1968 Corvette - The Motion Corvette Phenomena
When you look at a Motion Corvette, or any of the handbuilt supercars built by Joel Rosen's Motion Performance in New York, you're looking at a genuine original -a superlative masterpiece as novel, creative, and uniquely American as rock 'n' roll, Times Square, hot dogs, Route 66, the jukebox, blue jeans, and Woodstock.
A Motion Corvette is much more than a souped-up Corvette. The Motion Corvette is its own cultural statement, complete in its over-the-top outrageousness, reflecting one of the last great pre-NHTSA/DOT/EPA periods of American creative flow when anything was possible; when if you could dream it, you could build it; when the best way of predicting the future was to create it. It's an iconic symbol of what we would buy if we were all rock stars. If you climbed to the peak of Mt. Horsepower during the peak of the musclecar years, this is what you would find at the summit.
If you were into cars at all in the '60s and '70s, you knew of Motion Performance in New York. The little shop in New York City, run by native New Yorker Joel Rosen, had a big presence and a big reputation. Motion worked on all makes, but their specialty was Chevrolet: Biscayne, Nova, Chevelle, Corvette, and Camaro. They'd build you a screamer guaranteed to do 11.50 in the quarter-mile. Motion cars were more radical, more stylish, and more outrageous than anything else. The Camaro was the most popular Motion car, but Joel had a particular passion for Corvettes. He appreciated their edgy styling, next-level performance, and roadster handling. He kept a Corvette for his personal use for years.
Other dealers might put a super-tune on an otherwise stock engine, or sell you a stocker with a stripe and graphics package, but if you wanted to go seriously fast, you called Mr. Motion. His one-of-a-kind creations were wild, ultra-fast, and usually owned by the rare individual who sought out the radical and wasn't satisfied with less.
We've got a triple feature of Motion Corvettes here, spanning different years, intended usage and styling. As you flip through this special section, remember that when you look at a Motion Corvette, you're looking at an automotive classic-part Gershwin, part Kiss, all American.
Motion's Mail-Order MasterpieceWhen you bought a Motion car, you were going all-out. Nobody in the supercar game was doing what Motion Performance was doing. Motion cherry-picked the best factory parts, added the best aftermarket parts, then dyno tuned each car to make sure that when it was delivered to the customer, it was at the very peak of its game.
The flipside of that deal is it took some pretty serious money to buy a turnkey Motion car. They were genuine exotics and had the price tag to match. The Motion customer had to swing not only a new Corvette, but also the price of Motion's conversion and the killer insurance premiums to keep it registered. Not everyone could pull off such a deal.
Another way to tap into the Motion mystique was to go through their catalogs and roll-your-own Motion Corvette. This made more sense to guys with limited funds. They could Motion-ize their ride one paycheck at a time. That's what the original owner of this '68 Corvette had in mind.
He lived in Philadelphia and bought this Rally Red '68 Corvette with a 427 Tri-Carb and four-speed. He drove it in stock trim while he was making payments, then after that last one was mailed off, he ordered a load of equipment from Motion.
"He always loved the Motion cars," said current owner Jamie Jarvis of Jonesboro, Arkansas, "but he was just a working guy, so he ordered the conversion kit from Motion and had it installed at a shop there in Philadelphia to convert the car to a Phase III. That was in 1973."
For the next three years, owner No. 1 enjoyed driving and racing a very hot Corvette. In 1976, he sold it to the second owner with 32,000 miles on it. Owner No. 2 racked up only 4,000 miles on it over the next two years, and in 1978, he parked it in his driveway. The engine and transmission were removed and placed on the driveway next to the car, and there it sat for the next 25 years until 2003.
Those 25 years of exposure to sun, rain, and snow didn't do anything to improve its condition. Jamie found it one day while surfing for Corvettes on eBay. "When I got the car it had no paint on it, and the motor and transmission were sitting next to the car. It was in really bad shape and had been banged up in several spots," Jamie recalls. "But it was amazingly complete. It still had all of the Motion pieces with it. It was all in rough shape but they were all there." Jamie thinks most of his Motion-enthusiast friends must have been lying low that week because he was able to buy the car pretty reasonably.
