Springer Automotive Restoration
Chris Springer (408) 857-2088
James Garner's American International Racing (AIR) team
#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 is unique in automotive history. James Garner’s AIR team
sponsored three cars under one banner. The three cars were all-new L88s. Three factory-built L-88 cars left the St. Louis plant for delivery
to James Garner’s American International Racing (AIR) team in November of 1967. These three Le Mans Blue convertibles were the first
production models featuring the new L-88 engine with first generation closed-chamber aluminum heads. 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,
sold to the AIR team, 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 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 to Travers & Coons (TRACO) to be prepared for racing. Upon arrival at Daytona, the two cars out-qualified all 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. But Don Rabbitt had already been forging plans to acquire Lolas for the balance of the season. Although the
Corvettes had been pre-registered for Sebring, they never made it. The cars had run one race but would never see another race under the
AIR banner. The cars were put up for sale and the AIR team ran the Sebring 12 Hour race with two Lola T70 Mk II coupes.
Since it was painted by Springer Automotive Restoration in 1999, Jim has been running the car at a number of historic and concours
events. In real terms, however, the car has not been raced extensively. But the restoration is definitely top-notch both in terms of historical
accuracy and in terms of performance.
In total, at the end of the 2007 season the car had raced eight times and had won its class at one HSRA race at Laguna Seca. The car has
also won trophies at the Hillsborough, Palo Alto and Monterey del Oro Concours. Dick Guldstrand drove it at the 1999 and 2002 Historics
at Laguna Seca. He says that he has enjoyed his reunions with what was, in effect, the first car he really built as a professional car builder.
(LOT #355) This car sold for $744,000 at the 2008 Bonhams and Butterfields auction: Quail Lodge, A Sale of Exceptional Motorcars
and Automobilia at the Quail Lodge Resort and Golf Club in Carmel, California on August 15th, 2008.