It was not until Schwartz had signed the paperwork, received the title and had the keys in hand that Mackay announced to the auction crowd that his client was the Corvette’s original owner—and that, after 37 years, he had now been reunited with his car. “Phil was in tears,” says Mackay. “The place went nuts!”
The real work began when they got the car back to Corvette Repair Inc. As Mackay had predicted, a full body-off restoration was required. “We started from ground zero,” he says. With Schwartz’s permission, the shop spared no expense in putting the Corvette back to its original, as-delivered condition. The process took 18 months.
One of the biggest tasks was replacing the car’s nose; it wasn’t an original piece. As it turns out, Schwartz had had an accident six months into his original ownership of the car. He lost control, smashed into a parked car and damaged the front end badly enough that a new nose was required. He took the Corvette back to Motion Performance for repairs. At that point, the shop was developing the Phase III GT, which featured a new front end with exposed headlights. Rosen offered to install this new piece, and, as would any young hot-rodder, Schwartz said yes.
In order to properly restore the Corvette to its original Phase III condition, a nose clip from a ’69 Corvette was secured. It, as with all of the fiberglass panels, was completely stripped of paint. Although some restoration shops use chemical-stripping solvents to accomplish this, Mackay insists on a more time-consuming technique that’s gentler on the fiberglass: He and his crew use razor blades to scrape away the paint. “Chemicals are too harsh,” explains Mackay. “They can destroy the fiberglass.” Once the body was stripped, any cracks were repaired, and the seams were reglassed to create a smoother surface.
As one would expect, the frame was stripped down to bare metal and repainted. A similar approach was taken with the interior: The carpet was stripped out and replaced, a fresh set of hides were stretched over the seats and new glass was fitted all around. All of the chrome work was re-plated, and the stainless-steel trim was polished. When it came time to paint the exterior—in the original Monaco Orange, naturally—Corvette Repair’s John Penachio referred to a trove of photographs in order to get the Phase III stripes just right.
Wherever possible, original parts were retained. The fuel cap, for example, is the very one fitted back in 1969. The restoration also involved replacing incorrect parts that had been bolted on over the years. A proper set of American Racing wheels was sourced, a proper Hooker header was purchased and the right Edelbrock intake was tracked down, as well as various other Motion-specific engine accessories. If a part could not be found, it was recreated. Such was the case with the license plates; they’re replicas of the originals.
In 2010, a reunion of Baldwin-Motion Performance cars was staged at Chicago’s Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals. Its restoration complete, Schwartz’s Phase III was there. So was Motion Performance founder Joel Rosen. In describing his feelings about the reunion, Rosen says, “I was overwhelmed! I haven’t seen most of these cars in over 40 years. It was a wonderful display.”
What did Rosen think about the restoration of Schwartz’s ’69? “Let me say something, the fella that did this work is a master!” The judges at the show were of the same opinion: The car earned a Triple Diamond award and Gold status for period correctness in the concours, as well as a Celebrity Pick award from Vette Vues. But perhaps the most significant moment at the event for Schwartz occurred when Rosen agreed to sign the dash of the car.
This July, Schwartz will take his Phase III to Novi, Michigan, where he will receive the prestigious NCRS American Heritage Award for preservation of a “historical, significant piece of Corvette history.” Of course, for Schwartz, the ’69 Motion Corvette is a significant piece of his personal history. Getting the car back in his life has been the greatest award.