Joel Rosen from Brooklyn was from a family that didn’t have a car until he was 16. When he took his first driving test, he crashed into a telephone box and bent the front axle. Influenced by the racing events, Rosen started racing. He got his 1958 Fuelie Corvette in a hill climb event, so he got himself a 1962 Fuelie. When the 1963 Corvette was unveiled, he was truly madly deeply in love with it. He purchased one and used it to dominate the drag strips in the area. He also used it as his daily vehicle to commute to the Sunoco gas station where he was a junior partner. Furthermore, he convinced his partner that the station needed a Clayton chassis dynamometer and a Sun Diagnosis oscilloscope. This allowed Rosen to fine-tune an engine under load. In the same year, a new sign was displayed in front of the station. “Motion Performance”.
As an early convert to electronic ignition systems, he ended up using a capacitive discharge system called the Motion EI 5 CD. Motion performance was a reference to this.
Martyn Schorr, the editor of Cars magazine, wrote an article about a Corvette that Rosen had built, and the two men hit it off. Word quickly got out that Rosen knew how to make a car really run. This attracted many customers, and soon it was a profitable business. In 1966, he decided to change places due to some trouble with the neighborhood, and he headed out to Long Island’s Sunrise Highway in Baldwin, New York. After six months in the new location, his partner didn’t want to involve anymore, so Rosen bought his share. Rosen worked on customer’s cars, using nearby Baldwin Chevrolet dealerships as a source of factory parts.
Rosen became friends with the dealership’s parts manager, John Mahler. Mahler helped Rosen to put together an arrangement with Ed Simonin, the owner of the Baldwin Chevrolet dealership.
Baldwin Chevrolet was a dealership for the sale of mainstream vehicles such as the Impala and Chevelle. Rosen convinced them that if they would supply the cars, he would then equip them with specific performance parts required by the customer to make them faster, and Baldwin Chevrolet would become famous. And, that’s what happened.
As per the agreement, BALDWIN Chevrolet will allow a customer to buy a car at the dealership, then sent it down to the Motion Performance to get equipped with the performance parts to make it faster, while still being a new car with a warranty.
Baldwin Chevrolet in Baldwin, New York, teamed up with Motion Performance, also in Baldwin, to create Frankenstein monsters of muscle cars that went on the terrify drag racing rivals for a couple of years.
With the introduction of the Camaro in 1967, Rosen and Marty Schorr of the Cars magazine were ready to put Rosen’s idea into action. Baldwin gave Rosen a couple of cars to build and test as prototypes and agreed to pick up the advertising bills. Rosen was given every performance part needed as well. The prototype Camaro assembled by Rosen was given a 427 cubic inch engine.
Then he told his team that people would not take them seriously if they don’t build a serious race car to participate in racing events. He and his team started to work on an ultimate drag machine. His drag car was equipped with an L88 427 cubic-inch V8 engine that he got from the Baldwin Chevrolet.
Success followed Rosen and his team on the drag strip, and it acted as the perfect promotional material to promote his streetcars, eventually increasing the sales of street racing cars. There were 20 people working at Motion Performance at the time.
Other than the demo cars that Rosen kept for promotional purposes, virtually every car built by the Baldwin Motion was a custom vehicle.
There were three ways to get Baldwin Motion tuning-equipped cars by then. The first method was mail order. The second was to pay a visit to the Baldwin Chevrolet. The third method was paying a visit to the Baldwin Motion directly. Whatever the approach a customer had taken, both Baldwin Motion and Baldwin Chevrolet gained benefits.
Motion Performance also used to mail catalogs to the serviceman abroad. Soldiers returning from war spent more money on muscle cars than most of the demographics.
Baldwin Motion offered cars in two flavors, the SuperSport and Phase III. The SuperSport cars were given upgrades as per the requirements of the customers. The Phase III cars were street legal brutal drag machines that could outperform anything on the market.
All the Chevrolet models were capable of getting the Motion Performance treatment. Camaro, Chevelle. Corvette, Vega, and Nova were all equipped with the 427 cubic inch V8 engines though the highest performing engines these cars were equipped with were the 396 cubic inch V8 in stock form. The 427 cubic inch engine was, as a matter of fact, a stock L72 Chevrolet engine. The L72 was able to deliver 425 horsepower.
The Phase three package further added three-barrel carburetors and L 88 Cams to the L72 engine to improve performance further.
There were 38 different performance options provided by the Baldwin Chevrolet in Baldwin, New York. But, every one of these options was applied to a car that was equipped with an L72 427 V8 engine instead of the 396 V8.
Most of the Baldwin Motion cars came with a close-ratio Muncie M22 four-speed transmission unit, heavy-duty suspension, a big radiator, chrome valve covers, a modified ignition system, and a 12 bolt Positraction rear axle. All the cars were given bucket seats, special emblems all around, stripes. To make sure everything was done properly to achieve the expected outcome, all the cars were dyno tuned properly.
The Baldwin Motion package was only $3795 including the brand-new Camaro.
The 396 and 375 engines that were stripped from the factory cars were sold by Baldwin Motion in crates for $595.
But, a more fearsome Phase III package came at additional costs. The Phase III Camaro came with a guarantee that they were capable of running the drag strip quarter-mile in a time of 11.50 seconds at a top speed of 120 mph. The Phase III engine delivered 500 horsepower with the help of the three-barrel 950 cfm carburetors and the special solid lifter cam with a 0.580-inch lift, a Mallory ignition system, and more modifications. The Phase III Camaro was available for $4998 from the Baldwin Motion.
The top-of-the-line Baldwin motion product came with an L88 427 V8 engine. These cars were made for track racing and drag strip time attacks, but all of them were road legal. The L88 engine was the top of line newest Chevrolet engine at the time. Though Baldwin Motion never bothered to keep track of production records, according to the own Joel Rosen, they only made around 20 to 25 SS 427 Camaro cars for the entire 1969. These were capable of running the quarter-mile in 12 seconds at a top speed of 107.5 mph.
The success of Motion Performance allowed Rosen to indulge in the creation of an occasional limited-edition production of cars. The Motion GT, Maco Shark, Manta Ray, and Spyder were all based on the Corvette but were transformed into dramatic, wild, even more powerful, stylistic, attention-grabbing street machines.
Eventually, the Baldwin Chevrolet was sold and became Williams Chevrolet and was sold again to become Lyons Chevrolet until it was closed in 1974, forcing Rosen to look for other local Chevrolet dealerships to support him with new cars and equipment.
Things progressed until 1974 when a Car Craft magazine published an article on the 454 Motion Super Vega. Rather than getting positive attention, this article got the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency, who took issue with the removal of the stock emission equipment and demanded a fine of $50,000 for each car built. Due to this, Federal authority descended onto Motion Performance with an order of cease and desist effectively shutting down the business.
In 1975, Rosen managed to settle the issue with the government, but he resumed producing high-performance vehicles. The only difference was that these cars were labeled as “For Export” or “For Off-Road Use Only”.
In the early 1980s, Motion Performance built several Motion IROC Camaros and Monte Carlos. And at the 2005 SEMA show, Rosen and Schorr unveiled a 1969 Camaro Super Sport Coupe equipped with a Kinsler injected aluminum 540 cubic inches V8 engine. This car delivered 600 horsepower. The reason for the massive horsepower delivery was mainly due to the onboard computer system while maintaining acceptable emission levels.