By the end of the 1960s, the production vehicle market began to look like the staging lanes for the local drag strip. With big-blocks filling engine bays, thundering out in excess of 450-plus horses on pump gas and store-bought spark plugs, the world of streetable race cars was growing by the day. Chevrolet, with a deadly combination of giant cubic-inch iron blocks and super-lightweight aluminum cylinder heads, began to draw the attention of cruise-in teenagers and corporate execs everywhere. Ford and Chrysler raced neck and neck to keep up, but GM's unbeatable big-block engines and gorgeous, curvaceous styling made the Chevrolet possibly the most alluring auto manufacturer of the time.
By Fall 1967, America was introduced to the newly restyled C3 '69 Stingray, a swooping needle-nosed coupe worthy of the Corvette moniker. The new Vette was widely praised for innovative new lines, interior comforts, and ingenious new devices. But what drew gearheads, racers, and adrenaline junkies more than anything else was the promise of the famous L88 performance option's return. Debuting on only 20 cars for the '67 model year and 80 the next, the '69 production year vowed a greater count of the ever-growing monstrous big-block, frills-free Corvette. The '69 L88 was a hefty add-on to the already elite pricing, mostly due to the gargantuan powerplant residing under the bulging, louvered hood.
These cars were built to race-not cruise the boulevard or wander down side streets on the way to church on a lazy Sunday morning. These solid-lift cammed, torque-machines were bred to evaporate the tires, smearing Posi burns down the asphalt, so nobody expects to find them in any sort of unmolested condition. When Harold Metz Jr. of McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania, watched this '69 L88 appear on eBay and be passed over, he couldn't believe his eyes. Harold has owned some of the best the Bow Ties had to offer, including a Super Sport 396 Chevelle, a Z28 Camaro, and a handful of Corvettes-including dual '67 big-block 427s.
Once it was pulled off auction, Harold chased it down. A trip to Chicago put him face to face with the Cortez Silver coupe. Amazingly, the body had never been hit or rubbed on a guardrail, and all the original ripples were still visible. Often with restorations, the car comes out looking better than when it left the factory. That's not the case with this L88-it's all original, a survivor. Although the car was lifted from its chassis in 2002, negating the Bloomington Gold definition of Survivor, the paint and interior still remain untouched since the work was on the running gear and suspension.
The engine was taken apart and refreshed carefully, so as not to alter the parts or components. Even the stock 12.5-to-1 pistons were returned to the stock block after everything was thoroughly cleaned and coated. The stock L88 forged 5140 crank was put back in place with 4340 steel rods that were shot peened and magnafluxed. The Winters L88 aluminum heads and intake manifold were treated with the same care. The engine mated perfectly with the Muncie M22 while the correct 9.20 bias-ply tires wrapped around the Rally rims.
Harold didn't have to worry about the labor since the car's current condition is the same as he found it. He simply had to write the check-with the okay from his wife.
The car is pampered, existing in the lap of retirement luxury, as is the way with most number's-matching, uber-rare Corvettes. Receiving accolades from Bloomington Gold and NCRS, including the coveted Top Flight Award, this L88 gets the opportunity to stretch its legs every now and again, Harold admits. He might not be tearing up the concourse or side-stepping some hairpin turns, but he does like to give the gas pedal a little goose now and again-just a reminder for the fearsome powerplant.
Harold Metz's '69 L88
Corvette by the Numbers
Transmission: M22 4-Speed Muncie
Engine Code suffix: LO
Casting No. 3963512
Casting No. 3946074 (Aluminum)
Intake/Exhaust Valve Size: 2.19/1.88
Combustion Chamber: 118.00
Intake Manifold (Aluminum)
Casting No. 3933198
Holley 4-BBL No. 3955205
List No. 4296
Casting (Left Hand) No. 3880827
Casting (Right Hand) No. 3880828
Stamping No. 1111927
Housing: Cast-iron external adjustment
Point: Mag Pulse
Notes: Tach drive, special vacuum unit
1100882, 61-Amp, 2nd production
4-Speed M22 Close Ratio Muncie
Extension Housing: Aluminum
Type: Synchromesh, all forward gears
Maincase Casting No. 3925660
Extension Housing Casting No. 3857584
Sidecover Casting No. 3950306
Special Information: In 1969, M22 production went up on all models except the passenger cars.
M22 Option Production Corvette: 101
1969 Rear Axles
All 1969 Corvette rear axles are stamped with an alpha-numeric identification code. The 7-digit code contains the axle code prefix, the month and day build code, an axle plant letter suffix code, and, on positraction axles, a letter code stamped below the axle code to provide source information. (Some Chevrolet documentation shows McKinnon Industries as a rear axle source, but Metz's has not been verified.)
On the 1969 Corvette IRS rear suspension, the differential code is stamped on the bottom of the differential carrier housing just forward of the rear end cover. The axle code reads from left to right. The two-letter prefix designates the gear ratio and any other specific information about the axle. The calendar month is designated by a two-number code from January (01) through December (12)
G =Detroit Gear & Axle
B =Buffalo, NY
K =McKinnon Industries (unverified)
W =Warren, Michigan
D =Dana posi-traction
E =Eaton posi-traction differential
W =Warren Motive
Example: AL-04 09 W E
AL=Axle Prefix: 3.08:1 Corvette standard positraction axle
09=Day: 9th day
W=Assembly Plant: Warren
E=Posi-traction Source: Eaton
|1969 CORVETTE REAR AXLE CODES |
|Gear Ratio ||Code |
|3.36:1 ||AK |
|Posi 3.08:1 ||AL |
|Posi 3.36:1 ||AM |
|Posi 3.55:1 ||AN |
|Posi 3.70:1 ||AO |
|Posi 4.11:1 ||AP |
|3.70:1 ||AS |
|Heavy Duty Posi 3.08:1 ||AT |
|Heavy Duty Posi 3.36:1 ||AU |
|Posi 3.08:1 ||AV |
|Heavy Duty Posi 3.08:1 ||AW |
|Heavy Duty Posi 2.73:1 ||AY |
|Heavy Duty Posi 3.55:1 ||AZ |
|Heavy Duty Posi 3.70:1 ||FA |
|Heavy Duty Posi 4.11:1* ||FB |
|Posi 4.56:1 ||FC |
This 1969 Corvette used this rear axle ratio.
From Corvette By The Numbers by Alan Colvin, published in 2002, used with permission of Robert Bentley Publishers.