The world of Corvette collecting is a niche unto itself. But even within that niche, there are pockets of collectors for all types and variations of Corvettes. Some collect by generation. Others like pace cars, anniversary editions, or Grand Sports. You name it and somebody, somewhere, collects it.
For Mark Donnally of Harrodsburg, Kentucky, L88s are the thing.
"I'm an L88 nut," Mark says. "The '67s are too expensive, so I started looking for '68s and '69s. By 1996, I had found eight L88s that suited my needs of being absolutely stock, fully documented, and having won major awards."
The L88 engine is a unique...
The L88 engine is a unique powerplant in many ways, both above and below the valve covers. Per usual, the engine came without ignition shielding and the distributor-mounted vacuum-advance mechanism never had a vacuum-line attachment point. All very special factory stuff.
This car met Mark's requirements and then some.
"I found it in Hemmings," he says. "I went [from Kentucky] to Connecticut to inspect it, and I bought the car on the spot. I was attracted to the side pipes, the color (I like green), and the fact it was so well documented."
This Corvette has two buildsheets-one on the framerail and another glued to the fuel tank. But to find more documentation, Mark would have to do some detective work.
"It took me about a year of searching on the Internet to locate the original owner," Mark says. Alfred R. Eubanks Jr. was the first to experience this L88, and though he owned it only about a year, he made the most of that time. "He raced it extensively in and around the streets of Seattle," Mark adds. "But after a year of associated headaches trying to keep his L88 running, he traded it in for a four-door grocery getter." That was in September 1970, and Eubanks has not seen the car since. But Mark says he plans to rectify that. "I am reuniting him with the car at the NCRS meet in Charlotte in April 2004," he says. "He and I have had a lot of discussions and I've sent him pictures and even some video of the car. He says it is exactly how he remembers it. For example, the car had redline tires when I bought it. They looked good, but of course, that's not how it originally came."
Eubanks has reciprocated, providing Mark with some valuable pieces of documentation, including the bill of sale, pre-delivery sheet, and the Protect-O-Plate, as well background info on the car's history.
"I'm a mid-year guy," he says, "but this is the most special car I've had." That is high praise from a man who once owned Porter Wagner's '67 435 Corvette.
One of this Stingray's most outstanding features is the original side pipes. "Those are carbon-steel GM pipes," Mark says. "There's no aluminum or stainless. To me, they're sexy."
Mark was particular about the qualifications of any L88 he considered buying. This Corvette has been honored as one of the best, both before and after he bought it. It earned Bloomington Gold in 1994, and has been featured in the Bloomington Gold Special Collection, the L88 display at the '03 NCRS Nationals, and the NCRS Gallery III at the '03 Corvettes at Carlisle.
"Not only did it achieve Bloomington Gold and Top Flight, but it scored highly," Mark says. "This is a 98.5 to 99 NCRS (multiple) Top Flight car."
Even though the '69 was well respected when he bought it, Mark wasn't satisfied, and he took what was already a fine restoration to the next level. The original resto was performed by renowned L88 fixer-upper Tim Thorpe of O'Fallon, Illinois. "When I purchased it," Mark says, "It was showing wear and needed a healthy dose of TLC. I took it to Rick Osborne of Coastal Corvettes in Southport, North Carolina, and his impeccable work has resulted in a factory-fresh and correct L88." The redline tires were replaced with blackwalls, the service-date carb was replaced with an original, the cotter keys were bent, and dated F41 rear shocks were added. "Those [shocks] are [almost] impossible to find," Mark says. "You're talking about $2,500 for two [judging] points. Altogether, I've corrected over 300 items on the car.
"I have probably over-restored it a little. It is probably nicer than it was when [Mr. Eubanks] bought it new. But what I am most proud of are all the details I have made correct."
In addition to loving the cars, Mark has found the relationships he has cultivated with other L88 owners to be rewarding as well. "When you go to a show, the L88s are like rock stars," he says. "There is definitely a bond between owners. It's a brotherhood within a brotherhood."
The interior of this L88 is...
The interior of this L88 is perfection right down to the last detail. Of course, no L88 worth its 12.5:1 compression would be complete without the octane warning label applied to the console.
If L88s suffered from one...
If L88s suffered from one weak point, it was the tire science of the time. These radial tires were generally thrown away the first week of ownership in favor of the biggest racing slicks the owner could afford. Considering they had to handle close to 560 hp, these tires were woefully lacking in ability.