Thundering Thursday – L88 #44 Thunder!

For Sale by Corvette Mike – James Garner’s #44 1968 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Competition Convertible

Thundering Thursday - L88 #44 Thunder!James Garner’s American International Racing
#44: 1968 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Competition Convertible
Chassis no. 194678S405175
One of the first 200 Corvettes built in the 1968 model year
Race Prepared in 1967/1968 by Guldstrand Engineering
Pole Winner, GT class- 1968 Daytona 24 Hours

The history of the three James Garner American International Racing (AIR) cars are unique in automotive history. James Garner’s AIR team sponsored the three cars under one banner. The three cars were brand new, factory-built L-88’s that got built in the St. Louis plant and delivered to the AIR team in November of 1967. All three of the L88’s came in Le Mans Blue convertible. Of course, the cars were all Central Office Production Orders (COPO), a system which provided for an incredible range of production specifications. These three cars were effectively part of GM’s strategy to manage the release of its most powerful cars to a carefully controlled list of approved customers.

The drivers of the AIR team cars were Dick Guldstrand, Bob McDonald (Herb Caplan’s crew chief) and Perry Moore (a former Caplan employee). Although delivery was recorded as being at Fred Gledhill Chevrolet, it is much more likely that the cars drove nearly directly to the first AIR shop in Culver City, just two doors down from Dick Guldstrand’s new shop. As soon as the Garner cars were delivered, the engines were taken out and delivered to Travers Coons (TRACO) to be prepared for racing.

44 Race Car2Once all the race preparations were completed, the three cars went to Daytona, the two cars out-qualified all the other FIA competition in their class. As a result, the two AIR team cars filled-out the front row positions for their class at the start of the race. Unfortunately, endurance races are the true test of all things mechanical. So it may not have been a surprise that these new cars could not keep up the qualifying pace. The # 45 car (driven by Scooter Patrick, Dave Jordan and Herb Caplan) dropped out with a blown head gasket.

The # 44 car (driven by Dick Guldstrand and Ed Leslie) suffered through numerous problems with the rear differential. After changing differentials four times in that race, the team finished 29th, well down the field. The cars returned to Culver City and were rebuilt in anticipation of Sebring.

In 1999 and again in 2002, Dick Guldstrand was reunited with this L88, #44, where he drove it in the Historics at Laguna Seca. He said that he enjoyed his reunions with what was, in effect, the first car he really built as a professional car builder.

Stock #: 5768  –  $1,400,000

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