Interview With VETTE Magazine Founder & First Editor, Martyn L. Schorr – Pt. 2
An intimate conversation with Marty Schorr – Baldwin Motion, VETTE Quarterly, and other adventures…
(Our conversation picks up with an enterprise that’s still being talked about! You can catch Pt. 1 of this interview, HERE.)
ST – That’s a great segue Marty, let’s talk about the Baldwin-Motion experience.
MS – Baldwin Chevrolet was an old, local, mom & pop Chevy dealership. Joel was friends with John Mahler, the parts manager, and it all started out as a sponsorship with a strippo, red, big-block Camaro that they dropped an L-88 427 into and went drag racing. It was an advertising / promotion thing. The car ran great and we put our heads together and pitched a program to the Baldwin Chevrolet owners for a full line of supercars called, “The Fantastic Five” that included a Camaro, Chevelle, Nova, Impala, and of course, a Corvette.
We would start off with the biggest optioned engine and heavy-duty suspension and drive train, then we would drop in a 427 with a lot of hot rod parts. Because we were starting off with the toughest stuff available from the factory, the cars were amazingly durable, and still under warranty. We added aftermarket wheels, custom stripes, and badges that created a complete brand. The cars put Baldwin Chevrolet on the map and everyone made money. I did all the branding, catalogs, and ads, we had a shop do the custom stripping, and Joel did the conversions and final tests. Every car was guaranteed to run 12.5 in the quarter-mile with a professional driver. For a time we were the biggest specialty car maker under Shelby. When we got into the V-8 Vegas, Baldwin Chevrolet really didn’t want to have them branded as “Baldwin-Motion” cars because they were front heavy and didn’t handle very well. So if you ever see any of the Vega cars we did, you notice that they are “Motion Performance” car and not “Baldwin-Motion” cars.
ST – I was a teenager when you were splashing those incredible Baldwin-Motion and muscle car road tests in CARS. You assembled a group of writers that made the magazine something to look forward to every month. How did that all come together?
MS – When it comes out right, you’re a hero, otherwise, you’re a bum. The perception was that East Coast magazines only sold to East Coast guys. Remember that back then, because Hot Rod and Car Craft owned the newsstands, it looked like nothing was happening on the East Coast. The image was that the West Coast shops were these giant sophisticated shops – palaces – at least, that’s the way they looked in print. The first time I went to the West Coast I was shocked to see the Bill Thomas’ shop was just a little place. Dana Chevrolet only did their high-performance cars for about 1-1/2 years. Baldwin-Motion made cars for six years. The East Coast places like TASCA, SRD, Stahl, Baldwin-Motion, and Grumpy hardly got any attention at all. (Grumpy became one of drag racing’s rock stars after Pro Stock exploded in ‘70 – ST) And the editors of the West Coast books were all treated like heroes and you had to get an appointment just to talk to them. We had a lot to work with on the East.
Joe Oldham was a street racer kid that used to deliver flowers in my neighborhood and then one day he came into the CARS office to sell a Pontiac-go-fast article. It turned out that Joe used to deliver flowers in my neighborhood and knew my red Bonneville Coupe with the eight-lug wheels. Joe is now the editor of Popular Mechanics and for a long time was my road test driver and a columnist.
Roger Huntington was an engineer that used to write tech features for us. Not many readers knew that Roger had been wheelchair-bound all his life, but he wrote good tech features.
One of our early guys, Fred Mackerodt, started with CARS in ‘64 and today he’s a PR guy with a GM account. Fred was a very good editor even though he never graduated from high school. He was a good humorist writer to and used to do stories under the pen name of “Dilbert Farb.” (His trash truck road test had me in stitches when I was a kid. – ST) Cliff Gromer was another one of our regular guys, along with Alan Root, Alex Walordy, Stewart Yale, Fred Cohen, Joel Rosen, and others.
ST – How did your relationship begin with Corvettes?
MS – When I was a kid in the ‘50s, I came from a rather poor background. My Mom and Dad didn’t even drive. Corvettes were cars for rich kids and there was no used Corvette market to speak of. Then when I started working for CARS, if I wanted to drive a Vette, I could always borrow one from Rosen or a Chevy dealer. (One of the perks of being a car magazine editor. – ST) So, I had other kinds of cars. I had a hot rod roadster that won the ‘68 New York Rod & Custom Show and the CARS magazine 390 Javelin project car. I also had a Corvette-powered Iso Grifo Italian sports car.
But I was always impressed with the Corvette’s ability to sell magazines if we put a Vette on the cover. Then we started doing a lot of one-shot titles, or “annuals” as we called them. Around ‘75 we came up with a proposal for a quarterly, Corvette-only magazine. We had some back-and-forth business with Chevrolet over the title for the magazine and finally settled on “VETTE Quarterly.”
We got the first issues out and just kept working the advertising until we were able to get the book bi-monthly and finally in the early ‘80s we went monthly. The ‘70s were tough times – muscle cars were dead, the performance of the new Corvettes was dropping, and the economy wasn’t good. But the passion for the car pulled the magazine along.
