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Chevy454 11-03-2008 06:30 PM

November 2008 Feature Cars
<u>THE MIGHTY L 72</u>

For many of us that grew up in the 60’s, the Detroit horsepower race was at it’s peak. All three major car companies had 425 HP engines as their top offering. Starting in 1966,Chevrolet released their premier engine the 427/425 L72. From 1966 through 1969 the L72 was factory installed in 4 very distinctive Chevy body styles, and as we all know, the favorite for dealership conversions.

The Corvette in 1966, a 1-year entry that actually started out being rated at 450 horses. The Vette was 2nd on the all time 50 fastest cars until the modern Corvette Z06, and the Dodge Viper came along.

I bought my 66 roadster in 1990 because to me it represented the best of that breed. The biggest motor available teamed with 411 gears, M21 trans,TI ignition, big brakes, no radio, and power steering by Armstrong. Plus the maroon color sitting low with the F41 suspension just looks mean and fast. The fact that Chevrolet only offered the L72 for 1 year makes these 66 cars something special. This car is all original except for a repaint in 1998, and the installation of new carpet, emblems and rocker panel covers. It hails from Mission Chevrolet in San Gabriel, CA., but has lived all over the US. I stripped the car myself, found a completely unhit glass body, and have done all the detail, and reassembly work. It’s a nice frame on restoration now, and I plan on rebuilding the original engine and trans some day. Also found and talked personally to every titled owner of the car since 1971, and the original salesman from Mission Chevy.

In 1966 Chevy also offered the L72 in a few select full size cars. What a stroke of luck to find an almost untouched example in a 66 Impala SS, that is a color match to the Corvette. When the previous owner sent me the POP, and it was signed by Fred Gibb this was the purchase of a lifetime. The “Gibb” car, as we call it, has had 1 repaint and is original inside right down and including the carpeting. I detailed the engine bay and undercarriage with the car assembled. It’s harder that way, but the car really doesn’t need to be taken apart. Fred Gibb’s friend John Stocker bought the car on 6/16//66, and kept it in new condition until sometime in the early 80’s. My biggest thrill has been to meet Helen Gibb, and take the car on a 3500 mile round trip trailer ride back to it’s home in La Harpe, IL for the Fred Gibb show. I met two other owners and the original owner’s son Jim Stocker at the show. Plus the honor of having Helen sign the car and present me with a copy of her handwritten accounting ledger recording the sale. John Stocker ordered the car with a M21 trans., 373 gears, an AM/FM radio; the new for 66 center console gauges with the 7,000 many other options. To my knowledge the L72 was installed in 66, 68, and 69 full size cars. Have not seen evidence of a 67 car, maybe they concentrated on the new SS427 model that year. After meeting Helen, and becoming part of the car show, owning this car has to be considered a great privilege I’m very fortunate to have.

Many folks recognized the beauty of the brute force of the L72, and the simplicity of building all that power with 1 carburetor. The L72 was the most popular engine transplanted into many Camaros, Chevelles and Novas throughout the late 60’s

Enter 1969, and now we could buy one from the factory! I was 20 years old and wandering around Berger Chevrolet’s new car lot with $1,200 in my pocket. We were looking for a L78 Nova when we stumbled across a row of Berger COPO Camaros. That was the day I should of had a camera.

The deal was struck, and I became the “almost” proud owner of the only white Berger COPO Camaro ordered. Almost, because my parents said no to cosigning for my loan for the remaining $2,485. By now my mom had already cosigned for 3 other cars that I had paid off, but none of them were a 425 horsepower Camaro going to a 20-year-old college drop out. The Berger salesman solved the problem and offered to keep the car in storage behind the dealership, and get me GMAC financing on my 21st birthday. Smart man, with 30% down late in the year, I probably looked like a sure thing. On Christmas Eve 1969 I turned 21 and drove the car home in the snow.

This became an every day driver/street racer except for winters. We took it to upper Michigan for our honeymoon in 1971, and came home after a week when we ran out of gas money. In August of 1974 I traded the car to a friend for a small block 66 Corvette roadster. The car had 33,000 miles on it and was still under factory warranty. We ran A pure stock with it at Martin US 131, and still managed to run a best of 13:52 at 109 with stock tires and the smog system hooked up.

