placed under the microscope
of the Daytona inspectors, after the hassle of getting the Sunoco 260 into
a track which was dominated by Pure petroleum, after rear-ending a slower car
at night and tearing off half the front end, this first L-88 managed to finish
first in it's GT class!!