By 1965 Sunray DX
was the sixth largest oil company in the world. It was also the oldest, with roots going all the way back to 1858. But in spite of its size and age the company was having some difficulty keeping pace with the rapidly changing socioeconomic landscape of the 1960s. After giving it careful consideration management realized that future growth depended on connecting with the exploding youth population. The postwar baby boomers who were then coming of age would, in a few short years, constitute a significant segment of their marketplace. But how to reach this group? The answer was simple, according to a small cadre of executives. The company needed to go racing. In so doing it could garner invaluable publicity and tap into young people’s boundless enthusiasm for the horsepower war raging in Detroit. And what better way to sell high performance fuels and lubricants to America’s youngsters than by racing a Corvette, Chevrolet’s all-American sports car. To that end DX formed and alliance with Pittsburgh based Yenko Chevrolet, which was widely known and highly regarded for its ability to build and campaign racecars.
Don Yenko was an SCCA national champion and both he and his father Frank counted among their close personal friends such influential people as Zora Duntov, Corvette Chief Engineer, and Ed Cole, president of General Motors. Those connections to the powers that be at GM were crucial because the L88 would not be released for production until after Sebring. Managers at DX understandably wanted to compete at this important race and would therefore need their L88 immediately. Don Yenko was probably the only Chevrolet dealer in the world who could pick up his telephone and call the president of GM at home to ask for a personal favor. He made the call and Ed Cole issued the necessary edict. As was standard procedure when a car that did not conform to regular production parameters was approved, a Chevrolet Central Office Production Order (COPO for short) was issued. The progeny of that COPO, the L88 Corvette offered here, would go on to lead a storied and glorious life.
Well known mid-west area road racer and frequent Sebring competitor Dave Morgan traveled to the St. Louis Corvette Assembly plant to take immediate delivery of the car when it was completed on March 9th. “They were just finishing up when I got there,” he recalls, “and I watched it fail the water test at the end of the assembly line. It was built several hundred pounds lighter than a regular Corvette and the leak test people didn’t realize all of the body putty and sealant had been left out to save weight!” The vulnerability to water penetration notwithstanding, and suffering somewhat from the absence of a heater in early March, Morgan drove the beast from St. Louis to Yenko’s facility in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania where it was immediately disassembled and race prepared.
Three weeks later the car took its place on the starting grid for the 12 Hours of Sebring. Morgan and Don Yenko co-drove the car at Sebring, finishing first in GT class and tenth overall despite spending the final forty minutes of the race perched on a sand bank after brake failure going into the hairpin. Morgan campaigned the car solo for the remainder of 1967, taking home the SCCA mid-west division title for his efforts.
Besides its racing duties, in 1967 and continuing into ’68 the car was used extensively as a test bed for other Corvettes raced under the DX banner and for retail product development. In the thirtysix states where their products were sold Sunray’s line of Supersport lubricants and high octane fuel was the most visible result of this ongoing field testing and development work.
Some of the more notable names who drove the Corvette in 1968 include Peter Revson, Pedro Rodriguez, Bob Bondurant, Dick Guldstrand, and Jerry Grant. The most significant outing for the car in that year came at the Daytona 24 Hour race, where Grant and Morgan co-drove to a first in class, tenth overall finish. The car ran perfectly at Daytona for the entire 24 hours and, assisted by special differential gearing provided by Chevrolet Engineering and centrifugal forces generated by the superspeedway’s severe banking, achieved speeds in excess of 194 mph.
Remembering the DX L88’s impressive durability and incredible speed potential Morgan recently had this to say; “That was one of the most reliable race cars I’ve ever driven. It was a fine car that did everything well. It handled, it stopped, and it went like hell! We hit 194 mph at Daytona and ran the entire 24 hours without a single mechanical problem. The engineers really did their homework and it showed out on the track.” Plans were put in place to expand the DX Motorsports program in 1969, including an entry at Le Mans, but it never came to fruition.
Toward the end of 1968 Sunray DX finalized a merger deal with Philadelphia based Sun Oil
and Pipeline Company. Sun Oil, better known as Sunoco
, already had a very active racing program courtesy of Roger Penske and company so Sunray’s endeavors were deemed duplicative and unnecessary.Certificate:
Common Stock, issued in the 1960’sPrinter: American Bank Note Company Dimensions:
8” (h) x 12” (w) State: DE-Delaware Subject Matter: Oil Companies Vignette Topic(s): Male Subject
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Vertical fold lines, punch hole cancels in the signature areas and body, and some toning and edge faults from age.