Unique cutaway Corvette 396 V8 display set for Barrett-Jackson

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Barrett-Jackson
The cutaway 396 V8 showed the inner workings of the newly designed engine | Barrett-Jackson photos

Editor’s note: The ClassicCars.com Journal will be covering all of the action during Arizona Auction Week in Scottsdale, Arizona. Check out our other coverage here.


What looks like the ultimate man-cave accessory for any Chevy fan will be sold at no reserve during Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction in January.

The object in question is the cutaway display model of Chevrolet’s revolutionary Turbo Jet 396 big-block V8 Corvette engine that was shown at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair.  Housed in a unique rolling showcase, the display piece was part of the General Motor Futurama Pavilion at the international exposition.

The cutaway engine is the potent 425-horsepower RPO L78 solid-lifter version of the 396 V8, showing its innards through removed portions of the housing and under specially made clear valve covers.  This was not a static display, though, because the engine would revolve slowly through its mechanic ballet powered by a starter motor.

Barrett-Jackson
A rolling display case contains the 396 cutaway engine

In its display case, the L78 engine is attached to a Muncie M21 4-speed manual transmission, with the bell housing cut away to show the heavy-duty flywheel, clutch and pressure plate required all that engine power.  Most internal parts of the engine and clutch assembly are chrome plated.

“As part of the Futurama exhibit at the World’s Fair, presenting the world’s most advanced technology, GM engineers were eager to showcase this new engine they were introducing in mid-1965, which produced 425hp with 396ci – more horsepower than any of the other 396 engines manufactured from mid-1965 until production ended in 1969,” Barrett-Jackson says in its catalog description.

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“Ultimately, this engine spelled the end for the Rochester fuel-injection system, as the carbureted 396/425 option cost much less than the fuel-injected 327/375. However, by the time the Cutaway Corvette and Cutaway Engine displays were complete, they were both obsolete. The Fuelie Corvette was not produced after 1965, and the 396 was immediately replaced by the 427 to keep up with the competition.”

Barrett-Jackson
The 425-horsepower 396 was used in the Corvette only for 1965

The 425-horsepower version of the 396 was produced only for the 1965 model-year Corvette, though 325- and 375-horse versions of the 396 were produced for full-size Chevys through 1970.  The cutaway display therefore represents a unique short-lived piece of Corvette history.

Barrett-Jackson’s 47th annual flagship auction at WestWorld in Scottsdale takes place January 12-20, 2019.  For more information, visit the auction website.

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Ken Kayser ‘Show-boated’ this cutaway at many NCRS regional Corvette meetings nationally and spoke extensively about the development of this and other engines in GM’s hay day. Very knowledgeable author and resourceful person in the Corvette arena.

    • Hi Gene, Do you know where I would be able to find out more about this engine display as far as the company that did it for GM? I think it may have been done by the company I used to work for, H.B. Stubbs, but wanted to verify if that was the case for this item. Thanks, Laura

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