Baldwin Chevrolet - The Dealership
Baldwin - Long Island, NY
Say the words Baldwin-Motion or just Motion around car nuts and watch them perk up. Joel Rosen set the East coast racing scene on its ear when he came up with the idea to take new Chevrolets, sold through Baldwin Chevrolet, to his shop and turn them into some of the fastest street/strip cars ever. Joel's engine of choice was usually the L-88, with the first being put into a 1967 Camaro. So confident of his cars, Motion offered a guarantee with his Phase III Camaros, that they would run 11.50 at 120 mph. Motion not only built up the power train, but was into the exterior as well. Fiberglass hoods, including Stinger hoods on the earlier cars and the famous L-88 bulge hood on the later cars, distinctive stripes, etc., set the Motion cars apart from the rest.
1973 Chevrolet Camaro 454 Baldwin Motion
Dealer Built Muscle
The biggest and baddest Chevrolet supercar creator was Long Island's Baldwin Chevrolet, working in combination with Joel Rosen's Motion Performance speed shop located nearby. Notoriously documented in the New York street-racing scene by several regionally-based magazines, the Baldwin/Motion cars were rigorously "tested" by the shop crews on the street and strip. By the time the car shown here was built, Motion Performance was building them by itself as an aftermarket speed company, though a rumored letter from the federal government regarding smog controls would end that process soon afterward. Regardless, authenticated Motion cars are among the most coveted musclecars today.
It is fitting that the background behind the '73 Camaro shown here features a Ferris wheel and a go-cart track. While many would argue there was nothing funny about anything Baldwin/Motion ever turned out, the truth is that these cars were built for fun-especially if that fun included cleaning somebody's clock for $100 or more on a Saturday night. Cars built by either Motion Performance, or sold though the former Baldwin/Motion combination, were always on the "jagged edge" between fun and frenzy; this one is no exception. The Motion supercar ads once claimed its vehicles let you "take an attitude"-there is no question that this package could let you back that boasting up.
Nonetheless, by 1973, when this car finally came down the production line at the Norwood, Ohio, factory, muscle was on its way out. Indeed, some artwork ads that Motion ran in this era showed a Motion 454 Camaro among gravestones marked "426 Hemi" and "429 Mustang." Sure, you could still get a 455 Trans Am, a 400 Dodge Charger, and even the 401 Javelin, but it was the way Motion prepped any car they offered for sale that made all the difference.
For example, how about fuel economy? One option that Motion offered was the Hone overdrive unit, which converted that nasty 4.88 gear in the back to a streetable 3.42. Now, a 454 engine was not going to get mileage like a Vega regardless, but every little bit counted. And, with your cash up front, owner Joel Rosen and his crew gave you what you bargained for-in Phase III trim with the ZL/X 454" engine, Rosen guaranteed the car could crank off a time of 11.00 or better upon delivery!
Engine packages were advertised in the magazines regularly, and included the Z/30 350-inch small-block (three variations: 400-, 425-, and the 475-horse race monster, which boasted a $2,995 pricetag), the Phase III 427-inch Rat (a 450-, a 550-, and a 600-horse edition that was also $2,995 over the counter), and the 454 LS-package (475-, 575-, and the big 625-horse example, with a $3,495 sticker and a recommendation for either Modified Production or Pro Stock racing). In addition to the engine mods, complete cars included suspension upgrades, as well.
Our car got the Phase III 454 engine rated at 575 hp, the TurboHydro 400 transmission (but no Hone-O-Drive), and a 4.10 ring in the back, aided by Motion's infamous Phase III ignition parts and Superbite suspension pieces. This particular car also included the Motion-designed Phase III paint scheme, American mag wheels, and a rollbar for safety in case the fun got out of hand.
The purchaser was a Virginia-based truck driver/tow truck operator named Butch Ongaro. While making a delivery one day on Long Island in mid-1973, he passed Motion Performance's business on Sunrise Boulevard and this car was out on the lot for sale, brand new. Having just sold his '68 Camaro drag car, he stopped in for a look, talked with Rosen and Motion mechanic/car builder Dominick LoPinto about its potential, and dropped $300 cash down with a promise to bring the rest later that week. He and a friend (who was a police officer) came back with the other $7,700 and the car came down to Virginia. Butch recalled that Joel and company, who were already getting some heat from the authorities, were pretty uptight about his cohort, and made certain it was understood the car was built for race use :-)