When I saw the car featured in Carl Dwiggins collection in Car Craft in early 1987 I started a quest to get it back. It went from Carl to Milton Robson in 1991, and Milton sold it back to me in June of 1994. Thanks again Milton, for making a grown man’s all time adult dream come true. Almost 20 years later, with only 41,000 miles on it, the car came back to me with headers, 488s, but all components still in tact right down to the original carb. The car has had 1 repaint, but the interior, outside trim, and vinyl top is all original. We rebuilt the engine and trans. in 2001, and installed the stock 4:10 gears. “ Day 2 “ mods added by me in 1970 remain today : the Lakewood action traction bars, the 427 numerals on the hood ( ala Baldwin Motion), the white shift knob, and the temp and oil gauges.

I’m in the process of hooking stock GM smog to the headers, which is how Berger offered the car to me, but I couldn’t afford the conversion. That was Berger’s way of keeping the car under warranty and improving the performance. I opted for the backup plan, which was the removal of the cowl hood flapper, and bought a shorter fan belt to short circuit the smog pump. At monthly payments of $85.71, I owned the car month to month for a long time, and couldn’t afford to break it with no warranty!!
And yes, buying them back always costs a lot more.

The fourth Chevrolet to get the mighty L72 were 323 1969 Chevelles. The first 99 went to Yenko leaving 224 regular COPOs. The black car pictured is one of only 3 black/black cars on the COPO Chevelle registry, and the only 4 speed car known to exist. It features the 9566AA COPO, which is a bench seat 4 speed, with SS wheels. The car has two build sheets, and was restored with many NOS parts to exactly how it left the factory. This car was restored by Dick Bridges and Mickey Hale, and is a thing of beauty. The cars is well equipped with tach, gauges, Am radio w/rear seat speaker and antenna, and the chambered exhaust. This is the coolest sounding car I’ve ever owned. The other three L72’s get driven regularly in the cooler weather, and the Chevelle is the “show dog”, and sees more limited street use.

There were many fantastic muscle cars made from the late 50’s to the early 70’s, but the Mighty L72 has always been the best to me. These 4 very different bodied cars with the same drivetrains are a part of our hobby’s history we may never see again.

Kevin DeWitte

All four together

Corvette engine

Corvette interior

Corvette window sticker

Corvette plate frame


POP and Key Chain

Kevin and Helen Gibb

Vintage Berger Camaro shots

Berger COPO

COPO Chevelle

This banner says it all!

mockingbird812 11-03-2008 06:40 PM

Re: November 2008 Feature Cars
Simply stated Kevin......

Great to see your cars here on the site. Thanks!

Have seen each of these cars and they are beauties to behold!

napa68 11-03-2008 06:49 PM

Re: November 2008 Feature Cars
Whew! Nice collection.

CC Rider 11-03-2008 06:57 PM

Re: November 2008 Feature Cars

[/ QUOTE ]

Great story and great cars!

Tenney 11-03-2008 07:27 PM

Re: November 2008 Feature Cars
That's one tip top fleet 'o cool!

ORIGLS6 11-03-2008 11:37 PM

Re: November 2008 Feature Cars
I've only seen the Impala in person, but that alone was impressive enough!
Top Notch collection Sir!

PM your address and I'll mail you an early B'day/Christmas gift for one of those cars.

PeteLeathersac 11-03-2008 11:50 PM

Re: November 2008 Feature Cars

It's the L72 family!.
~ Pete

bkhpah 11-04-2008 03:01 AM

Re: November 2008 Feature Cars
I gotta say I spent a lot of time looking at the white Berger Camaro years ago when it was a feature car in some of the magazines of the day. My personal favorite COPO...BKH

Postsedan 11-04-2008 03:44 AM

Re: November 2008 Feature Cars
I had the chance to visit Kevin and see his collection. It was a mere mouth drooling drooping experience. Kevin is one of the Best Car Guys of all Times!

Kevin see you at BJ09!


Bill Pritchard 11-04-2008 04:53 AM

Re: November 2008 Feature Cars
WOW! Hopefully I will get back to the Pavillions some time and have the privelege of seeing one of these fine machines.

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