Rayburn Pennington is probably the most unlikely owner of any Motion Corvette ever. He runs a one-man body shop in the quiet Missouri town of Poplar Bluff, as he has for decades. He wasn't looking to buy a Motion Corvette, and, frankly, didn't know what a Motion Corvette was, even when it rolled into his shop for some touch-up paint work. It's an amazing story that's even more amazing when you consider the car in question is a '73 Motion Manta Ray, one of only three built, and the only one known to exist. Here's the story.
Outside of it being sold new in Chicago, the first ten years of this car's life are unknown. Rayburn was able to trace it back to Dyersburg, Tennessee, where it was for sale in 1980. A man from the nearby town of Malden, Missouri, was looking for a sports car and bought it. He installed nitrous, did some drag racing, and had it painted, but incorrectly altered Motion's signature side stripe. After a year or so, he sold it to a guy in Poplar Bluff, who owned a machine shop. Facing divorce, that owner sold it to the local Oldsmobile/Buick dealer, who then sold it to one of Rayburn's friends, who managed a dairy. The dairy manager had it for five or six years, and during his ownership, brought it to Rayburn several times to repair stone chips on the rockers and that kind of thing.
"I worked on the car two or three times, and I wondered what it was," Rayburn told us. "I asked the owner, and he said, 'It's a custom car from California.' So I took it at that. He needed some more work done and made an appointment with me. Then he calls me and tells me he's not going to bring it because he traded it in on a new pickup at the Chevrolet dealer. That was probably 1987."
Later, somebody at the Chevrolet dealer backed into the Corvette and broke the front bumper. The Chevy dealer arranged for Rayburn to paint the new bumper and install it. He did, then the Corvette returned to the dealer where it sat unsold for a long time. The market for aging, wild, custom Corvettes in that small, rural Missouri town wasn't exactly on fire. Eventually, the high-powered hybrid wound up on the back lot where "old maids" go to spiral downward into deep decline and salvage.
In summer of 1988, Rayburn's phone rang. "The dealership called me one day, and the guy asked me to meet him at the coffee shop. He said, 'I want to sell you this Corvette.' I thought I'd talk to him," Rayburn remembers, "so I met him at the coffee shop. I was mildly interested because I buy and sell cars and mess with 'em, but I knew that Corvette was very different, very unusual looking, and I thought that might ruin it. I told him I was really not very interested in the car. He was just going to have to hit me with a low figure, and I'll either buy it or I won't."