Since befriending John Murphy at Corvettes at Carlisle several years ago, George Rubistello has been a man on a mission. In his shop in Lake Peekskill, New York, is a historic '69 Baldwin Motion Phase III GT which, after 33 years in the same family, was finally restored to be sold to the highest bidder. "I did all the work on it-paintwork and restoration to the body," Rubistello says. "The car is going up for sale soon. We're taking it to Barrett Jackson. I've been taking it all over the place to get [the word] out there."
One of those places was Bloomington Gold, where we ran across the car. Obviously, documentation and promotion is the name of the game today. "Some people walk right past and don't realize what it is," Rubistello commented. "To them, it's just a modified."
What makes the Baldwin Motion Corvette more than a modified is the connection to Baldwin Chevrolet. The cars were invoiced brand new on the window sticker, with full body mods and engine upgrades. In this way, the Baldwin Motion Corvette (not merely the "Motion" Corvettes, meaning customer cars modified by Joel Rosen or with Rosen parts) are OEM stock.
John Murphy admits, "I like Corvettes. I go to the shows. But I'm not a die-hard where I would run to all the shows with it. So that's why I had it restored and George has been handling everything for me. That's where it stands."
Michael Murphy, John's brother, was the man who bought the Baldwin Motion Corvette in 1971, when cars like the Phase III GT were not yet collectible. By 1990, Murphy was getting lots of attention with the car. John remembers his brother turning down offers around $100,000 a little over 10 years ago.
Marty Schorr told us in his decidedly New York accent, "Now people will pay big bucks to have a real one. Joel documents them for people." Schorr, who was editor of Cars magazine in the glory days of the Baldwin Motion super cars (1967-1971), is referring to the legend himself, Joel Rosen, owner of Motion Performance, located at 598 Sunrise Highway in Long Island, New York. Five to ten minutes away was Baldwin Chevrolet in Baldwin, New York. In close proximity was Schorr's residence and the offices of Cars magazine. If you've ever looked at old copies of this East Coast mag, you've noticed Motion advertisements and editorial write-ups on Rosen's cars.
At last year's Supercar Reunion held near St. Louis, Rosen and Schorr were guest speakers. Schorr revealed to his audience he was a business partner with Rosen. He explained to Corvette Fever, "I was part and parcel of that program from 1967 to 1974. I did all the catalogs, advertising, promotion, naming of the options, and naming of the cars. I had a financial interest. Joel and I were business partners in other companies. Most of that was kept quiet for obvious reasons."
Today, the history is much more important than the complicity between advertising and editorial. Schorr's involvement partially explains why West Coast enthusiast magazines such as Popular Hot Rodding and Hot Rod did not cover the Baldwin Motion cars to any great extent. Schorr told us, "The problem was, the California books wouldn't write about it 'cause I had everything first."
However, Schorr, who is now writing a book on Motion cars, added, "Having the financial interest or partnership involvements with Joel didn't sway me editorially because the cars were legitimate and fast."
Rosen offered the famous written guarantee that his Phase III cars would run 11s in the quarter-mile. That guarantee applied to this Corvette, which is one of only 10 built on the Corvette platform for three model years, 1969, 1970, and 1971. Rosen offered his "Fantastic Five" in the Impala, Chevelle, Camaro, Nova, and Corvette lines.
Schorr told us, "All these cars were built one at a time, to the owner's custom order, and everything was delivered to a Chevrolet dealer. And you could get L88s, you could get anything you wanted on your car."
Murphy's Phase III GT is a living testament to just how wild Rosen could build cars. Schorr recalls driving this Candyapple Gold Corvette when it was brand new. He also photographed it for Cars magazine.
Rosen documents these cars by VIN as a service, but in this case the original file was missing. Therefore, the best he could do was write a letter explaining that, from all appearances and details, this is one of the 10 he did build.
Schorr told us, "The reason we can tell the car is original is there's a couple of things that were done on only one of those cars. And nobody in 1969 or 1970 would have cloned the car because it didn't have any value-who cared? The car was painted Candyapple Gold and had Shelby Mustang scoops in the sail panels. This was the only car Joel had built like that."
John Murphy was close enough to his brother to know the history of this historic Phase III GT from its arrival at Emerich Chevrolet in Manchester, Pennsylvania, around 1970. "How it got there, we don't know," he says. "We've been trying to find out for years."
A young man named Greg Stephens traveled from Florida to see Mr. Emerich, who built race-car frames. He saw this Phase III on the used-car lot at Emerich Chevrolet and had to have it. He drag raced the car in Florida with a great deal of success, but soon fell victim to the grim repo man, which landed the car back in Pennsylvania.
"It was brought back to this area," John says. "The man who financed it really didn't want it either. So he traded it off to a guy by the name of Lawrence Luckenbaugh. Lawrence and my brother were good friends. They worked together, rode together to work, and somehow or another, Lawrence traded it off to my brother for another Corvette and some money." Lawrence had the car long enough to repaint it from the original Candyapple Gold with black stripes to blue and white.
Once in Michael Murphy's possession, the car found a permanent home. John recalls, "That was his baby. He drove that like there wasn't ever going to be another one. He took really good care of it. He garaged it, took it to shows, local shows, and that was the extent he showed it, just locally."
He also repainted the car red and silver in 1994-1995, in the same shop Lawrence had used. Only after Michael died and his brother hooked up with George Rubistello did the car go back to its original paint scheme. When he took the car apart, he discovered traces of gold under the door panels.
The car appears to be complete and original, down to the matching-numbers 435-horse big-block 427. Rosen pulled the Tri-Power for an Edelbrock aluminum intake, mounting a big Holley four-barrel and a Fly's Eye air cleaner. To be capable of 11s in the quarter, the engine has been tuned for more horsepower, 500 being a close estimate.
As Schorr told us, the cars were built on a custom-order basis, one at a time, to customer tastes. Obviously, somebody liked the Shelby side scoops, so you see them on this car and no other Corvette. The front end is radical, featuring scoops and headlight buckets that might be from a Datsun 240Z. Even Schorr didn't know. "Most of the cars came through without the covered headlights 'cause DMV rules and regs changed. So only a few of the early cars came through that way," he says.
Apparently, the taillamps are Firebird. The gas cap is LeMans-style. Wheels are Ansen. The bumper and grille are stock. The side louvers are stock but "flipped," and the hood is full custom, making another bold statement about performance.
To date, of the 10 Baldwin Motion Corvettes Rosen built, about 6 have been located, according to Schorr. This '69 is apparently one of them. One man enjoyed the car for the better part of its existence, 1971 to 1997. For the first time, it's restored to stock and looking like it did when Schorr took it for a testdrive for Cars magazine.
Obviously, Murphy and Rubistello are hoping for the big bucks. Schorr told us the last Phase III GT sold went for "somewhere in the 250 range."
"There were 10 built," he adds. "Either you want it or you don't. Most people won't want it. It has to strike a certain chord. It's an emotional thing. And then you pony up the money."