Once Jamie got the car home, he went to work on it right away, working on it after work and on weekends. Because it was complete, he didn't have to do a lot of searching for parts, but one original item that did have to be replaced was an Ansen Sprint front wheel. Years earlier, a previous owner had an encounter with a curb and came out on the losing end. Pieces of the broken wheel were still in the rear of the car.
As the restoration took place, Jamie began trying to get in touch with the original owner. The guy he bought it from had a vague recollection of his name and address, and a call to directory assistance jogged his memory. Jamie called that number and was referred to the guy's nephew. The nephew turned out to be the original owner and was beside himself to learn that his car had survived and was being restored. He had some great tales to tell about its speed and power. He said it was never beat in a street race. A cousin went so far as to buy a '70 Hemi 'Cuda to beat the Corvette. He could not beat it and ended up selling the Hemi 'Cuda to Ronnie Sox. He also said he threw the original Tri-Carb away because he could not get it tuned. he had some old photos of the car's early days, including its conversion, and he promised to try and recover them from storage. In the meantime, he was helpful in answering questions about some of the restoration details.
After a year-long restoration, the Corvette was ready for roll-out. The engine was balanced and blueprinted. The stock heads were retained and were not cut for larger valves. A mild porting and polishing job and a high-lift solid-lifter cam were retained, as was the Edelbrock Torker intake. Rockers are the stock stamped-steel units.
Body mods-fixed headlights, flared fenders, big scooped hood, reverse gills, pop-open quick-fill gas cap, chrome sidepipes, and the rear stripe-all speak of Motion's essential styling cues. The interior is basically stock and was in a lot better shape than the rest of the car, even so it was freshened up with seat covers, door panels, and carpet.
The Muncie M21 tranny is original to the car, and the Hurst shifter and line lock make shifting a breeze. Stout 4.56:1 gears make sure that getting off the line is not a problem. "It's just raw, brutal power," says Jamie. "With any big-block, you've always got power, but it really comes on at about 3,500-4,000 rpm. I've got an MSD ignition box under the dash, and I keep a 6,400-rpm rev limiter "pill" in it just to protect the motor, but that motor revs so hard and so fast in the upper rpm that I get into the rev limiter just about every time. The car revs unbelievably. It'll pull to 7,000 rpm with no problem at all." It was sold new without power steering or power brakes-that's why it can get away with such a radical cam. it also doesn't have a vacuum headlight system. Jamie doesn't mind calling upon that power when it's time for some fun.
"Any car with genuine Motion heritage is valuable, but the value of this car is not as crazy as the others," Jamie points out, "because it wasn't built at the Motion shop. I've got the luxury of being able to get this one out and race it ever so often. The best I've done is 11.7-it'll run what they guarantee. If I can drive it to 11.7, it's probably a sub-11.5 car. Sixty-foot times are in the 1.7 to 1.8 range. I've got pictures of it where it looks like if the front wheels aren't off the ground, you could slide a piece of paper under them." Even with DOT sticky tires, the Corvette is still spinning at the line. Jamie knows that the spinning wheels are costing at least a couple tenths, but he's wary of too much traction, which can lead to bent half-shafts and that type of thing. For 40-year-old technology and an amateur driver, the car does pretty well.
Jamie decided he didn't want to make any further mods to the car. "I wanted to be true to what the car was. I've always been leery of anybody thinking I'm trying to misrepresent this car. It is what it is, and I tried to make it as nice as I could, but I didn't want to embellish the car any."
Future plans are for Jamie to simply enjoy his car. He says, "I love the car. It's taken me a lot of places, and I've made a lot of new friends because of it. It's really been a joy to own it."

Photo Gallery: The Motion Corvette Phenomena - Corvette Fever Magazine

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