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Inside Baldwin-Motion & MOTION: A Legendary Performance Partnership

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by Martin Schorr  More from Author

Part II: 1970 to 2010

Photos by the author and courtesy of the MOTION archives.


Joel Rosen continued in the 1970s doing what worked in the 1960s when Chevrolet introduced the Gen II Camaro and new Corvette. The 1970s however proved to be a roller coaster ride for Mr. Motion and his brands. Targeted by the EPA and DOJ for extinction, he also had dealt with radical changes in the marketplace and the sounding of a death knell for modified cars.

Between 1967 and 1974, hundreds of Baldwin-Motion and Motion-branded ultra-high- performance specialty cars were built for both domestic and export delivery. Records reveal that cars were shipped to customers in Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia in addition to deliveries in Hawaii, Canada and Mexico.

“Buyers came from across the country and around the world. Some walked in with bags of money. Others did it by mail order, even from foxholes in Vietnam. All had a burning desire to own a fire breathing Baldwin-Motion Chevrolet.”

“Chevrolets were usually the cars of choice for niche dealers, but only one had the intoxicating blend of street mystique and record setting performance of the Baldwin-Motion Chevrolets that were conceived and built by Joel Rosen,” Tony Young, Muscle Car Review, October/November 1997.

If you wanted to buy a new Baldwin-Motion or even stock Camaro when Chevrolet announced its 1970 lineup, the best you could do was order a carryover 1969 model with a 1970 VIN. If customers opted to take an old-style Camaro after ordering a new 454 Baldwin-Motion model, Rosen built 1970-VIN ’69 Camaros with 454 engines.

The all-new 1970½ Camaro was shown to the media by Chevrolet General Manager and GM Vice-President, John DeLorean, on February 13, 1970 at Riverside Raceway. It was two inches longer, one inch lower, slightly wider and structurally superior to the 1969 model. It received rave reviews.

Rosen welcomed the 1970½ Camaro’s improved platform and slick long-hood, short-deck styling and in record time came up with SS-454 and Phase III 454 Baldwin-Motion variants. He used the new Camaro to introduce what was to become his “signature” Phase III striping and L88/ZL1 fiberglass hood. Chromed outside header-exhausts, styled like flat black ones on road-race Corvettes, replaced the 1965-67 Corvette side exhausts previously used.

“You can’t imagine how many phone calls and emails I still receive from Camaro owners who want permission to replicate the Phase III stripes I used on Gen II Baldwin-Motion Camaros,” said Joel “Mr. Motion” Rosen.

Les Quam’s ’70½ Forest Green Phase III 454 Camaro is a stunning example of why Baldwin-Motion was the performance Chevy niche marketer of choice. The car had been a completely disassembled “basket case” when Dr. Mark Timken purchased it in the late-1980s.

“Tooling around in the Phase III Camaro on the street was not so much driving as it was bludgeoning the road. Throttle response was ‘now,’ and the driver could all but hang on during stab and steer conditions. A full throttle banzai run would crush the driver into the seat with brutal torque that threatened to tear the rear out of the car,” wrote Paul Zazarine in a cover story on Timken’s Camaro in Car Collector, May 2006.

Shortly after completing an SS-454 Camaro prototype, Rosen retired the CARS Magazine sponsored A/MP record-holding 1968/1969 Camaro driven by Bill Mitchell. Mr. Motion and shop manager, Dennis Ferrara, formulated plans for a Gen II A/MP Camaro. With drag racing and Baldwin-Motion car building experience at Motion, Ferrara took over racecar responsibilities from Mitchell who left to run Motion Minicar. He went on to terrorize NHRA A&B/Modified Production competition for four years with Baldwin-Motion’s unstoppable Gen II Camaro powered by Motion-built 454 and 466-inch Tunnel Ram big-blocks!

Ferrara and crew, Paul Kaufman and Joe Cancillieri, continued the brands’–Baldwin-Motion, Motion and CARS –winning ways on the quarter-mile. During the Camaro’s first full season in 1971, Ferrara set the NHRA A/Modified Production record and won Modified Eliminator at the Division 1 WCS Grand Finale at ATCO Dragway as well as the NHRA National Open at New England Dragway. He also finished Second in the Division 1 points race.

On May 5, 1974, Ferrara copped both ends of the A/MP record at the NHRA Record Runs at Raceway Park in New Jersey. Dennis ran 145.16 mph in 9.54 seconds in Motion’s four-year-old Camaro! A couple of months later the Motion crew returned to Raceway Park for the NHRA Summernationals. Competing in B/MP, Ferrara ran 140.84 mph in 9.84 seconds, setting both ends of the national record!

Baldwin-Motion’s ’70½ Camaro set A and B/MP NHRA national records for some four years. The Camaro was retired in 1975 and Dennis Ferrara went on to build a new Modified Production racecar (1969 Camaro) at Motion for himself and continued his winning ways.

The most valuable post-1969 Baldwin-Motion vehicles are the special-bodied Phase III GT Corvettes. A total of approximately 12 GT Corvettes (in addition to the prototype shown at the 1969 New York Auto Show) were built between 1969 and 1971. Styled by Rosen, the unique Phase III GT had custom front and rear styling, flared fenders and a fastback rear window that made it possible for the first time to stow luggage behind the buckets. Zora Arkus-Duntov attended the press preview for the Phase III GT at the New York Auto Show, loved the GT concept and supported Rosen’s specialty Corvettes. They became lifelong friends.

