This is one of just two examples of the 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray ZL-1 that were ever made. The ZL-1 was remarkable for a few reasons but most famous for what was under the hood – an all aluminum 560 bhp 427 cubic inch V8 derived from the Can Am racing engine.
Due to its extreme power output this car would be the only one of its kind sold new to a retail customer. The only reason the first owner was able to order it was thanks to his influential friends – including Don Yenko and Grady Davis, a two-time SCCA national champion and senior vice president at Gulf Research.
Fast Facts – 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray ZL-1
- The 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray ZL-1 was built with the RPO ZL-1 option, which more than doubled the price of the new vehicle.
- The car is powered by a 560 bhp road-going version of the lightweight, all-aluminum Can Am racing engine – fitted to a street-legal, factory-built production Corvette.
- Only two of them were made, the car you see here is the only convertible example, and it’s the only one that was bought new by a retail customer through a dealer – it remained with the original owner for almost 40 years.
- The car has both the RPO L88 option and the RPO ZL-1 option fitted, resulting in power-assisted heavy-duty brakes, the heavy-duty suspension package, a Positraction rear axle, a transistorized ignition, and of course, that special 427 cubic inch V8.
The Most Powerful Chevrolet V8 Ever Made
If it wasn’t the fastest street legal production car Chevrolet had ever made up until that point in history, it was certainly one of them. The Corvette Stingray ZL-1 was powered by a roaring V8 that had been developed not for road use, but to power the mighty V8 Can Am race cars of the 1960s.
Weight reduction being key in the world of racing, the engine was given an aluminum alloy block and heads, shaving significant weight off the original 427 V8.
Inside you would find stronger connecting rods, a redesigned crankshaft, new pistons, larger exhaust valves, a high-lift camshaft, and an upgraded “open chamber” aluminum cylinder-head design with four additional head bolts.
The ZL-1 was the most powerful engine Chevrolet had created up until that point in history, in road trim it was capable of 560 bhp – an astonishing figure for the 1960s and still more than most supercars would be producing 20 years later.
The Chevrolet Corvette ZL-1 Shown Here
As noted above, the car you see here is one of just two 1969 Corvette ZL-1s that were built. It was ordered new by John Maher of Leechburg, Pennsylvania and he remains the only customer that was allowed to select the RPO ZL-1 option thanks to his influential friends.
Maher ordered the car with both the RPO L88 option and the RPO ZL-1 option, the L88 was mandatory as it included a slew of upgrades that were deemed necessary for the outlining performance of the new V8.
These upgrades included power-assisted heavy-duty brakes, the heavy-duty suspension package, a Positraction rear axle, and a transistorized ignition.
Maher also opted for the M40 automatic transmission as he intended to race the car on drag strips, interestingly he would campaign the car in drag racing, hill climbs, and autocross events across Western Pennsylvania with great success – nicknaming the car “Winning Automatically.”
A Loud Bang And A New Engine
Perhaps a sign of just how seriously he was racing the car, Maher blew the original engine in 1969 and received a new matching replacement under warranty from Chevrolet. He would later store the car for many years, before bringing it out of storage in 1989 and sending it to Bill Andrejko Auto Restorations for a refurbishment, ready to reenter the world of motor racing.
Once this was complete Maher once again raced the car extensively, and displayed it at many national level shows where it quickly began acquiring awards. He would eventually sell the car in 2007 after 39 years of ownership.
The new owner had the car shipped to Kevin Mackay’s Corvette Repair Inc. for a full factory-correct restoration, and soon after it was completed the car was awarded Bloomington Gold certification.
It’s now being offered for sale by RM Sotheby’s and it’s due to roll across the auction block on the 26th of January. The price guide is $2,000,000 – $3,000,000 USD, if the higher number is reached or surpassed it could become the most valuable Corvette in history.
If you’d like to read more about this car or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images: Motorcar Studios ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
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