"I've always enjoyed rare cars," says Dan Hayes. "I never dreamed I would own one of the rarest cars in the world, though." Dan runs Dan's Detail in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, the same town where Rayburn Pennington lives with his '73 Manta. Always a car guy, Dan couldn't help but notice Rayburn's red hot Manta and its electrifying presence in town. Rayburn would tell him, "Someday you'll own a car like this," but Dan knew it was all but impossible.
Dan's an ambitious guy and doesn't mind working hard to reach his goals, but he's also enough of a realist to know that his chances of landing a car like Rayburn's were about as good as Miss America showing up at his house for a Super Bowl party. Nevertheless, Dan couldn't help but keep searching.
In February 2006, a winter storm hit Poplar Bluff. While waiting out the freezing rain and sleet inside, Dan decided to cruise eBay for Motion stuff. That day he ran across a strange sight. "I noticed this '72 Corvette in Buffalo, New York, represented as a possible Motion Corvette Manta Ray GT," Dan recalls.
"It was in pretty good shape, painted a GM mahogany color with orange pinstripes, and it was a running car," Dan says. Better yet, it had a lot of parts, such as a front clip, rear deck, flip-top fuel fill cap, tall rear spoiler, and sidepipes, which, to a trained eye, were telltale signs of a rare, exotic strain of Corvette, handbuilt by a particularly gifted craftsman from New York City named Joel Rosen.
But it was an undocumented car, and it was on that Wild West trading post known as eBay, which is kind of like the old Let's Make A Deal TV show, where good fortune and treasure awaited the lucky and the savvy, while the hasty and foolish were rewarded with regret and ruin. Was Dan looking at the real deal or merely a medley of miscellaneous parts assembled to resemble the real thing? Was this his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity knocking, or nothing more than the electronic barking of a sideshow hustler? Suddenly, he was seated at a high-stakes poker table, and it was his turn to bet.
Dan turned to the most knowledgeable man he knew-his friend Rayburn Pennington. Rayburn knew of the car from other shows and owners, but knew nothing of its authenticity or background. He had even spoken with Joel Rosen about that same car a year earlier, but Rosen did not remember it. Rayburn called Rosen again and asked him to have a look at the car as it appeared on eBay. It seemed vaguely familiar. "It all looks like Motion parts," they concluded, but it still lacked a definite endorsement.
"I still had the high bid of almost $30,000. I felt that a '72 Corvette with a numbers-matching LS5 454/four-speed with 60,000 miles was worth $30-40,000, but the Motion angle had yet to be settled," Dan says.
With time beginning to run low on the auction, Dan swung by Rayburn's house for another pow-wow. Rayburn placed another call to Rosen. After stewing on it for awhile, the light bulb went on. "Joel remembered that he had built this car in 1972 and hidden spots of the original paint were still there beneath moldings. Joel "Mr. Motion" Rosen remembered this car was a one-of-a-kind built between the Maco and the '73 Manta Ray, and he made Dan an offer.
"Mr. Motion knew this car is a one-of-one, and said that if I buy it, paint it yellow with pearl, and bring it to Florida, he would sign the car and give us all the documentation for a Motion Performance Corvette," Dan says.
Needless to say, Dan swung into action. He says, "I went home and called the gentleman who owned the car and worked out a deal to buy it." He was on cloud nine. He got no sleep that night.