James Garner’s 1968 L88 AIR Race Car

Three factory-built Corvette L88s left the St. Louis plant for delivery to James Garner’s Los Angeles-based American International Racing (AIR) team in November 1967. These Le Mans Blue convertibles were the first production models featuring the new L88 engine with first-generation closed-chamber aluminum heads. The cars were actually picked up at Gene Jantzen Chevrolet in St. Louis and then driven to California by Dick Guldstrand, Bob McDonald, and Perry Moore. As soon as the cars arrived, the engines were taken to Travers & Coons (TRACO) to be prepared for racing.

At the 24 Hours of Daytona, the two cars out-qualified all other FIA competition in their class. Unfortunately, endurance races are the true test of all things mechanical, and the #44 car driven by Dick Guldstrand and Ed Leslie suffered numerous problems with the rear differential and finished 29th, well downfield. The cars were put up for sale, and the AIR team ran the Sebring 12 Hours with two Lola T70 Mk II coupes instead.

In June 1968, a mobile home manufacturer, John Crean, bought all three Corvettes. He subsequently offered the cars for resale via advertisements in Competition Press. Eventually, in 1973, the #44 car was purchased by Jim Herlinger, who entered the SCCA’s National series in the A-Production Class.

Many years later, when Jim Herlinger decided he might like to get back into racing, he was skeptical about the possibility of finding his old car. But David Reisner eventually located it, and Herlinger’s brother Dave undertook the restoration at Herlinger Corvette Repair in Mountain View, California. Since the restoration, Herlinger has run the car at a number of historic and concours events. By 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. Guldstrand drove it at the 1999 and 2002 Historics at Laguna Seca.