Welcome to the captivating legacy of Joel Rosen, the driving force behind Motion Performance and the iconic Baldwin-Motion Chevrolet Supercars. Discover the remarkable journey of this legendary engine tuner and racing enthusiast, from his early days at Shepherd Air Force Base, honing his skills to his innovative contributions to the world of high-performance cars. Delve into the history of Motion Performance, the revival of the brand, and the incredible SuperCoupe that earned the title of “America’s Greatest Supercar.” Uncover the stories behind rare snake breeding, vintage Ningyo doll collections, and the enduring impact of a man who left an indelible mark on the world of speed and innovation. Joel Rosen’s legacy is a testament to the passion, innovation, and speed that continue to inspire generations of racing enthusiasts.
A Legacy of Speed and Innovation: Joel ‘ Mr. Motion’ Rosen
The world said its heartfelt goodbye to Joel Rosen, affectionately known as Mr. Motion, a prominent figure from Delray Beach, Florida, who passed away on October 9, 2023. He peacefully departed, surrounded by his family, after a courageous year-long battle against bladder cancer. Just two weeks away from his 84th birthday, he had been under Hospice Care since September 30th.
A Precocious Talent Emerges
Born in 1939 in Brooklyn, New York, Rosen was a precocious talent. He graduated from James Madison High School at the tender age of 16 and went on to attend Brooklyn College, where he majored in Engineering. However, frustrated by the lack of practical experience, he left after two years to embark on a journey with the Air Force.
It was at the Reciprocating Engine Mechanics School at Shepherd Air Force Base in Texas that Rosen honed his exceptional skills as an engine tuner, diagnostician, and builder. During his time at Shepherd AFB, he even led the General’s Drill Team.
A Passion for Speed and Fast Cars
Driven by an unquenchable thirst for speed and a profound passion for fast cars and racing, Rosen founded Motion Performance in 1963, a small speed shop in Brooklyn. This shop specialized in performance modifications and racecar preparation, setting a new standard in the New York City area by featuring a Clayton chassis dynamometer and advanced tuning services.
The ‘Skunk’ and Racing Glory
Within a few years, Rosen and his wife, Judith, relocated Motion Performance to a significantly larger facility on Sunrise Highway in Baldwin, Long Island, where it continued to operate well into the 1990s. It was during this time that Rosen purchased the very first fuel-injected ’63 Corvette split-window coupe sold in the New York City Metro area, affectionately nicknamed the ‘Skunk’ due to its striking Daytona Blue paint with a bold single white racing stripe. The Skunk was expertly prepared for competition, and both Joel and Judith Rosen raced it vigorously, even driving it daily.
The Rosens drag raced and soloed the Skunk, earning them the title of “Overall Champion” for the 1963 SSSC & BDS (South Shore Sports Car & Beer Drinking Society) gymkhana season. The Sting Ray was also a local drag racing champion.
Rosen’s enthusiasm for racing led him to compete four to five times a week at various tracks, including Roosevelt Raceway for eighth-mile drags on Wednesday evenings, Islip for eighth-mile drags on Fridays, and Westhampton for quarter-mile drags on Saturdays. Sundays were reserved for road racing and solo gymkhana events.
The Rosens’ dyno-tuned, Atlas-Bucron-shod street-driven split-window Fuelie coupe became the car to beat at Roosevelt in 1963 and consistently secured the Street Eliminator title at Islip. In that year, Mr. & Mrs. Motion also clinched the LISCA (Long Island Sports Car Association) Championship, amassing over 100 trophies and awards.
The Baldwin-Motion Legacy
In 1967, Joel Rosen and Marty Schorr, editors of HI-PERFORMANCE CARS magazine, co-founded the iconic Baldwin-Motion brand. It quickly became one of the most successful builders and marketers of limited-production brand-new Chevrolet Supercars.
Rosen was at the forefront of incorporating Chevrolet’s big-block L88 road racing engine into the first Baldwin-Motion 427 Camaro racecar, sponsored by Hi-PERFORMANCE CARS. The L88 engine was also featured in the legendary KO-MOTION 1967 Corvette. Baldwin-Motion offered more performance and custom options than any other specialty car builder, even surpassing Shelby-American.
Joel Rosen, widely known as Mr. Motion, revolutionized 427 and 454 engine swaps, building ultimate-performance Chevrolets that were exported to various parts of the world. His incredible journey is chronicled in the book MOTION Performance Tales Of A Muscle Car Builder by Martyn L. Schorr, which received the 2010 International Automotive Media Silver Award.
In 1968, when Baldwin-Motion began producing high-performance Corvette Stingrays, Rosen formed strong bonds with Zora Arkus-Duntov, known as the Corvette’s Godfather. He was also introduced to Chevrolet’s head performance expert, Vince Piggins, who was a close friend of road racer Don Yenko, a builder of 427 Camaros.
While Joel Rosen is best known for his signature Baldwin-Motion and Motion-branded Chevrolet Supercars and his AHRA-NHRA National Record holding A & B/Modified Production Gen 1 & Gen 2 Camaros, L88 Corvette, and small & big-block Shelby Cobra racecars, his passions extended beyond the racetrack. He was an accomplished diver and underwater photographer, and during the 1980s, he was the largest breeder of rare boas and pythons in the U.S., often consulted by zoos in the U.S. and abroad.
Diverse Interests Beyond Racing
Fascinated by 18th and 19th-century Japanese culture, Joel and Judith amassed the largest collection of rare vintage Ningyo dolls outside of Japan. Many of their dolls were showcased in museums and shows in the U.S. and featured in prestigious books.
The Revival of Motion and Baldwin-Motion
In 2005, Joel Rosen, along with Joel Ehrenpreis and Larry Jaworske, resurrected the Motion and Baldwin-Motion brands. Marty Schorr was brought in to handle public relations and advertising. Rosen was the driving force behind MOTION, LLC’s 540 Camaro SuperCoupe and the new generation, limited-edition 1969 Baldwin-Motion SS-427 and Phase III big-block Camaros.
The 540 SuperCoupe, unveiled at the 2005 SEMA Show, received GM’s Best Design Award and was hailed as “America’s Greatest Supercar” in an April 2006 issue of MUSCLECAR ENTHUSIAST. The SuperCoupe, purchased by mega-collector Ron Pratte at the 2006 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction, further solidified the revival of the Motion and Baldwin-Motion brands. This paved the way for the limited production of new Baldwin-Motion Chevys, capped at just 12 vehicles.
Passing the Torch and Continuing the Legacy
When the Gen V Camaro was introduced, Joel Rosen collaborated with Howard Tanner at Redline Motorsports and Dan Carlton at DeNooyer Chevrolet to produce a new series of 2011 SS and Phase III Camaros with 427 and 454 engines rated at 525 to 800 horsepower. Just a few of these high-performance cars were built, with Rosen himself taking delivery of the first, a Phase III 427-SC powered by a serious 800-horsepower supercharged 454 big-block.
In 2021, Joel Rosen decided to retire and sold his Phase III 427-SC Camaro to Chevrolet performance enthusiast Kasey Alford. Alford also acquired all of Rosen’s archived Motion and Baldwin-Motion paperwork and now serves as the new Mr. Motion, reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Multifaceted Legacy
Beyond his incredible contributions to the automotive world, Joel Rosen was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Judith, his daughter Robin Sue Rosen, son Shawn Rosen, daughter-in-law Robin Rosen, and grandchildren Zachary, Travis, and Bailey Rosen. His beloved pets, Ragnar (dog) and Archie (Kinkajou), also mourn his passing.
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