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.
DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
In 2005, Joel Rosen, along with Marty Schorr, the former editor of CARS magazine (who helped Rosen create the Baldwin/Motion concept) and several Sarasota-based investors, brought Baldwin/Motion back to life with a series of coach-built to order, high-tech 1969 Motion Phase III Camaros. These 540 cid monsters sport engines up to 1000 hp, custom frames, independent rear suspensions, huge brakes, special interiors, and mega-watt audio systems, but still retain the Motion pedigree.
The first of the Baldwin/Motion cars−a custom two-seat, 700-hp Super Coupe−won the prestigious GM Design Award at the 2005 SEMA convention. Only 12 of the limited-edition Phase III Camaros are destined to be built. Prices start from around $190K, depending on options, engines and other custom touches. They are unlike any other Camaro on the road and carry the legendary Baldwin/Motion nameplate. For more information, click to www.officialbaldwinmotion.com.
But the fun didn’t stop there. For an additional One Large, the buyer could have a Phase III 454 Camaro. The Phase III was equipped like the base Motion package, however, enough hardware to stock a speed shop was added to enhance performance. Rosen started with a modified 850 CFM Holley double pumper three-barrel carburetor, high-rise aluminum intake manifold, high capacity electric fuel pump, Phase III Capacitive Discharge ignition, Hooker headers, and a heavy duty clutch, flywheel and scatter shield.
To ensure all 500 Motion-inspired horsepower reached the pavement via the massive Mickey Thompson L60x15 meats, a set of heavy-duty Superbite traction bars and Mr. Motion Street/Strip or Competition shock absorbers were installed at the rear. To let the world know this was undoubtedly the baddest Camaro on the face of the planet, the Phase III package also included a special ZL1-style fiberglass hood, special emblems and bold striping on the hood, top, decklid, flanks and rear. It was as subtle as a 20-pound sledgehammer, and easily capable of smashing any car that challenged it on the street.
With a set of 4.88:1 rear gears, driving the Phase III on the street was a tenuous task. At highway cruising speeds, the noisy, solid lifter Rat engine was wailing at revs well over 4000 rpm, and if you had to ask about fuel consumption, then you deserved to drive a Vega. To lessen the anguish, Motion offered a Hone overdrive unit that knocked highway revolutions down 30 percent – the equivalent of a fuel-sipping 3.42:1 ratio. Other options on the Motion wish list included Corvette-style side pipes, special open chamber heads, more severe camshafts, a Hurst Competition Plus shifter and a genuine wood-rimmed steering wheel.
Tooling around in the Motion Phase III 454 Camaro was not so much driving as it was bludgeoning the asphalt. Throttle response was right now! And the driver had to hang on during stab and steer adrenaline blasts. A full throttle banzai run would crush the driver into the seat with brutal torque that threatened to rip the rear right out of the car, however, the Motion-modified suspension kept the Camaro pointed straight during its Saturn V launches. Top speed handling was actually well behaved, thanks to the front and rear spoilers and Motion’s tighter chassis setup.
While Joel Rosen knows exactly how many Motion cars were built before he shuttered his building in the 1980s, he’s kept that number close to his vest. Estimates are between 300 and 500 cars total. Our feature Phase III Camaro is one of the more unusual M/P cars built, since it’s loaded with just about every Motion option available in 1970. Not only has this Phase III Camaro been fully documented by Rosen as a real Motion car, it was in his personal collection until purchased by Mark Timken.
When Timken bought the car from Rosen, it had been completely disassembled. Timken took the car and its parts to Scott Tiemann at Supercar Specialties in Portland, Michigan. Tiemann is the preeminent musclecar restorer of his generation and worked with Rosen to ensure the restoration was as close to the original Motion iteration as possible. The Phase III 454 Camaro had been on display at Floyd Garrett’s Musclecar Museum in Sevierville, Tennessee (the car has since changed hands), as testament to the astounding genius of Joel Rosen and his Motion Performance.