ST – Marty, I have to ask you about one of my heroes, Zora Arkus-Duntov. What was your relationship like with him and do you have a good Zora story to share?
MS – Yea, he was quite a character. As a journalist and editor, I had access to almost everyone. Everyone wanted to talk to Zora and because he loved to talk, he was under constant observation. He was so enthusiastic about Corvettes and driving fast that he would often go on about projects that were under development. So, rarely did he ever get away from his handlers. At the ‘69 New York International Auto Show when Joel we showing his Phase III GT 427 Corvette prototype, Zora would often wander off to talk to Joel and me. He would often get very dramatic with flowery prose as he talked shop with us. There are some published photos of Zora and Joel at that show. Those weren’t just snap shots of Duntov just happening by Joel’s Corvette. They had a great rapport and would often meet for drinks when Zora was in town.
Let’s see, a good Zora story. He had a mule car that they called his “silhouette racer” concept car. It was the car they used to developed the wide IMSA body parts that Greenwood made famous. The car was primer gray, had an L-88 with open header side pipes and a full roll cage. One day, he took me out on the high-speed oval test track. We were going full-tilt, with the tail slightly out, while he had a cigarette in his mouth, and was explaining suspension geometry and big-block engine development. He had great control of this animal car. He was so “out there” that many times he was banned from driving on the test track. A few years later after I bought my first Corvette, a ‘67 390-horsepower 427 Roadster, Zora would sometime help me out with parts. He also helped me get an LT-1 engine for my Iso Griffo. That was back when an inside guy like him could get away with that. It was truly an honor to know the man.
ST – After you sold VETTE Magazine to CSK Publishing in ‘82, what have you been up to?
MS – I started my public relations and marketing agency, Performance Media, in ‘82 and landed a one year contract with Buick that ended up lasting 18 years. I wrote the Buick GSX book that was included with all 547 GNX Buicks built in ‘87. Then I did a lot of unusual projects that included the Mercedes-Benz Police Bicycle program in ‘01, Bvlgari-branded clocks and luxury products for IMJA, Vizon, Cien, and Sixteen Concept Cars and production Escalades and XLR cars. I also did projects for Volvo, Panzoz, Piero Rivolta, Nicola Bulgari,a nd Ultra-Firm USA. And in ‘05 I helped launch the Baldwin-Motion Super Coupe at the SEMA Show and won the GM Best Design Award. That car was auctioned off at Barrett-Jackson for $486,000.
ST – Marty, with 50 years of automotive journalism under your belt, what are some of your best thrills?
MS – What comes to mind is being at Le Mans in ‘04 to see the C5-R Corvettes win 1-2-3. Spectators from all over the world packed the grandstands and the amount of American flags was stupendous – Corvette fans from all over the planet. I’ve had the opportunity to drive Corvettes all over Europe, which was really a thrill. Building cars again with the Baldwin-Motion project and being involved with the Lingenfelter Company is great. I mentioned earlier that I bought a ‘67 big-block roadster. I loved that car and like many Corvette owners, I regretted the day I sold my Vette. But a few years ago I bought a ‘07 convertible. It’s trouble-free, great-looking, and a blast to drive. A true feel-good car.
ST – Well Marty, I’ll close this conversation with one of my favorite Marty Schorr expressions. “Nuff said.” Thank you very much.
You can catch Pt. 1 of this interview, HERE.
“Creative types” like Marty Schorr don’t stop till they drop. Since out conversation in December 2008, Marty has gone on to launch two very exciting websites. SarasotaCafeRacers.com is the online presence for Sarasota Cafe Racers – Car Guys Who Lunch, an informal lunch club for guys who love cars – all kinds of cars – to get together over burgers and bench racing. There’s only one club rule: be a real car guy – or be gone! You can check out the website HERE.
Once an editor, always an editor. You simply can’t expect a man with over 20 years at the editor’s desk and over 25 years in the automotive PR business to drive off into the Florida sunset! As an outgrowth of the Sarasota Cafe Racers club, Marty is once again founded another publication, only this one is digital. CarGuyChronicles.com covers the full range of domestic and foreign performance cars and race cars. CarGuyChronicles.com is the classic box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. Always fun, always interesting, you can check it out HERE.
And lastly, Marty was very involved in bringing together the deal for the new Baldwin Motion Phase III SS-427 Supercars produced by Howard Tanner of RPM Performance and DeNooyer Chevrolet. The new Baldwin Motion cars were very carefully worked out with the full approval of Joel “Mr. Motion” Rosen, Howard Tanner, with PR and marketing guidance from Schorr. All parties involved worked very hard to make sure that the new Baldwin Motion cars had the same style and bullet proof hardware combo that made the original Motion cars legends. You can check out the new Baldwin Motion Supercars HERE.
And lastly, while on the topic of the Baldwin Motion experience, we invite you to visit our new blog site, www.BaldwinMotionReport.com, HERE. Very soon we’ll be posting an exclusive interview with Joel Rosen.