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This Guy's Garage - Rick Smith Restorations

Rick Smith Restorations / Stuart, VA

By Geoff Stunkard, Photography by Geoff Stunkard

Rick Smith Restorations / Stuart, VA

The mountains of Appalachia are a far cry from the Sunrise Highway, Baldwin Chevrolet, and Motion Performance (MP), but supercar specialist Rick Smith is busy these days. Noted for a desire for accuracy and a willingness to do the legwork on rare parts, Smith has found himself in the enviable niche of being one of the best restorers of “day two” Bow Ties in the nation. From the era when dealers back-doored cars to speed builders or even their own warranty shops to get around GM’s 400ci limit, the Camaros, Chevelles, and Novas that Smith is working with are among the highest-demand muscle cars on the planet. Seen here recently at RSR is probably the largest assembly of under-restoration Motion iron anyplace ever.

Cars like this can take years to do correctly, and Smith does it all—bodywork, paint, engines, drivelines—with skill, a country drawl, and a ready smile. You want it fast or cheap, you’d best head back home to the city. The Wood Brothers NASCAR team came from this region, and from the open doors behind us, you can see the winding snake called the Blue Ridge Parkway; cool mountain air is the standard of living. It’s quiet in these parts except during hunting season or if Rick has got an engine on the break-in stand like he did here. Still, we’d recommend you don’t come sneakin’ around the nearby hills too carefully, though, ’cause you know that old adage from back in the day.

“Son, where does that little road go to?”
“Sir, that there road goes up to my pappy’s still…but it don’t ever come back.”

[1] This ’69 Phase III Motion Camaro is a long-time project owned by Charlie Biele. This one is a full-tilt street monster, complete with the L88 engine, M22, 4.88 Posi, and the Hone-O-Drive overdrive unit. It came to Ricky as one of those “er…they fixed it first” cars from another shop that wasn’t getting it correct. So while it looks like something now, it’ll need to be completely rebuilt to be right.

[2] This is a ’68 Motion Camaro (L72 427, -851 ’68-only L88 intake) that turned up as a delivery to the shop in such dilapidated shape that Rick called new owner Kevin Hand and asked him, “What do you want me to do with this?!” After verifying the documentation with the original buyer, the solution was a real ’68 L35 396/325hp Camaro that gave its life to keep the Motion project viable, and Rick saved as much of the original car as he could. Oh, by the way, this is the only known red ’68 Motion Camaro.

[3]The engine that will go into the Motion Chevelle has a rare -093 ’67 L88 intake and L89-type closed chamber -842 aluminum heads; the M20 tranny has been rebuilt, and the original 4.56:1 12-bolt rear has been restored as well. All the special Motion rear suspension parts were still on the car and are being carefully reconditioned.

[4] If Motion Camaros are rare, Motion Chevelles are rarer. And ’67 Motion Chevelle conversions are unobtainium, except here, where Kevin Hand is also having Rick rebuild the remains of the only one known to have been created. This blue beast was originally built for bodyshop worker Charlie Mason, but Joel Rosen himself wrecked it during a race. Charlie quick-fixed the damage, and it stayed in the Mason family until it turned up on eBay. It has full provenance and is well known in the hobby. The frame was in the paint booth the day we came calling.

[5] Just to keep it interesting, Rick also had this “easier” ’69 Fathom Green Yenko COPO Camaro that he is restoring for Rodger Styke on the lift. Rick and a couple of guys with stock-car backgrounds take care of the more serious chassis work out back, and a big professional-grade paint booth is to the right.

[6] To re-do an L88 Phase III Motion engine for any Motion resto, you need to find a date-coded block, a good 950-cfm Holley three-barrel, the special Mallory distributor, the associated ignition parts like the coil, the proper L88 or Edelbrock intake and heads for that year, and a set of original Motion valve covers (frankly, they’re not as nice as the repros). Truth is, most guys never do find the “right stuff.” This one is for Biele’s ’69, and it is ready to go once the car is done.

By Geoff Stunkard
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