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Corvette - America's Star-Spangled Sports Car by Karl Ludvigsen - Chapter 34: 1967 and L88 Origins

Corvette - America's Star-Spangled Sports Car by Karl Ludvigsen - Chapter 34: 1967 and L88 Origins

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Published by Bentley Publishers
An excerpt from Corvette - America's Star-Spangled Sports Car by Karl Ludvigsen. In Chapter 34: 1967 and L88 Origins, Ludvigsen discusses the roots of what many consider to be the ultimate Corvette: the 1967 L88 Stingray with its powerful, track-ready V8 engine. For more information on this Corvette history book, visit http://www.bentleypublishers.com/product.htm?code=gcss
An excerpt from Corvette - America's Star-Spangled Sports Car by Karl Ludvigsen. In Chapter 34: 1967 and L88 Origins, Ludvigsen discusses the roots of what many consider to be the ultimate Corvette: the 1967 L88 Stingray with its powerful, track-ready V8 engine. For more information on this Corvette history book, visit http://www.bentleypublishers.com/product.htm?code=gcss

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Published by: Bentley Publishers on Apr 17, 2014
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468THE 1967-MODEL
 Corvette was not meant to be. That is, it was not supposed to appear in the guise in which it actually came to market. An entirely new body had been set for introduction that year but was postponed for a twelve-month period. In both styling and specifications the ’67 was an interim model, as reflected also by the 17.2-percent drop in production for its model year to 22,940 cars from the record set by the 1966 model.External factors played a part in this shift in demand. The Sting Ray was no longer a sensational novelty. As well, the market was awash with afford-able sporty cars that offered big engines and thrusting performance. The founder of the “Ponycar” category in 1964, Ford’s Mustang, was soon joined by Mercury’s Cougar. Late in 1967 American Motors would crash the party with its Javelin. Plymouth, which had been active from 1964 with its Barracuda, upgraded its entry in 1967. Dodge came aboard later with its Challenger.Most crucial for the Corvette was its new in-house competition. Chevrolet offered not only its Camaro but also its Corvair, which would mature in 1965 with a rear suspension like the Sting Ray’s and 180 turbo-charged horsepower. Indeed, some in Design Staff’s Studio X, like engineer Tony Lapine, saw in the Corvair the nucleus of a sports car that could and should replace the Corvette.Then there was thrusting Pontiac, next up the corporation’s ladder from Chevrolet. Pontiac, in fact, craved to challenge the Corvette’s role as GM’s only sports car. “We desperately wanted a two-passenger sports car,” admitted Bill Collins, who headed Pontiac’s hyperactive Advanced Engineering Department. “Design Staff assigned the XP-833 designation and to-gether a really neat car was designed, engineered and two driveable prototypes built.“In those days the GM divisions were unique kingdoms of their own,” Collins explained, “and we had the freedom to do interesting things as long as it wasn’t interfering with production and we didn’t spend a lot of money on it.” First presented as a con-cept in 1964, when Pete Estes was Pontiac’s general manager and John DeLorean its chief engineer, the  XP-833 would have been on the market in 1967. It
1967 AND L88 ORIGINS
34
1967: C2 swan songRivalry from others including Pontiac’s lighter, smaller XP-833AMC’s AMXVentilated steel “Rally” wheels appearTriple Holley carburetors for Mark IVAluminum-head L88 engine in spring 1967L88 entry at Le Mans in 1967
 
469
 was to have Pontiac’s single-overhead-cam six as the base powerplant with an optional V-8.The car’s proposition was a lighter, simpler, less expensive sports car than the Corvette—virtually a reversion to the original Project Opel. Its front and rear suspension were freely adapted from the A-body Tempest intermediates that Pontiac was producing, although dedicated front wishbones were designed to suit the XP-833. “We thought up a dozen different  ways to put a sports car into production,” said Collins, like building it in Canada. His vision, he said, was “a neat sports car at a reasonable price—the kind of car  you could drive around Fort Lauderdale on a summer day with your arm out the window.” The two XP-833s were built on a 90-inch wheel-base, a full foot shorter than the original C1. Styled  with a chrome integral bumper that mirrored Pontiac’s trademark split grille, they were roadsters with conventional slim-pillared windscreens. An opening rear deck covered the retracted roof and allowed lug-gage access, one-upping the Corvette. Styling by Ned Nickels in his special studio was clean and edgy in Pontiac’s idiom of the time with nary a fake grille or  vent. The body was GRP attached to a steel subframe.With fixed seats and adjustable pedals, the XP-833 interior was less commodious than the Corvette’s but adequate by sports-car standards. The six-cylinder
Red-line tires complemented the look of a 1967 Sting Ray coupe with the big Mark IV engine, which was offered in four different versions.
 
470CHAPTER 34
prototype was a hardtop, silver with a red interior,  while the V-8 roadster was white with black trim. When powered by the six the prototype two-seater  weighed only 2,200 pounds, one-quarter less than the comparable 1953 Corvette. Though it would doubtless have accrued some pounds in production form, this showed good work by Pontiac’s engineers.  Although GM’s powerful Engineering Policy Group rejected the XP-833 when Estes and DeLorean present-ed it as a concept in 1964, the charismatic DeLorean told his engineers to go ahead and build the proto-types. Even their undoubted appeal, at the second time of asking, was not enough to sway the 14
th
 floor, as the aerie of the corporation’s top executives was known. Bunkie Knudsen certainly mounted a stout de-fense of his Corvette as GM’s one and only sports car and his sporty Corvair as a worthy stablemate.
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1
 The project’s cancellation did not bring destruction of the prototypes. Bill Collins was able to buy the V-8 roadster in the 1970s. As Pontiac’s assistant chief engineer he often visited Design Staff, where a Pontiac concept car called the “Banshee” had been created. “I found two sets of chrome-plated Banshee nameplates,” Collins recalled. “As the leader on the XP-833 project I felt the right to name them ‘Banshee.’” Thus this name, now associated with these cars, came well after their creation and abandonment.
Completed in 1964, two XP-833 prototypes represented serious potential competition for the Corvette from sister GM division Pontiac. Though designed as a simpler vehicle to compete at a lower price point than the Corvette, Pontiac’s XP-833 had a handsome cockpit with real sports-car looks. While one Pontiac XP-833 prototype—later dubbed the “Banshee”—had a V-8 the other was powered by the division’s pioneering overhead-cam six.

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