Lot 21
1965 Chevrolet Corvette L78 Coupe

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Selling on Wednesday

CHASSIS NO: 194375S117237

• Rare, original 425 HP, L78 396 Big Block engine
• Four-speed manual transmission
• Documented history including Protect-O-Plate
• 1 of only 748 Coupes optioned with the L78; built in May 1965
• First year of the legendary “Big Block” engine available in Corvette


396 cid L78 OHV V-8 engine, Holley four-barrel carburetor, 425 HP with 415 ft-lbs of torque, four-speed manual transmission, four-wheel vacuum-assisted hydraulic disc brakes, independent front suspension with coil-over shock absorbers, independent rear suspension with transverse leaf spring and shock absorbers; wheelbase: 98”


When the L78 package was released in January of 1965, it was spectacular. With a great-looking domed hood, and “Turbo Jet 396” badges on the front fenders, the new big-block Corvette had a commanding appearance and sound. The massive 396 L78 engine was cast in high-chromium content iron and the completed assembly weighed in at 680 pounds. The genius of the design was in its built-in strength and the head design. The modified wedge combustion chamber, with a large quench area for cooling, allowed the intake and exhaust valves to be angled toward their ports, providing vastly improved breathing and increased volume of fuel mixture for each cylinder. The heavy bottom end with four-bolt main bearing caps keep the crankshaft in place. A single Holley four-barrel carburetor sat atop of an aluminum intake manifold and with an open-element air filter. Solid-lifters, forged pistons, free-flow cast-iron exhaust manifolds, a transistorized ignition, and a 17-inch diameter viscous-drive fan finished off the package. The new 396 L78 was underrated at 425-HP and 415-ft-lbs of torque, however the real numbers were closer to 450 HP, nearly 100 more than the L84 Fuelie.

Fitting the new big-block into the Stingray required the front frame cross-member to be modified for extra clearance and a special hood dome with air vents for air cleaner clearance. To handle the extra 200 pounds of front-end weight, stiffer front springs were used with the standard Corvette front shocks, the stabilized bar was increased to 1-9/16-inches diameter, and the radiator was two inches wider to keep things cool. All three drive shafts were made from stronger SAE 4240 steel with shot-peened universal joints. These cars are unique in that the battery was mounted behind the left front inner fender (small block cars had the battery under expansion tank behind the right fender) and the windshield washer reservoir is a removable bag above the battery (small block cars had a square plastic jug).

Sold new on May 21, 1965 at Vince Byrne Chevrolet of Mt. Kisco, New York, this 425 horsepower Corvette was immediately driven to Texas by its new owner. Four days later it was safety inspected by the Texas Highway Department and given a windshield sticker dated May 25, 1965, which still exists on the original windshield. The Corvette spent several decades in Texas with its original owner before being purchased by its next owner in Northern California who performed a complete restoration. Subsequently, it changed hands once more before being acquired by its current owner.

This rare Corvette retains its original 962 block that was only produced for 1965 and early 1966 cars (casting date March 17, 1965 and assembled April 29, 1965), as well the correct 208 cylinder heads, correct 963 intake manifold, Muncie M21 close-ratio transmission (dated May 4, 1965) with short-throw shifter, code FB 4:11 Posi-traction rear differential (dated May 7, 1965) and original 42-amp 696 alternator with large pulley (dated April 22, 1965).

Visually, this high-performance Corvette presents beautifully. Its correct code M-M Milano Maroon paint shows no stress cracks and the complementing Saddle vinyl interior (code 240) is accented by a genuine teak wood steering wheel (not the often-equipped plastic walnut wheel). Additionally, the interior retains its original Delco AM/FM radio with working power antenna, fully functioning multi-speed rear cabin fan and all-original dated window glass and windshield with date code GJ (April 1965). All instruments are fully functional including original ticking clock (not a replacement quartz movement).

Rare and powerful, this impressive, well-documented L78 Big Block Corvette is as thrilling to drive today as it was when it was new.