Having owned some 30-year old Corvettes over the years, not to mention serving as a judge at several Corvette shows, you would expect Tim Gilmore of Austin, Texas, to know what he likes in a Corvette. And you’d be right. After sampling most of the available flavors in the Corvette pantry, Gilmore’s choice is straight from the hot end of the spice rack – a 1966 Laguna Blue, L79 roadster.
It would be hard to argue with his decision. The sleek lines of a mid-year Corvette make them among the most consistently popular in the Corvette hobby. The appeal of a folding top is obvious, no matter the era. Of the 27,720 Corvettes built in 1966, 17,762 were convertibles. And as one of the most potent small-block V-8s available, the L79 327 provides big-block power levels in a compact and lightweight package.
Gilmore has done a lot of dealing and swapping through the years, and moved out a 1968 L89 to make room for his 1966, which for many will sound like a dear price to pay. But driving his ’66 is no trip to the penalty box. The car is equipped with the optional off-road side exhaust, tinted glass, M21 close-ratio four-speed, 3.55 Positraction, AM/FM radio, and L79 327. It was awarded Topflight status in 1998, with a score of 97.8. The L79 V-8 has staked out a special place in Chevy lore, thanks to its 350 horsepower at 5800 rpm, and 360 lb.-ft. of torque at 3600 rpm, out of a mere 327 cubic inches. Available in the Corvette from 1965 to 1968, the L79 also turned pedestrian Chevy II and Chevelle Malibu SS sedans into true musclecars. The L79’s power output came thanks to a Holley four-barrel carburetor, a dual-plane aluminum intake manifold, 2.02-inch intake valves and 1.60-inch exhaust valves, a forged steel crankshaft, and an 11.0:1 compression ratio. Among Chevy’s potent small-blocks of the time, only the fuel injected L84 327, at 375 horsepower, produced more muscle. By comparison, the base 327 in 1966 came in at 300 horsepower.
Still, the L79 327 was in many ways an overlooked commodity in 1966, at least in advertising and press reports. The big news for the 1966 Corvette was the availability of the 427 cid big-block V-8. An outgrowth of the 396 V-8 introduced the year before, the 427 seduced the public with horsepower ratings as high as 425 and quarter-mile acceleration times in the 13s.
Although the base 327 and L79 outsold the 427 big-block, the two available 427s outsold the high-performance L79 10,374 to 7,591 in 1966.
Less noticed was a new color for 1966, Laguna Blue, which lasted on the option list for that one year. In Gilmore’s case, the Laguna Blue paint is teamed with a dark blue vinyl interior. The color adds a touch of rarity to his ’66, which was the best-selling model of the mid-year Stingrays.
Gilmore’s 1966 L79 rules his garage today, due in large part to its combination of fun-to-drive personality and show car condition. But there’s no guarantee it’s a permanent position. After 47 years of Corvette production, there’s still a lot to choose from.
1966 L79 Corvette – The Choice of Experience
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