No list of formidable Corvette engines would be complete without including the 1967 L88. The L88 was a fire-breathing variant of GM’s 427 cubic-inch big-block lineup, which served as nothing short of a production race engine. Officially rated at 430 HP, the L88 was capable of propelling its C2 host to previously unattainable performance status. The L88 was nothing, if not a loosely veiled production race engine.
In under a decade, GM’s small-block received a substantial boost in displacement while also becoming the standard-bearer for several new internal developments in engine technology. These developments ultimately produced a new crop of small-block powerplants based on Chevrolet’s new 327 cubic-inch engine platform. Of the four 327 cubic-inch small blocks available in 1964, none topped the output of the fuel-injected L84 V8.
Upon its 1953 release, America’s sports car mustered only 150 HP, yet in 1966, the newly evolved Corvette nearly tripled this level of output. It was in 1966 that the Corvette was offered with not one, but two different variants of the robust 427 cubic-inch (7.0L) V8. In its most potent form (L72), the 427 officially produced 425 HP. However, most believe this value to be grossly understated.
The 327CI small-block V8 was available to consumers in several distinct configurations, all of which produced varying degrees of output. Available in both carbureted and fuel injected forms, the 327CI small-block proved capable of producing anywhere from 250-360 horsepower, depending upon one’s choice of engine code.
The 265 cubic-inch small-block served as the jumping-off point for further engine development. Chevrolet spent the following decade perfecting their earlier small-block, which eventually grew in displacement and became a testbed for early fuel injection technology. Further progress was made in 1964, with the release of the L76 V8. This potent small block proved quite reliable while dishing out more than enough horsepower.
For more than a decade after the Corvette's initial release it had small-block power. In fact, the 265 cubic-inch V8’s 1955 introduction was largely responsible for the Corvette’s validation as a sporty, performance-minded vehicle. However, by the mid-1960s, those behind the scenes at Chevrolet had begun developing a new powerplant. This engine would become the first big-block V8 to be used in Corvette production.