A look-see of Larry’s Big-Block Sting Rays and his C3 ’68 427/435 L89 Big-Block
Dateline: 12-9-22 – This story was first published in the October 2022 issue of Vette Vues as part of their ongoing “Reader’s Rides” series of stories. Last month we told you about Larry Lipsitz’s beautiful collection of vintage performance Corvettes. When Larry Lipsitz started planning his Corvette collection, he wanted the best of the best “performance” optioned Corvettes. Each of the four Corvettes in Larry’s collection represents, from a performance perspective, the Best of that year’s offering.
This month we’ll look closely at Larry’s 1965 L79 396/425 big-block Corvette Convertible, his 1967 427/437 L71 big-block Corvette Coupe, and his 1968 L89 427/435 big-block Corvette Coupe with lightweight aluminum heads. Let’s start in chronological order.
1965 L78 396/427 Corvette Sting Ray Convertible
1965 was the end of one era and the beginning of another. From 1957 to 1965 the Fuelie was the toughest stock Corvette you could buy. But in 1962, Chevrolet started work on a replacement for the W-Block 348/402/427 truck engines. The new Mark IV engines were bigger and stronger than the small-block engine. Although Duntov didn’t like the added weight, he sure liked the horsepower and torque.
The new 396 big-block arrived in the spring of 1965 and was the performance option of the year! The L84 327/375-horsepower Fuelie was a $538 option, whereas the L78 396/425-horsepower big-block only cost $292! Engineers discovered that cubic-inches were the least expensive way to get more power.
By the close of the year, Chevrolet sold 2,157 396 Corvettes. Big-Block 1965 and 1966 Corvettes all have the revised hood design with a large center bulge needed to clear the taller engine and functional vents on the sides. In all, the big-clock weighed about 200-pounds more than the small-block Corvette.
Larry is only the car’s second owner and says, “It’s a keeper!” The 396 Vette was originally purchased in 1965 in San Luis, California by a doctor. The car was originally Silver Pearl, but the doctor had it repainted red. When the doctor passed, in 1984 his widow sold the car, and for four years was exchanged between dealers, but untitled.
Dealer Steve Shambaugh, from Indiana, did a full restoration and returned the paint back to Silver Pearl. After the restoration, the Sting Ray made a few more rounds with dealers. Finally, in 1988 Larry Lipsitz became the 396 ’65 Corvette’s second titled owner.
When Larry visited John Denos Corvette Unlimited and saw the 1965 Corvette, it was love at first sight. Larry went there to buy a ’67 427/435 survivor but just couldn’t get the ’65 off his mind. So, a week later he got both. The ’65 396 L78 has an interesting array of options, that include; L78 396 engine; Power Brakes; F40 Special Front and Rear Suspension; Leather Interior; Teak Steering Wheel; Off-Road Exhaust, and a Radio Delete, one of 1,449 in 1965. Plus, 65,000 original miles!
Larry reports that other than a few parts that just wore out, the car was well-built and maintained by the previous owners, and never hit, or abused. In 1989 Larry switched to safer radial tires and in the same year received his Bloomington Gold Certification with a 96.1% rating. None of Larry’s Corvettes are trailer queens; each is driven at least once a month. In 1991 Larry took a blast down the 1320 and was clocked an impressive 13.38-seconds at 106-mph. Quarter-mile sprints are a thing of the past these days for Larry’s 396 ’65 Corvette.
1967 L71 427/435 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe
Many consider the 1967 Corvette to be the “finished” Sting Ray. Thanks to new side vents and the killer-looking Randy Wittine-designed Stinger hood. Total sales for the ’67 Corvette dipped to 22,940 cars, as opposed to the then-record high of 27,720 cars for 1966. Of the 22,940 ’67 Corvettes, 3,754 were ordered with the L71 427/435 street-beast. The price of the top-dog engine option was now up to $437 from the $312 427 version from 1966.
Larry’s 1967 L71 Sting Ray Coupe was ordered new from Kendle Brothers Chevrolet, in Winesburg, Ohio by sixteen-year-old Dale Kaufman. The young man quickly realized the Corvette was more car than he was ready for and got a Camaro instead. So Dale’s drag racer older brother Aden bought the car. Aden’s dad helped him out by having the car titled in dad’s name for insurance purposes.
As ordered, the Corvette was loaded for bear and included: L71 427/435 engine; Four-Speed Close-Ratio manual transmission, a 3.70:1 Posi rear, the F41 Performance Suspension, a Transistor Ignition, and an AM/FM radio. No soft frills or creature comforts, just performance hardware. Aden installed then-trendy America Mags shod with Denman tires and reported that with the 3.70:1 gears, he could “only” do 138-miles-per-hour, and could out-run any cop in northern Ohio. Big-block Corvettes can be challenging daily drivers, so by 1970, and 24,000-miles later, Aden decided to sell the car.
Owner #2 was a policman in Dover, Ohio. The cop didn’t drive the Corvette much, mostly for busts and undercover work. Jim Hamilton, owner #3 flipped the car to fund a real-estate venture. Owner #4 was drag racer Art Ward. For years, Art stored the Corvette in Bob Skidmore’s garage and did nothing with it. The Sting Ray finally went under a nine-year restoration starting in 1989 by 4 Kix Restoration. By 1998 Skidmore sold the 427 Corvette to get a 1996 Grand Sport.
