Consider all the great muscle cars that roamed the streets in the ’70s. They were powered by mega-cube Hemis, Ram Airs, Six Packs, Turbo Jets and Super Cobra Jets. They were Detroit’s hottest cars, but they weren’t the meanest machines on the street.
That honor went to cars sold by Baldwin Chevrolet and built by Motion Performance, a small combine located in Baldwin, Long Island, New York. The Motion side of the partnership was the genius of a Brooklyn engine builder and drag racer named Joel Rosen. Rosen had built a reputation for creating explosively powerful motors and had learned to use an engine dyno to further tune them for maximum performance. In 1966, he moved his operation to Long Island to team up with Baldwin Chevrolet and form a business relationship that would create and sell what are now considered American high-performance legends.
Customers could purchase their new Chevrolet at the Baldwin dealership and specify it to be converted into a Motion-prepared supercar. Beginning in 1967, Baldwin/Motion offered “The Fantastic Five” Novas–full-sized Chevrolets, Chevelles, Camaros and Corvettes, all powered by a 427-cid engine that produced in excess of 425 horsepower. The Baldwin/Motion cars weren’t just engine swaps. They were exceedingly well-engineered, completely balanced supercars with beefed-up drive trains, stronger brakes, and competent suspensions that produced results that far outstripped factory-built musclecars. Motion customers could order engines built up to 500 horsepower that were streetable and ran on high octane pump gas.
Rosen’s Motion cars were so well built and blazing fast that they were warranted in writing. “We think so much of our Phase III Supercars,” Motion Performance stated, “that we guarantee they will turn at least 120 mph in 11.50 seconds or better with an M/P-approved driver on an AHRA or NHRA-sanctioned drag strip. Phase III Supercars are completely streetable, reliable machines that will run these times off the street.”
“I never had anyone cash in on that guarantee,” Rosen says today with pride.
Rosen became to musclecars what Carroll Shelby was to sports cars–there was no compromise in the product. Rosen pushed the envelope in building take-no-prisoners performance cars that exceeded anything Detroit could produce. His sophisticated approach combined the best aftermarket products available into an integral package that resulted in supercars capable of brutal performance. Baldwin/Motion Chevrolets were beautifully prepared to Rosen’s exacting standards, with a strong dose of New York attitude that intimidated as they annihilated.
With the introduction of the 1970 ½ Camaro, Rosen took his Motion approach to an even higher level−the Phase III 454 (there were no Phase I or II packages. Rosen just thought Phase III sounded cool). “Detroit still hasn’t been able to come up with a car that can steal our thunder,” a Motion magazine advertisement boasted. The ad continued, “For 1970 ½, our Phase III 454 Camaro has more cubes, more horsepower, more status, more styling, more suspension, more muscle, and is safer than anything built in Detroit. But don’t take our word for it. Ask the man who has had his doors blown off by one.”
A Motion 454 Camaro began life when a Baldwin Chevrolet customer ordered either a standard or SS Camaro equipped with the L78 396/375 engine, Muncie four-speed transmission or M40 Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission, Posi-Traction limited slip rear, heavy-duty radiator, and power front disc brakes. The buyer then specified whichever factory options he wanted. He then checked off the Motion option and specified just how much performance would be needed. When Chevrolet delivered the car to the Baldwin dealership, it immediately went around the corner to Motion Performance’s shop and the transformation began.
The stock L78 was removed and replaced with the 454 cid LS6, which was rated by Chevrolet at 450 horsepower, as installed in the Chevelle. A heavy-duty suspension, special white letter tires, chrome valve covers and air cleaner, 7500-RPM capacitive discharge ignition, and a Motion dyno tune were added to ensure maximum engine output. This package set the owner back a cool $4995 or roughly $1200 more than a similarly-equipped SS396 L78 Camaro.