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’69 Baldwin-Motion SS427 Camaro

MORRIS SCHLITZENHEIMER October 10, 2022 All Feature Vehicles

Joe Oldham Recreates His Baldwin-Motion SS427 Camaro

When you’re a car nut like Joe Oldham, a bad automotive experience can be traumatic, almost shattering. His ’68 Pontiac GTO was such an experience.

At the time, Joe was a writer for Hi-Performance Cars in New York City. As an automotive journalist, he had access to every new car every year.

He was a car expert—knew it all. So when he sold his hard-running ’62 Corvette and bought a ’68 400/360HO four-speed GTO, he expected to have a strong-running muscle car that would serve well as a street/track racer and a nice daily driver.

Wrong.

This is no trailer queen. Joe built this exact duplicate of his original ’69 Baldwin-Motion SS427 Camaro to drive. Dropping the clutch at 6,000 rpm is Joe’s definition of driving.
Heavy-duty rear springs with an extra leaf on each side and new big-block front springs with aluminum spacers deliver that hardcore 1969 street racer stance. Back in the day, Oldham ordered his Camaro with no spoilers or additional chrome trim. Yes, that’s another Impala SS427 badge between the taillights, only that one has been split and stacked, just as the Motion boys did 45 years ago. Check out that New York 1969 license plate.
The original car was powered by an L72 427 rated 425 hp. This car uses a ZZ427 crate motor from Chevrolet Performance Parts complete with aluminum heads, 10.1 compression ratio and hydraulic roller lifters. It’s rated 480 hp at 5,800 rpm and 490 lb-ft of torque at 3,900 rpm—a nice upgrade from the original L72.
As delivered, the ZZ427 doesn’t look like a vintage 1969 L72; so, the guys at Starlite painted the engine POR-15 Chevy Orange, swapped a reproduction Winters Foundry aluminum intake manifold from National Parts Depot, a Holley 780-cfm double pumper carb, a points distributor and reproduction date-coded ignition wires from Classic Industries. Vintage chrome valve covers with the correct 1968 Impala SS427 emblems and a vintage Motion Performance fly-eye air cleaner top it off.

The car never ran right, was delivered with the wrong suspension, and was, in general, a huge disappointment. Needless to say, Joe’s racing activity on the streets of Queens, New York was put on hold.

He needed an automotive fix, something so hot on the street and strip that it would blow everything else into the weeds. So he ordered a new ’69 Baldwin-Motion SS-427 Chevy Camaro.

Baldwin-Motion? Think Yenko, Nickey, Berger and Dana but for the New York City area. Motion Performance built them; Baldwin Chevrolet in Baldwin, New York sold them.

The car started life as an L78 396/375 Super Sport with a Turbo 400 three-speed automatic and 4.10 gears. Then Motion Performance took over, converting it to Joe’s specifications. The 396 was pulled and a brand-new 427/425 L72 engine was dropped in. A fiberglass hood with open Stinger scoop was added, the suspension was beefed up to give the car a high stance, a shift kit was added for harder bang-shifts, and huge wheels and tires added a tough look.

A correct-appearing GM Restoration battery from Summit and a deep groove alternator pulley, which GM installed on all solid-lifter engines back in the day, complete the under-hood illusion. Hooker Super Competition headers from Summit Racing were painted white just like on the original car. The headers dump into a reproduction chambered exhaust system from Classic Industries. Man, is it loud.
Joe’s original car used a Mallory Magic Box, which was essentially the first capacitive discharge ignition. Obtaining a vintage unit today proved impossible, so Starlite fabbed a nonfunctioning cosmetic replica, right down to the correct artwork. The Right Stuff Detailing has exact visual replacement brake parts for old muscle cars, and several of its brake system parts were installed including this master cylinder and brake booster.
Replacement seat padding and seat covers were ordered from Summit Racing along with a new console, which the donor car lacked but Joe’s original ’69 had. Summit still lists Grant’s classic small-diameter wood steering wheel in its catalog.

The car, a triple-black beauty, turned out so cool that Joel Rosen, owner of Motion Performance, asked if he could use it in the company’s 1969 advertising. As such, Joe’s car appeared in three Motion ads: Outrageous, The Moment of Truth and the famous “Wanted” poster ad, and even on the cover of Motion’s 1969 product catalog. Joe and Marty Schorr, editor of Hi-Performance Cars, took lots of photos, and the car appeared in several magazine stories.

Six months later, the car was stolen out of Joe’s garage, never to be seen again. It was gone, but it never really went away.

Over time, due to all of the exposure in magazines and the rise in popularity of muscle cars in general, Joe’s Baldwin-Motion Camaro became a famous car in the muscle car world (Google “Joe Oldham’s Camaro”). In the meantime, the muscle car world saw the rise of clones (tribute cars, replicas, call them what you will) and Joe’s sons, Scott and Steve, began encouraging dad to build a replica of his original car.

Which is exactly what they’ve done, right down to the hose clamps and the license plate. After five years of talking about it, Joe and his boys have created an exact replica of the car, just as it appeared in that “Wanted” magazine ad in the winter of 1968.

