"It's like déjà vu," said Joel Rosen when he was reunited with the Classic White '71 Baldwin-Motion Phase III GT 454 Corvette he built and personally delivered to Dr. Harry E. Rollings back on June 3, 1971.
"It looks and sounds exactly like it did when Dr. Rollings picked it up almost 40 years ago. It ended up being the highest-optioned, the most expensive ($16,283), and the last of the dozen GT Corvettes we built between 1969 and 1971. Thanks to John Waleck, it has been restored to original Baldwin Chevrolet and Motion Performance invoices and build sheet specs. Gary 'The Local Brush' Kupfer, who applied the black Phase III trim in 1971, striped it again. It doesn't get any better than this," added "Mr. Motion."
It was Joel Rosen's dream in late-1968 to build a brand-new, fast, and functional all-American GT sports car. He envisioned a very special car that would showcase the desirable qualities of European GT cars with American muscle and the traffic-stopping appeal and serviceability of a Corvette. The sensuously styled Phase III GT, with its fastback rear window, stowage space for luggage or golf clubs, road-tuned performance suspension, and as much as 500-600 dyno-tuned horsepower, turned this fantasy into reality.
Rosen's signature Stingray even excited Corvette godfather and Motion Supercar Club member Zora Arkus-Duntov when he first saw a GT at its launch at the 1969 International Auto Show in New York City. He gave it his blessings and said, "I really like your Corvette, Joel. Unfortunately, we cannot do what you do."
Adam Tuckman, who was 3 years old when Dr. Rollings took delivery of the last GT built, was seduced by the Motion mystique very early in life.
"When I was a kid, someone bought me a Revell model of a blue Phase III Corvette, like the real one in Kevin Suydam's collection, and I was hooked," says Tuckman. "I thought that Motion built the most radical and truly special muscle cars of that era. And I still do. Later, when I was in high school, I thought I had located a real Motion car and called Joel Rosen. It wasn't. That day I made myself a promise not to give up until I found one."
Last year Tuckman's dream finally came true when he found a Phase III GT that had been in the original owner's family since new. It is the most original, most documented GT built, and arguably one of the most significant specialty Corvettes in the field. In April 2010, Tuckman also acquired an incredible Motion memorabilia collection, which included rarities such as Duntov's "permanent" Motion Supercar Club membership card and the CARS magazine 1967 Baldwin-Motion Camaro A/MP race car Christmas card.
I have always believed that the enthusiast automotive hobby is as much about people as it is about the cars they drive. And this Phase III GT Corvette, which spent almost four decades in the same family, certainly shares the limelight with its original owner: the late Dr. Harry E. Rollings. A prominent cardiologist and Air National Guard flight surgeon specializing in heart-valve transplants, Rollings was a true renaissance man. He piloted his own WWII B-25 and Catalina PBY Flying Boat, road-raced Jaguars on the SCCA circuit, and made house calls in a 500hp Phase III GT!
When Rollings and his wife, Irma Lee, planned their trip to New York City in May 1970, buying a Corvette was not on their itinerary. Their eldest daughter, Cynthia, was graduating from Columbia University, and they couldn't be prouder. All they wanted to do was celebrate the occasion by attending the ceremony and spending a week with their daughter in the Big Apple.
Well, that's not exactly how it turned out for the couple from Savannah, Georgia. While at the New York Hilton Hotel in midtown Manhattan, Harry Rollings picked up a copy of CARS magazine and saw a Baldwin-Motion advertisement for the Phase III GT. A certified car crazy, Rollings wanted to know more about this uniquely styled Corvette with almost unlimited performance possibilities.
The next day, while his wife went shopping and sightseeing, Rollings hopped on a Long Island Rail Road train and visited Joel Rosen at Motion Performance in suburban Baldwin. After taking a demo ride in a customer's big-block Phase III GT, Rollings became a Corvette believer.
On May 29, 1970, Rollings placed an order (with a $5,000 deposit) for a black-trimmed Classic White Phase III GT powered by an aluminum-headed, 500hp 454 and fitted with just about every performance and custom option available. Because Chevrolet had startup problems with '70 Corvette (and Camaro) production, the model year spanned just four months. As a result, Rollings' order ended up being processed by Chevrolet as a '71 model.