Muscle Cars You Should Know: ’69 Z/28 Motion 427 ZLX

Unknown to many performance muscle car enthusiasts, not all Motion Performance-prepped machines came rolling fresh from showroom floors. Rather, it’s becoming more and more evident that the opposite is more likely. In the wake of our first segment of Muscle Cars You Should Know, Street Legal TV was entreated with a flood of emails from readers like you who were mesmerized by obscure and super-rare examples of Detroit’s very best in tire-scorching iron.

Purchased new from Curtis Person Chevrolet in Millington, Tennessee, this Camaro started life as a standard Z/28. Its first owner, Chuck Hamilton, drag raced it until 1974, when he shipped it to Motion Performance for an extensive conversion involving the installation of a dual four-barrel 427 tunnel ram engine with special ZLX open chamber aluminum heads, a Liberty transmission and several suspension modifications. According to one of two certified letters from Motion founder and President Joel Rosen, the conversion was dubbed “Phase III ZLX” and was among the “Most expensive and extreme conversions done during that era.”

Images courtesy of Geoff Stunkard

Information gleaned from Motion purchase orders indicate that the final figure for the upgrades was approximately $12,000, a figure confirmed by Rosen, whose recollection is reinforced by the fact that he never received full payment for that monumental sum!

Starting with a rather mundane Z/28, Motion kept the interior equally as Spartan. A Hurst shifter and extra under-dash gauges appear to total all the interior mods.

Hamilton nonetheless took delivery of his renovated racer and campaigned it as “Mr. H.” After a provisional sale fell through in early 1987, the car was purchased by Dan Beal of Woodstock, Georgia with the intention of restoring it; Beal subsequently sold it untouched to Mr. Gary Grimes. At one time or another the car, still unrestored, was then owned or partly owned by several individuals around Atlanta and Augusta, after which it disappeared for several years.

Needing to get all that power from the 427 to the pavement, Motion went to work modifying the Camaro’s rear suspension with traction bars and a whole lot of backseat rubber.

Then in 2001, Forge Musclecar Invitational promoter and collector-car sleuth Tim Lopata was approached at a car show in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, by a man claiming to know the whereabouts of an original Motion-prepared drag car in Georgia. After several phone calls and trips to Georgia, Lopata purchased the car on behalf of well-known collector Mike Guarise, who then restored the car to its original Motion setup. Mr. Lopata’s story about finding and purchasing this car is documented in the December 2004 issue of Musclecar Enthusiast magazine.

The Motion Performance -built 427 touted some pretty heavy-duty hardware including this high-riser dual quad carburetor setup atop a tunnel ram intake manifold and high flow aluminum heads. When stock L88s were putting out close to 500hp when properly tuned, its staggering to think what Joel Rosen could have eked out of this powerplant.

After its restoration, the car was owned briefly by Kevin Suydam and is now in the collection of Chip Wright of Atlanta, Georgia (who was a major participant in writing this article, thanks Chip!). Mr. Wright’s fellow enthusiasts have helped him locate the car’s second owner, Dan Beal, who still lives outside Atlanta. Mr. Beal has supplied photos and information from his records, and helped Mr. Wright contact several other North Georgia enthusiasts who have either known about or owned this car, and those individuals have helped to complete the story about this unique machine, which is reputedly one of only two Motion-built ZLX Camaros and the only one known to exist today. This car also is one of the lowest mileage Z/28 in existence with 737 total miles.

The proof of the Motion Performance modification order is seen here. Amazingly enough, Rosen wasn’t paid in full for all the work he conducted on this very rare ZLX Z/28.

’69 Motion Hurst/Oldsmobile 455

About the author

Kevin Shaw

Kevin Shaw is a self-proclaimed "muscle car purist," preferring solid-lifter camshafts and mechanical double-pumpers over computer-controlled fuel injection and force-feeding power-adders. If you like dirt-under-your-fingernails tech and real street driven content, this is your guy.
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