Yes, that’s another SS427 badge on the dash.
A Sun Retro Super tach, also from Summit, is strapped to the steering column.
Instead of ordering the factory gauges in the original, Oldham had Motion install a full set of Sun Blue Line gauges, which are not reproduced today. Oldham found a set on eBay and then turned them over to Redline Gauge Works in Newhall, CA.  The ammeter, temp gauge and oil pressure gauges were mounted in a vintage chrome bracket right under the radio, exactly like in the original car. That radio is an AAR, Inc. AM-FM radio replacement from National Parts Depot. It looks stock ’69 but has modern innards so the doo-wop oldies come in loud and clear.

Like most projects, this one began with the search for the right donor car. It had to be a ’69 big-block four-speed 12-bolt car. If it was an SS and black, so much the better. Numbers-matching originality didn’t matter since everything was going to be changed anyway.

After years of searching, Scott finally found this car on the Internet in Glendale, Arizona. A black-on-black SS clone with good paint, a clean standard interior, a tired 454, a newly rebuilt Muncie M-21 and a 3.73 geared 12-bolt. It was perfect.

Joe, now retired in the Palm Springs, California area, drove the car straight to Walker Auto Works in Bermuda Dunes, California to make sure it was safe and reliable to drive for a few months as parts were gathered. Randy Walker replaced a few hoses, installed a new 10.5-inch Centerforce clutch assembly and welded up a broken tang on the four-speed.

Joe did make a concession to modernity. His original car had a three-speed Turbo 400 automatic and this replica has a four-speed. Since he didn’t have to use this car as a daily driver in New York City, as he did his original car, Oldham decided it was OK to have some fun in retirement, throw some shifts and get rubber in all four gears.
From Summit Racing, Joe ordered a fiberglass scooped Stinger hood exactly like the one Motion Performance installed on his original ’69, plus a correct silver grille assembly and a VE3 urethane bumper to replace the chrome unit on the car. More Impala SS427 emblems were added to the sides of the hood scoop just like on Joe’s first version. The penultimate body step was the installation of a vinyl roof obtained from Summit complete with correct moldings.
Back in 1969 Joe was a writer for Hi-Performance Cars magazine in New York City. As an automotive journalist, he had access to every new car every year, and in the fall of 1968 he fell in love with the new ’69 Camaro. He ordered his in September and took delivery in November of 1968.
A set of Pro-Trac bias-ply tires continues the authentic vintage look, G60-15 in front and L60-15 in back. The tires are made by Coker and are in the Summit catalog, as are the American Racing Torq-Thrust Original wheels, 15×7 front and 15×8.5 rear.
To dampen wheel hop during all of those inevitable burnouts, Motion Performance installed its proprietary SuperBite traction bars, just painted black instead of the ugly stock yellow factory color. A real set of Motion SuperBite traction bars could not be located, so Starlite made a duplicate set from bar stock based on photos of the old versions.

Once the parts were accumulated, the Camaro went to Starlite Rod and Kustom in Torrance, California, the shop that would do most of the work, including the engine swap and paint. Owners Jack Fields and Edgar Hernandez specialize in very detailed ’60s customs, which, in essence, was what Joe wanted—an exact duplicate of his original ’69 Camaro. Joe’s extensive portfolio of photographs of the original car would prove invaluable during the build.

Six grueling months later the car was done and in the Baldwin-Motion Madness display at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals (MCACN) in Chicago. The MCACN show doesn’t usually allow replicas to be displayed, but made an exception since it was Joe recreating his own car. There, among a dozen surviving Motion-built Corvettes, Camaros and Chevelles, each worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, it fit right in. In fact, Joel “Mr. Motion” Rosen, the man who built the original car 45 years ago, and Schorr, were so impressed with the build they each signed the Camaro’s visor.

“That was a thrill,” says Joe. “Of course, I wish I still had the real car; it was the coolest car I ever owned, but this is the next best thing. Every time I drive it, heck, every time look at it, I’m 26 again.”

Most of us never get that chance to go back. Joe Oldham is one of the lucky ones.

Back in 1969, Marty Schorr put Joe’s original car in three Motion Performance ads: Outrageous, The Moment of Truth and “Wanted” and even on the cover of Motion’s 1969 product catalog. Joe, then a writer for Hi-Performance Cars magazine, took lots of photos of the car and it also appeared in several magazine stories.
Back in 1969, Marty Schorr put Joe’s original car in three Motion Performance ads: Outrageous, The Moment of Truth and “Wanted” and even on the cover of Motion’s 1969 product catalog. Joe, then a writer for Hi-Performance Cars magazine, took lots of photos of the car and it also appeared in several magazine stories.
Back in 1969, Marty Schorr put Joe’s original car in three Motion Performance ads: Outrageous, The Moment of Truth and “Wanted” and even on the cover of Motion’s 1969 product catalog. Joe, then a writer for Hi-Performance Cars magazine, took lots of photos of the car and it also appeared in several magazine stories.

 

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