Owner #5 was Thomas Cronk, from Denver, Colorado. who put new tires on the car, drove 50-to-100-miles, and sold it at the 1998 Kruse Auction in Arizona to Nick Bigioni, a big-time muscle car collector in Canada. Nick kept the car for four years , and won a NCRS Top Flight award. Nick decided to find a new home for the Corvette and Larry had an L88 Corvette. Since Nick wanted an L88, they worked out a cash and swap for Larry’s L88 for Nick’s ’67 427/435 L71.
Like Larry’s ’65 Corvette, his ’67 Sting Ray is complete and has never been hit. What Larry liked about the car, aside from its timeless beauty, was that it was complete, had 43,000 real mileage on the odometer, and had a great tank sticker to verify the car’s authenticity. It also had the original motor and drivetrain and sat unused for 15-to-20 years. Since owning the car, aside from regular maintenance and tires, the Sting Ray runs great.
For many Corvette owners, there comes a time when the car is no longer practical, and they are sold or traded in. But oftentimes, the owners never forget their Vette. Larry hired the services of Corvette detective Billy Gould who was able to locate Aden Kaufman, the original owner. After all those years, Aden still had all of the car’s original paperwork, including; the original dealer invoice with the salesman’s calling card still attached; the original instruction and radio manuals; and period photos of the car in 1967. In 2010 Larry met Aden, who was thrilled to see his old 427 Sting Ray looking so good. He even got to drive the car again!
For a long time, Larry just drove and enjoyed his Sting Ray. In 2012 Larry had Corvette restorer Tim Thorpe performed another body-off restoration that included new carpets and seat covers. Tim also corrected a few things from the previous body-off restoration. After the second restoration, Larry scored a Bloomington Gold OEM Award Award. Like all of Larry’s Corvettes, he drives the ’67 once-a-month on a 5-to-10-mile radius route, with the L71 drinking 105-octane fuel, just for fun.
1968 L89 427/435 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe
The L88 racing engine is legendary, but what’s an L89? Simple, take an 427/435 L71, give it 39043392 aluminum heads, and 72-pounds comes off the front end of the Corvette. But, it was going to cost you. The all cast iron 427/435 cost $437, if saving weight was important to you, the L89 cost $805; that’s $368 extra! The L89 option was available from 1967 to 1969, and was the ultimate setup for a factory-built street Corvette.
The Corvette Bronze 1968 L89 Coupe‘s first owner was 22-year-old body-builder Joe Arizzi. In the body-building world, Joe was “Mr. Maryland”, “Mr. Virginia”, and “Mr. Greater Baltimore”, and he was very active in the Baltimore Hot Rod Club. Joe bought the car, but his dad, the Superintendent of the Trim Division at the Baltimore factory, ordered the car to get his son a nice employee discount.
When Joe ordered the car, he loaded it up with performance options, that included: the 427/435 L89 with Aluminum Heads; Power Brakes; AM/FM Radio; Tinted Glass; Speed Warning, Off Road Exhaust, F42 Special Front & Rear Suspension; and 4.11:1 gearing.
Joe passed at a young age. When the second owner, Harry Able, from Erial, New Jersey bought the car in 1984 with only 13,000-miles, the car was looking tired and had been stored in a small garage with a dirt floor and garden tools, wearing a 1976 inspection sticker. After eight years of being improperly stored, the carburetors were gummed up, and the seals and gaskets were dried out.
Harry got the car running and in 1988 decided to do a full body-off restoration. Projects such as this can take a long time. By 1991 Harry had the paintwork completed and the body back on the chassis, but it wasn’t until 2004 that Harry got back to his restoration project. As the car had never been hit, it only needed a refresh. The shocks and suspension bushings were replaced; new exhaust and seals were installed; the brakes were refreshed; new weather stripping was installed, and the bumpers were re-chromed.
Harry kept everything else original; all the hoses, gauges, seat covers, and even the carpeting. The ’68 L89 Corvette had not been on the road in 28 years! When the third owner, Terry Schimmel, from Macungie, Pennsylvania bought the car, it was practically new. But from 2007 to 2010 Terry only put 100 miles on the car.
On March 24, 2010, Larry Lipsitz became owner #4 of the 42-year-old L89 with only 13,800 miles on the odometer. For an added layer of verification, the L89 also had a clean build sheet listing all of the options installed on the car. This was exactly the Shark Corvette that Larry was looking for; low miles, a complete ownership record, and an unmolested ’68 Corvette. He met Bloomington Judge, Paul Nobel at Terry’s house to verify the car. Once he saw it in the garage, he knew he had to have it.
Since owning the car Larry replaced the original Firestone F70x15 bias-ply tires with replica Coker radials and had the carbs rebuilt. In 2011 Larry entered his ’68 L89 into NCRS Top Flight Award.
Larry says that it drives like it’s 1969 all over again and that you just bought a one-year-old car. It’s by far the best-performing Corvette that he has ever owned because it is pretty much all-original.
Each of Larry Lipsitz’s classic performance Corvettes have at times, spent long periods of non-use. Classic performance Corvettes don’t make for good daily drivers; they want to “run”! Each of Larry Corvettes represents the top of the feeding chain for their day. Each car is a thoroughbred, designed to run hard. While Larry’s Corvettes have all had prior owners, he has no plans to sell any of his Corvettes.
Zora Arkus-Duntov considered all Corvette buyers to be “his customers” and wanted them to “drive and enjoy” their Corvette. Larry makes sure each of his Corvettes is driven with “enthusiasm” at least once-a-month. As they should be! – Scott