About Corvette Mike Vietro and his Prestigious 1967 L89 Corvette

“He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.” This quote is attributed to the inimitable Leonardo da Vinci. Certainly, his wise statement still rings true today. The individual who is gifted with a hard-wired, focused drive is fortunate in the extreme. Ensconced in a freshly built compound that he built near the beach in a San Diego suburb, Mike Vietro has been driven by a singular passion since childhood.

Vietro grew up in the Boston suburbs of Everett and Revere. He is the second of five kids to a father who held down three jobs and a diminutive mother who barked orders to anyone within earshot. His parents fought constantly. To escape the madness, young Mike washed dishes at a donut shop and pumped gas where his dad worked during the day and where Mike learned the value of a buck. Key to a successful life, Vietro was gob-smacked by Chevy Corvettes that would stop for fuel. Initially, C2 generation Corvettes, book-ended by the ‘63 split window coupe and the ’67 model with its clean lines, drove Mike to learn as much as he could about America’s favorite sports car. To describe Vietro as obsessed with Corvettes would be to understate the depth and breadth of a vigorous mindset that to this day is undiminished.

As soon as he came of age, Vietro joined the Marine Corps, which packed him off to southern California, where he earned staff sergeant stripes. He has never looked back. As with most others who are smitten with cars, Mike commenced collecting Corvettes as soon as he could afford to own one. His first was a new ’78 25th Anniversary model, which he acquired on July 6, 1978 from Harry Mann Chevrolet in L.A. He spent almost every spare moment driving it, washing it, polishing it, displaying it at shows, etc. Eventually, he sold that coupe, although Mike has been pining for it–for the last 20 years or so.

Naturally, Corvettes became the core of a business he started in 1982. Personally, Mike has only a vague idea of how many Corvettes he’s owned; certainly upwards of a hundred examples. Marque cognoscenti will know how critical it is to acquire the best car available in a given segment and budget. Over the last 30 years, prudent curating of a classic car collection would have yielded a considerable profit. Vietro has parlayed his acquisitions toward the recent purchase of his dream car. Along the way, he has owned some Corvettes that enthusiasts could appreciate.

The C3 generation (model years 1968 through 1982) Corvette has not garnered as much praise as the C1 and C2 cars. Only a few C3s are truly collectible, including the L88 and L89 variants, which feature racing motors. Vietro has owned a most desirable C3, specifically a factory original ’69 triple black L89 4-speed convertible, replete with leather seats and side-pipes. At a Connell (Orange County, CA) Chevrolet car show in 1982, the owner quoted Mike $15,000 when he asked if the car was for sale. It looked amazing and had matching numbers, and important detail now but not back then. (Today an original motor accounts for about 40% of a classic Corvette’s value.)  Eventually, the bloom faded and Mike sold the car for $27,500, then bought it back for $75,000 and sold it again for $118,000. Over the ensuing years, the black L89 sold for $225,000 and later for $500,000. Mike, who keeps tabs on the better Corvettes he’s owned, values the ’69 black L89 convertible at about $375,000 today. It’s amusing to note that the guy who sold the ’69 L89 to Mike for $15,000 had plucked it from an outdoor car lot in Hermosa Beach, CA for $3,995.

Many Corvettes, three wives, and an assortment of girlfriends later, Mike has settled down with a professional, vivacious brunette in a Mediterranean-style house that features an open layout, lap pool, and guest house. A tiny dog named Cookie Monster completes the domestic tableau. Culminating a 30-year pursuit of his dream car, he now enjoys its many charms. His apex Corvette is a ’67 marina blue L89 4-speed manual coupe, the best of only 16 L89s manufactured for that model year (22,940 total 67s built), with its original motor and several original factory and dealer documents.

