Persistence Beats Resistance

It took him nearly four decades to accomplish, cost a bundle and frayed plenty of nerves, but this East Coast enthusiast got back his first Corvette—one of the original Baldwin-Motion Performance Phase III coupes.

May 6, 2011

Also from Issue 66

  • 1965 Restomod
  • 2008 Coupe
  • Market Report: C4
  • 1992 Coupe
  • 1954 Roadster
  • Tech: New Big Block
  • 1967 Small-Block Coupe
  • How-To: C6 Appearance
  • Racing: Sebring
Buy Corvette_magazine-66-cover
Persistence Beats Resistance 1
Persistence Beats Resistance 2
Persistence Beats Resistance 3
Persistence Beats Resistance 4
Persistence Beats Resistance 5
Persistence Beats Resistance 6
Persistence Beats Resistance 7
Persistence Beats Resistance 8
Persistence Beats Resistance 9
Persistence Beats Resistance 10
Persistence Beats Resistance 11

What do you do when you have an irrepressible desire to find the Corvette you sold when you decided to start a family? It’s a dream that has beckoned to you for nearly 40 years because it was a very special Corvette, one that you custom-ordered with your father—a genuine, 1969 Baldwin-Motion Performance Phase III Corvette, one of only perhaps 12 made by the legendary Long Island tuner.

This was the situation that Phil Schwartz faced. He had received the new Corvette as a high-school graduation gift—a reward for good grades. His dad said he could have any car he wanted, and at the time nothing was hotter, especially for an East Coast kid, than a Baldwin-Motion Corvette. Accompanied by his father, Schwartz went to Baldwin Chevrolet in Baldwin, Long Island, and ordered his dream machine.

The first step was to fill out the factory order form. Schwartz selected a Monaco Orange coupe with a long list of high-performance options, beginning with the 435-horsepower 427-cubic-inch L71 V8. He requested that the engine be fitted with the Transistor Ignition System and a pair of side pipes. He paired the big block with an M21 close-ratio four-speed manual transmission and a Positraction rear axle with a 4:56 final drive, as well as a heavy-duty dual-disc clutch. While Schwartz went whole hog in terms of go-fast parts, he didn’t scrimp when it came to luxury, and ordered power windows, a black leather interior, an alarm system and an AM/FM radio.

After St. Louis had assembled and shipped Schwartz’s Corvette to Baldwin Chevrolet, Joel Rosen and his crew at the nearby Motion Performance shop performed their Phase III magic, which more than doubled the cost of the car. Most of the mods were engine related, including the installation of a three-barrel Holley carburetor, an Edelbrock intake manifold, Mallory ignition, special orange spark-plug wires, a unique Phase III ignition box and a Fly Eye air cleaner. These upgrades, combined with Hooker headers, launched engine output into a 600-horsepower orbit.

A set of Firestone Indy tires mounted on American Racing wheels was tasked with putting all this power to the pavement. To cover the wider rubber, a set of flares was fitted. While a tall hood with a larger air scoop and a flip-up fuel cap were part of the shop’s signature look, it was the Corvette’s black center stripe and black rear body panel that gave it the iconic Motion look.

Despite the extensive modifications, the Corvette maintained its factory warranty, as well as its street legality. This was fairly unprecedented for a tuner shop, as was Motion’s performance guarantee. If one of its street cars was unable to run the quarter mile in 11.5 seconds with a trap speed of 120 mph, the owner could return it. No one ever did.

With 600 horsepower, incredible acceleration and a price tag approaching $20,000, the Phase III Corvette was a lot of car for a 19-year-old kid. Schwartz loved it, of course. A year after getting the keys, though, he was handing them over to a new owner. Another love had entered his life, and he felt that a two-seat hot rod wasn’t quite the right vehicle for traveling down the marriage-and-family path. Though a sensible choice, selling the car was a decision he would come to regret.