The last Phase III GT Corvette built was delivered to Dr. Harry E. Rollins, Savannah, Georgia, on June 3, 1971. It was the most expensive of all GTs at $16, 283, just $3,000 to $4,000 less than the price of a new 1971 Ferrari Daytona! Powered by a blueprinted 500-plus horsepower LS6 fitted with 12.5-to-1 pistons, special hydraulic HP cam and L88/ZL1 open-chamber aluminum heads, it stayed in the Rollins family until 2008 when it was sold to Adam Tuckman in New York City. The drivetrain includes a modified M40 Turbo Hydramatic, Hone overdrive and 4.88 Posi gears. With the OD engaged, the final drive ratio is 3.42.

John Waleck, Artisan Coach Works, Hopatcong, New Jersey, has restored the fully documented and incredibly original Classic White GT with black GT striping. Gary “The Local Brush” Kupfer who originally striped and trimmed Dr. Rollins’ GT in 1971 applied the finishing touches (black Phase III stripes) to the GT in 2010.

“Part of the Phase III GT’s mystique is its rarity, but observers also note the interesting historical parallel to the Callaway Corvette: The Baldwin-Motion Phase III GT could sustain speeds in excess of 150 mph without the benefit of modern tire technology–almost 20 years before the Callaway turned a tire in anger,” John Hunkins, VETTE, June 1993.

Rosen’s custom Motion Corvette portfolio included Maco Shark, Manta Ray and Spyder Corvettes that followed the last Phase III GT built in 1971. Unlike the GT, the custom Corvettes were branded Motion, not Baldwin-Motion, and were built on customer-supplied or used models.

After Baldwin Chevrolet and its successors, Williams Chevrolet and Lyons Chevrolet, closed their doors in 1974, Joel Rosen sourced his new Chevrolets from other dealers as well as customers. Not long after Chevrolet introduced the compact Vega, Rosen started prototyping V-8 models and building conversion kits. Motion V-8 Super Vegas could be ordered with naturally aspirated as well as turbocharged or supercharged 350 small-block and carbureted (single and dual quad) 427-454 big-blocks V-8s. Neither Baldwin Chevrolet nor its successors supported Rosen’s Vega program.

“Anything from the standard emission-controlled (350) engine to a 500-plus-hp garlic-breathing (427 or 454) monster can be had, beginning at $5,995 and up. For nylon-nerved drivers, the Motion Vega V-8 is available direct from the Motion people, 598 Sunrise Highway, Baldwin, NY.” Car and Driver, September 1973

It was an article about the 454 Motion Super Vega in Car Craft, ‘King Kong Lives On Long Island,’ that set off alarms at the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in 1974 and forever changed the nature of Joel Rosen’s business.

He was presented with a Cease and Desist order from the EPA (to halt the building of new cars with powertrains not available from the factory), executed by the Department of Justice. The bottom line: If Motion did not cease production of new specialty vehicles, it would be fined $10,000 per emission device removed in the build process. This translated to $50,000 in fines for each V-8 Vega!

Rosen settled with Uncle Sam in 1975, paying a $500 fine and agreeing to the terms outlined in the EPA and DOJ documents.

While this put a major crimp in business, Motion did continue building and marketing ultra-high-performance specialty Chevrolets. However, all vehicles were special-ordered and invoiced “For Export” or “For Off Road Use Only.”

Except for a short run of super-trick Motion IROC Super Camaros and Monte Carlos in the 1980s, and specialty work on 5.0 Mustangs and Buick Grand Nationals, Joel Rosen kept a very low profile in the industry. Since 1995, Rosen has been running Motion Models (www.motionmodels.com), specializing in custom, highly detailed museum-quality military, commercial and personal aircraft and boat models. He is also a consultant to Racing Champions/Ertl and other companies that have produced thousands of models of Baldwin-Motion cars for collectors and hobbyists.

In July 2005, Joel Rosen and Marty Schorr formed a strategic business partnership with Joel Ehrenpreis and Larry Jaworske, MOTION, LLC, Sarasota, Florida. The mission: Re-launch the Baldwin-Motion and MOTION brands and create and market the Great American Supercar (www.OfficialBaldwinMotion.com).

The Launch Edition of the Great American Supercar project was the highly sophisticated, two-seat, tube-framed 1969 Baldwin-Motion Camaro SuperCoupe, powered by a 600-plus horsepower fuel-injected, all-aluminum 540-cubic-inch Merlin/Motion big-block built by Bill Mitchell. The engine was set back 13 inches for a true front/mid layout.

“I wanted to create a car that did not fit into an established market segment but established a new genre of ‘high zoot’, all American Supercars,” said Larry Jaworske, CEO of Motion, LLC.

The SuperCoupe was introduced at the lavish Sony Xplod display at the 2005 SEMA Show and won the coveted General Motors Vehicle Design Award. The SuperCoupe is in Ron Pratte’s collection after he paid $486,000 for it at the 2006 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction. Limited production Baldwin-Motion 1969 Phase III, SuperCoupe and SuperSpeedster Camaros are still available on a custom build-to-order basis.

Joel Rosen has been quietly working on styling and large displacement power upgrades for a Signature Series Baldwin-Motion 2011 Camaro. He’s been talking with a Chevrolet dealer and high-tech dyno-tuner about applying that Baldwin-Motion magic to the latest and hottest Chevrolet products. Mr. Motion can be reached at mrmotion@myacc.net.

Stay tuned!

 

Marty Schorr drives a C6 Corvette convertible and the only Baldwin-Motion (Corvette-powered) Iso Grifo. He is the author of MOTION Performance, Tales Of A Muscle Car Builder (Motorbooks) and has been involved with Joel Rosen building and marketing Baldwin-Motion Chevy Supercars since Day One!

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