Eleven-second quarter-mile times and 120-mph trap speeds are achievements few things riding on four wheels can manage -- even today. In 1969, numbers of that sort were all but unbelievable -- at least in a street-legal, off-the-showroom-floor brand-new car. Until you got religion behind the wheel of a Baldwin-Motion big-block Camaro, Chevelle, Nova or Corvette.
Then you'd believe.
"Fast and Furious"? Armed with heavily modified, 500-plus horsepower 427 and 454 big block Chevrolet V-8s, a Motion Phase III Camaro could brain-smash a winged-up, fart-can-fitted front-wheel-drive latter-day pretender from the land of the rising sun until its "bling" ran red in the streets.
The kids today have no idea.
But in the late 1960s and into the early '70s -- before an irate Uncle Sam finally put the kibosh on the operation (ostensibly for failure to comply with the letter and spirit of recently passed smog control laws that prohibited "tampering" with any factory-installed equipment) -- Motion Performance and its business partner/primary dealership outlet, Baldwin Chevrolet of Long Island, N.Y., -- were producing some of the fiercest, no-holds-barred street brawlers ever to wear a license plate.
A customer would sit down with a Baldwin salesman and order up virtually any combination of mechanized mayhem imaginable -- and Motion would put the car together. Early Camaros fitted with killer L88 427 crate motors -- and later Phase III second generation models with full-monte Mark IV 454s -- were among the hairiest rides on the road, capable of all-out dragster performance, yet still fully street driveable -- and street legal.
These were brand-new cars -- modified per customer order before delivery. Motion took what the factory offered (which in those days was already pretty impressive) and made it even more so. At its peak, the Baldwin-Motion lineup was known as the "Fantastic Five" and ran the gamut from heavily breathed-on SS Chevelles and Novas to a 454-equipped Camaro bursting with nearly 600 horsepower.
And now, history is about to repeat itself.
The original team of motorheads -- including the legendary Martyn Schorr (whose gearhead-savvy PR firm Performance Media helped spread the Good Word back in the day) and Motion Performance founder Joel Rosen -- have partnered with entrepreneurs Joel Ehrenpreis and Larry Jaworske to jump-start Motion Performance, newly incarnated as Motion Performance, LLC.
The reformed company will be launching a line of Motion-branded high-performance products -- including speed equipment for late model GM vehicles. But the really big news is the recent debut of the retro-ripper Baldwin-Motion Camaro SuperCoupe, which made its first public appearance at the annual Specialty Equipment Manufacturer Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas.
Twelve of these automotive assassins will be built for starters (with more possible, if demand warrants). And they will time-trip their lucky owners back to 1969 -- in the form of updated and retrofitted "coach-built" '69 Camaro shells (original cowl, roof and rocker panels; even a 1969 Camaro VIN/registration) stuffed with gleefully overkill 540 cube (that's 8.8 liters, baby) Merlin/Motion all-alloy Chevy big blocks generating about 700 net horsepower. (Point of order: That's 700 real horsepower, as measured by today's more honest "net" hp ratings methodology -- an engine installed in the car, with accessories and exhaust. This is probably a solid 100-150 hp more than the 425-500 horse 427s and 454s used in the original Motion cars, which were rated under the old -- and much less honest -- "gross" ratings, done on a dyno -- without power-sapping production exhaust or accessories.)
These engines -- which are set back in the much-modified 1969 chassis approximately 13 inches from the stock position to improve the car's weight balance -- feature World Products aluminum blocks with Eagle 6.535-inch H-beam rods, forged cranks, a roller cam and 10:1 compression pistons. The whole works is topped by Kinsler cross-ram fuel injection and a pair of polished Motion-badged new old stock (NOS) valve covers.
A specially prepped Tremec 5-speed manual transmission designed to withstand the incredible torque and horsepower feeds a Dana 44 axle with hardened steel, high-torque axles. Baer Claw Extreme Plus brakes -- featuring 14-inch cross-drilled rotors at all four corners and six-piston calipers ride inside custom Bonspeed lightweight alloy rims. The hand-fitted interior features leather sport buckets, hand-formed dash with custom signature gauges and, of course, air conditioning.
Among the available options -- for those who consider 700 horses inadequate -- will be a supercharger package that ups the ante to around 1,000 horsepower. This would give this ultimate Camaro more power than even the unholy fast 16-cylinder Bugatti Veyron -- which recently eclipsed the long-standing record for highest measured top speed for a street legal automobile held by the 240-mph McLaren F1 by reaching the incredible terminal velocity of 250 mph ... just 55 seconds from "go."
Of course, the aerodynamic profile of a '69 Camaro -- even one with a custom-built, fully tubbed, tube-frame chassis dropped into the weeds and equipped with all the latest hardware, including a fully independent road race-style suspension, adjustable coil-over shocks, custom fabricated rack and pinion steering and ultra low-profile high-speed tires -- isn't quite as slippery as the wind tunnel-tested Bugatti. Even so, with four-digit horsepower levels on tap, the Baldwin-Motion SuperCoupe should be able to bully its way past 200 mph and then some -- making it the world's fastest '69 Camaro, if not the world's fastest car.
"Bragging rights are standard," says Joel Rosen -- noting that the original Motion cars came with a "performance guarantee" that they would "turn at least 120 mph in 11.50 seconds or better" on the dragstrip, or your money back.
There was never a single comeback.
The only downside -- as with an original Baldwin-Motion Camaro, Chevelle, Nova or Corvette -- is the coin you'll need to acquire one of these killer rides. "It's very expensive," says Motion partner Marty Schorr. "It's not a $100,000 car ... it's considerably more."
But how much more, exactly?
Well, genuine Baldwin-Motions typically fetch upwards of a quarter million -- depending on the model, equipment and history/condition of the particular car. These modern incarnations will be even more exclusive -- just 12 of them, remember -- in addition to being vastly more capable.
You do the math.
As always, speed is just a question of money.
How fast do you want to go?