In 1973, the era of the American muscles had started to decline. Around the same time on Long Island, New York, Baldwin Chevrolet was under new management and had mostly failed in creating modified cars, but the Motion Performance managed to survive and made a last saving model that was based off the Corvette and was known as the Motion Manta Ray. Only 3 of these last breathe cars were made, one was recorded to have been destroyed in a crash and the other one can no longer be found. That means that this 1973 Motion Manta Ray is the last of its breed, and this Saturday, July 23, it will cross the block in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Motion started using Corvette designs with the Phase III GT, which replaced the 3rd gen Corvette’s pop-up headlamps for bare headlamps, hidden under the fenders and covered with aerodynamic shieldings like a classic Italian sports car and race car. Other differences in the exterior design were having a new front bumper and fascia, side “gills”, fender flares, and new tail lamps, but the overall look of the car was very refined. On the performance side, the car’s power was entirely dependent on how much the customer was willing to pay.
Motion’s next model was the Maco Shark which is believed to be heavily based on GM’s Mako Shark idea and turned it into a more radical design that had headlamps embedded into the grille, a heavily sloped front fender, and a boat tail/fastback top that reduced the use of glass in the rear. Further reducing the vision for the rear, the rear window was covered with louvers. This design just proudly says that the Maco Shark does not car what’s behind it as it speeds on.
The Phase III GT and the Maco Shark models were produced almost the same time but the crazier design of the Maco Shark resulted in fewer units to have been built. Maybe the Motion Manta Ray was a comeback design that was a combination of both previous models, the front of the Manta Ray was largely similar to that of the Phase III GT and its rear was based off the Maco Shark design. Similar to Motion’s earlier Corvette models, the performance of the Manta Ray was only limited to the customer’s wallet. They can choose from the more relaxed (for a Motion car that is) configuration to the ultimate performance car motion has to offer.
Out of the 3 Manta Rays made, 2 of them were on the wilder side of the model. They came in 454 cubic inched V8 engine paired with 4-speed manual transmission. One got caught in an accident just after it was released and the other 454 Manta Ray has been lost in time. This leaves the more tamed example that is bound for the auction block, this 1973 Manta Ray with a 350 cubic inch V8 and paired with the Turbo HydraMatic automatic transmission.
According to Super Chevy’s article published back in 2008. This last Manta Ray was sold in 1973 to a client in Chicago and by 1980, it became a Tennessee car. During its stay there, it got upgrades such as a nitrous system and was regularly used in drag races. After that, it made its way to the rural areas of Missouri. There, Rayburn Pennington, who owned a body shop, first saw the Manta ray when its current owner drove it into his shop for some body repairs.
It had several other owners before Pennington bought it from a local Chevrolet dealer in 1988. Pennington though he could profit from it and immediately bought it without checking it firsthand. When he got a closer look, he found out that it had been severely damaged through constant use. Apparently, water has been leaking through the roof that rotted the seats and the floor panels rusty.
Pennington though he bought a one of a kind California custom and took care of the cars damages whenever he had time. By 1993, he bought the car to a Bloomington Gold show. Probably by fate, he got acquainted with Joel Rosen who was the partner of Martyn Schorr from Motion Performance and was also the one who made the Manta Ray. Rosen was shocked to see one of his long lost creations and decided to tell Pennington what he has really had for more than 5 years.
The original 350 cubic inched V8 engine was replaced before Pennington bought the Manta Ray, most likely it was replaced during the time it was used as a dragster. Joel offered his help and found a year correct 350 V8 and was modified to power up to 425 horsepower. It was also repainted to its original finish by Pennington and was listed during the 2012 Mecum Indianapolis Auction. The bid went up to $150,000 but was not able to reach its reserve price.
Joel Rosen himself authenticated this Manta Ray and now has Rosen’s and Dave McClellan’s, former chief engineer for Corvette, signature to prove its authenticity. It is the last example of the Motion Manta Ray which brings a very significant history to both Chevrolet Corvette and Motion Performance. Mecum has predicted its auction price from $200,000 to $250,000.
The auction will be on July 21-23 2016 and will be held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex.
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