In late 1967, three 1968 model year Chevrolet Corvettes were prepared to L88 specifications and finished in Le Mans Blue for James Garner’s American International Racing team (AIR) to race at Daytona in February. To pick up the three COPO-ordered racers Dick Gulstrand, Bob McDonald and Perry Moore flew out to St. Louis and then drove the cars back to California while doing a little development and setup work, getting pulled over by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, and digging the cars out of snowdrifts on the way back to California.
Gulstrand and McDonald did general prep for the car while TRACO handled setup of the Chevrolet Corvette L88 427. AIR then showed up ready at Daytona with two of the three L88s. This car, number 44, was one of their entries. The AIR Corvettes were classified in FIA Group 3 and made a promising start to the weekend by out-qualifying the Sunray DX and Owens Corning Fiberglass-sponsored Corvettes as well as everything else but the mid-engined prototypes. Number 44 in particular did a 2:04, just ahead of Number 45 with a 2:05.2. It was driven in the race by Dick Gulstrand, Ed Leslie, Scooter Patrick and Dave Jordan. Quite the driver lineup.
In the race, both cars suffered problems of excess heat with their experimental differentials. Number 45 ended up retiring after 262 laps, while Number 44 was classified as 29th in the official results after several unplanned stops to address the faulty differential. Instead of going at Sebring with renewed vigor, AIR sold the Corvettes and went on to Formula A and Can-Am. Number 44 still went on to have quite an active racing career, however, running in A-Production in West Coast SCCA events and in the 1972 American Road Race of Champions at Road Atlanta. It then joined the wife of driver Dave Cormany on the pages of Playboy in 1973.
Number 45 and the third car, first intended for promotional purposes, were both raced and the three L88s reunited for a 1990 feature article in Corvette Restorer Magazine. Today, Number 44 is restored to its AIR specification and appearance and fully prepped for vintage racing. It has been raced six times since being restored, there are four hours on the 427, the tires are new and the brakes have been rebuilt.
The performance of the L88 is legendary, and this one is prepped, proven and usable. Its American International Racing team connection and other racing history only make it more desirable, and at Barrett-Jackson’s already jam-packed Scottsdale auction in January, it’s already a guaranteed highlight.
This 1968 ex-American International Racing team L88 Corvette is available at the upcoming Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale sale, scheduled for January 10-18, 2015.