John Shaw is a car dealer. But, like the rest of us, he loves Corvettes. That's why he was in such a quandary in Knoxville at the Mecum Auction during the 2004 Corvette Expo. His '69 Motion Corvette was about to cross the block. Put yourself in his place for a minute and you might be sweating, too.
Dana Mecum set this up for us before the sale. He said, "The most highly valued cars are the ones delivered through Baldwin Chevrolet. Second are the cars built at Motion and third are the cars built from kits offsite."
Baldwin Motion Corvettes, which fit the top category, have been known to sell for six figures. Mecum, once again, offered his recollections of prices from past sales.
"We had a bid on one last November," he said. "It was a Can-Am car, a '74, and we had a bid on it of $110,000 and the fellow wouldn't sell it. That's the most [for one] we've been associated with. But, with the early cars, a '69, I know of a car that sold in the $160,000 range."
John's reserve was a secret to the crowd, but as his radical-looking Motion coupe waited in line to cross the bidding block, he confided to us it was a rather cool $55,000. He had tried to document the car's origins, but had little success.
He told us another secret. "I had it sold to a guy from New York and he's flying in to look at it," John confided. "He wanted to look at it first, but it really doesn't matter to me if it sells or not. I enjoy and love it, and think it's beautiful."
The BeginningsJohn's Motion experience began a year earlier when, with not-so-great expectations, he typed into a search engine the words "Motion Corvette" and "Mako Shark."
The last two words match the kit Baldwin founder Joel Rosen sold at his speed shop on Sunrise Highway in Long Island, New York. A Phase III Mako Shark with a Baldwin heritage, meaning invoiced new in its speed-shop clothes, would be quite a prize in the historical sense, and quite valuable to collectors.
Back then, Rosen teamed with Baldwin Chevrolet to build the "Fantastic Five" supercars, which have become musclecar legends. In addition to Corvette, the four other Chevrolet models making up the Fantastic Five were Camaro, Chevelle, Nova, and Biscayne.
We got the impression John was going to keep his Corvette when he said before the auction, "I am going to send Joel Rosen the information and see if I can get it documented."
Rosen offers a service. For a fee, he'll look up the original paperwork and document the car as best he can. John was unsure of the price, but it wasn't cheap, in the thousands of dollars. He had made the effort to go to the original owner for information.
When the car crossed the block, it drew immediate attention. The price quickly soared over $40,000, then hit $45,000, $47,000-getting ever closer to the reserve price. Meanwhile, the ring men were all over John, trying to get him to lower the sell price.
"I can put $47,000 in your pocket," we overheard one of the Mecum staff tell him. "$50,000," John replied. "Get me $50,000 in my pocket and I'll sell it."
The bidding went on. John told us in confidence, "I don't care if I sell it. It's got to be worth at least $50,000."
The ring man asked again. John, trying to be amiable, dropped his price a grand. "Put $49,000 in my pocket and I'll do it."
With the juice for the sale, the money just wasn't there. We saw the tension in the bidder's face. A man in his fifties with gray hair, he shook his head "no" to going higher than the $47,000 he'd bid. The auction was over, and the Motion Corvette would be a no-sale. John Shaw would trailer his muscle Corvette back home to Greenville, South Carolina.
Regardless of whether the car was originally sold through the Baldwin Motion dealership, it still was outfitted with the Motion-style Mako Shark body kit. John knew a lot about the car. The previous owner told him his boss had it custom built. "They took the mirrors off to make it streamlined and had a 40-gallon fuel cell put in with a Hone overdrive. He had a 4.56:1 rear gear installed so he could go from North Carolina (where his boat foundry was) to Florida, where his boats were in 1970."
A chrome lever to the right side of the console shifted the Hone overdrive unit. It's bolted behind the four-speed close-ratio Muncie, and John says the OD adds about 33 percent to the selected gear.
The original engine was the 435hp, 427ci unit. However, in Rosen fashion, this one has the three-barrel Holley in place of the factory Tri-power. It has Phase III valve covers and other Rosen speed-shop goodies, such as chrome "push-in" breathers and a Fly's Eye air cleaner.
Most impressive is the wild Mako Shark body. The hood opens, clamshell-style, to fully expose the engine bay. Rosen was a drag racer who established several NHRA records, and this style hood was great for tuning work. The back is custom, too, featuring slats over the taillights.
The wheels are from Western, like Rosen used on the Baldwin-delivered cars. The GT gas cap is pop-open, racing style for quick filling, and exhausts are side mounted. John believes his Corvette has the full Motion Phase III package. The car is unrestored and shows 43,499 miles on the odometer.
We'd say John's Internet search pulled up a real gem.