The ‘67 L89 coupe’s first owner, Dan Stankovsky, lived in Berkeley, CA. The selling dealer was Cochran & Celli Chevrolet, located in Oakland. Displaying savvy choices, Stankovsky ticked off an array of desirable performance-oriented options in addition to the L89, 427 cubic inch solid lifter engine with aluminum cylinder heads. Aluminum heads provide freer flow through larger exhaust valves, and better heat dissipation, adding resilience to an already potent 435 hp motor. The engine options together totaled $805.75, fully 18+% of the base price of the car, $4,388.75. Option K19 indicates an air-injector reactor, a smog pump system designed to reduce carbon emissions. This pump was mandatory in California. Option F41 designated a stiffer suspension, a good idea for a car with a big block engine. The M21 option installed a close-ratio 4-speed; N14, side exhaust; K66, transistor ignition; and J50, power brakes, Aesthetically, Stankovsky chose option Code 976, marina blue paint with black stripe; Code 402, black leather interior; A01, tinted glass; and U69, am/fm radio. At some later time, likely during restoration, telescopic steering was added.  With a VIN ending in 22908 and a ‘JH’ engine pad suffix, this car was assembled on the last day of ‘67 model production, merely 32 units from the last C2 generation example produced. Moreover, with the smog equipment, this car was one of only two built with the K19/L89 combination. The other one, a green coupe, has been missing for decades.

It appears the ’67 L89’s first owner Dan moved on to other cars rather quickly as the blue coupe’s known history places ownership with a lucky few including Chris Marcom’s collection in Oklahoma, before landing in 1987 with Bob Rowe, a prominent Corvette collector in Michigan. With the guidance of Jim Purvis, Rowe’s car was sent in 1988 to Houston’s Naber brothers for a full restoration. Rowe would relinquish the car in the ‘90s to the bank holding a lien on it. ProTeam Corvettes was about to offer it in early 1994, but notable Houston collector Larry Martin swooped in and bought the treasure directly from the bank. Mike first became aware of the car some 30 years ago. Despite numerous entreaties, Martin would not sell it to Vietro or anyone else. At last, in 2023, Mike had thought long and hard enough to warrant an offer that convinced Martin to let it go. Mike’s perseverance had paid off yet again.

Mike Vietro proudly accepts the Performance Verification Award yellow ribbon from Dave Brigham, National Judging Chairman of the NCRS. To receive this award is a huge step leading up to the Duntov Mark of Excellence Award. An award that tests man and his car.

Mike recently dialed in the L89 to very, very close to its original factory specification, which earned it an NCRS Performance Verification Award in April, 2024. It is destined to earn the coveted Duntov Award in August, ’24. This prize will guarantee Mike’s L89’s place in the pantheon of the very best Corvettes, while adding to its rich history. Indeed, the blue coupe’s provenance is very well appointed, notably with a pristine original tank sticker, one of the least damaged Mike has ever seen. It was likely removed early in the car’s life and has been recently validated by the NCRS. Also, there is the original Protect-o-Plate with Stankovsky’s name and Berkeley address, as well as the original dealer invoice. Such documents are key to the car’s status as a high-end collectible.

As for awards, it was campaigned shortly after the Naber brothers, Ken and Gary, restored it. It scored 99.27% at the NCRS Cypress Gardens meet in 1989. It has appeared twice in the Bloomington Gold Special Collection, unexcelled accolades with descriptions that highlighted the L89’s rarest, desirable qualities. Most recently, in 2023, after 30 years of careful storage by Martin, Mike took it to the NCRS Frisco Texas Regional Meet, where it scored an amazing 98.4%, a glowing testament to Nabers’ expertise and Martin’s good care. Veteran Corvette collectors know how special it is for a restored Corvette to hold up so well for so long. The authors of a photo book titled Corvette: Five Decades of Sports Car Speed featured this L89 as a paradigm of the C2 generation. Indeed, today the car appears to be perhaps five years off the factory floor, with fewer than 38,000 original miles on the odometer.

Given Vietro’s anxious nature, does he anticipate retirement after buying, selling, and collecting Corvettes for nearly 50 years? The answer is no. As long as he’s healthy, he will keep his mind in the 4-wheeled game. He’s overcome a serious injury as a 10-year old, permanently blinding his right eye, raised two kids, traversed a couple of recessions, and survived a nearly lethal bout of COVID-19. For Mike Vietro, welcoming the future in his 70s and beyond includes feeding his obsession with Corvettes for as long as he’s able. Certainly, a hybrid Corvette E-Ray is on his agenda, as he does not begrudge society’s mandate to breathe cleaner air. His positive, go-go attitude exemplifies the All-American entrepreneur.