Car of the Week: This Ultra-Rare 1967 Corvette Sting Ray Could Fetch More Than $3 Million at Auction

Robert Ross

Mon, November 20, 2023 at 8:00 AM EST

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In the world of collectible Corvettes, there is rare, and then there is rare. In its day, the biggest, most powerful Corvette engine of them all was the L88, offered from 1967 to 1969. Model examples equipped with that mill are iconic but elusive beasts, and it’s the 1967 coupe—the final year of the classic C2 Sting Ray—that tops the charts. Just 20 examples fit with the L88 engine option were made for that model year, and of those, only one was delivered in Rally Red with a red interior. On January 13, that car will be one of the headliners at the annual Mecum Auctions’ sale in Kissimmee, Fla., of which we attended the 2022 edition.

In 1967, a Corvette buyer could select from an arm’s-length list of options. Of the 22,940 Corvettes built that year (8,504 coupes and 14,436 convertibles), 13,217 were ordered with a 327 ci “small block” V-8 engine. Producing either 300 hp or 350 hp, depending on tune, it’s a delightful engine that really is the best way to enjoy a C2 on the street. Customers who had to have a “big block”—9,723 of them—ordered a raucous 427 ci V-8 that made either 390 hp, 400 hp, or 435 hp (if fitted with three two-barrel Rochester carburetors, called the Tri-Power option).

A 1967 Corvette Sting Ray.
This 1967 Corvette Sting Ray will be one of the headliners at the Mecum Auctions sale in Kissimmee, Fla.

Though not designed to drive on the street, this L88-powered ‘Vette looks like any other big-block C2 coupe—until you open the hood. That’s when the real differences become apparent. It has the first cowl-induction engine on a production car, and uses an aluminum small-block radiator with no fan shroud, which means the car has to keep moving fast to avoid overheating.

Built to race, it has no power steering either. The L88 engine uses lightweight heads with bigger ports, a hotter camshaft, and a Holley four-barrel carburetor. It features a 12.5:1 compression ratio that demands 103-octane race fuel, and while official output is 430 hp, it really makes closer to 560 hp at 6,400 rpm.

The L88 engine inside a 1967 Corvette Sting Ray.
The car’s L88 engine uses lightweight heads with bigger ports, a hotter camshaft, and a Holley four-barrel carburetor.

The four-speed Muncie M22 “rock crusher” transmission has square-cut gears that were stronger than other options of the day, but are a chore to shift and noisy enough to give the transmission its name. Mandatory options for the L88 package included a Positraction rear end, a transistorized ignition, a heavy-duty suspension, and power brakes. The vehicle did not include a radio or heater in order to reduce weight and discourage use on public roads.

Configured with a smaller diameter clutch and flywheel, the fast-revving, high-compression engine was a common casualty on the track. Indeed, this example has a correct replacement service engine that was installed in period, and it’s believed that only one remaining 1967 L88 retains its original, “born-with” engine.

The red interior of a 1967 Corvette Sting Ray.
Of the 20 Corvette Sting Rays fit with the L88 engine option in 1967, only this one was delivered in Rally Red with a red interior.

The L88 option also added $1,500 to the Corvette’s price of $4,240.75, perhaps the main reason why only 20 were ordered in 1967. According to Tom Hill, the retired GM executive and caretaker of the consignor’s collection from which this car is offered, only 16 examples are still known to exist. Restored in the 1990s by the Houston-based Naber Brothers and showing 11,975 miles on it, the automobile (serial No. 194377S115791) crossing the auction block has earned four Bloomington Gold and four NCRS awards, and still presents as new.

For any collector car, documentation is key, but especially so when rare options like the L88 engine can so greatly affect its value. This example is accompanied by its tank sticker, the equivalent of a birth certificate, which was first used on Corvettes for the 1967 model year. While not as comprehensive as the build sheet, the sticker identifies specific option codes ordered for the car as it rolled along the assembly line.

A 1967 Corvette Sting Ray.
This example is accompanied by its tank sticker, the equivalent of a birth certificate.

Glued to the top of the fuel tank, few tank stickers have survived, but according to Hill, “This tank sticker is in pretty decent shape. A lot of them, if they can be safely removed from the top of the gas tank, are usually faded or damaged or all in bits and pieces. The stickers from coupes are usually in better condition, since the convertibles tend to expose them much more to the elements. Luckily, this one is well preserved.” Such documentation is exactly what you want to have for a car that could bring in excess of $3 million.

Click here for more photos of this rare 1967 Corvette Sting Ray.

A 1967 Corvette Sting Ray.