Roaring through automotive history with a genuine car guy

It’s worth noting in our current situation that we still occupy a place and time where you can unquestionably, indisputably, carve out your own path in life. Yes, that’s still true. As proof, let’s study the biography of my friend and fellow Floridian Marty Schorr, a guy who literally has done it all in the worlds of automotive journalism and public relations. A native of the Bronx, Marty experienced the most glorious era in American performance history, both as a magazine editor and PR professional. This guy lived during a time when the U.S. auto industry maintained fleets of muscle cars, some of them actual engineering prototypes, inside Manhattan garages for Marty and other scribes to flog at will, on the street or the strip, and available for the whipping just by picking up the phone and calling up a manufacturer’s rep. That’s an incredible notion, I realize, but Marty lived it all the way. Today, he’s a social butterfly amid the car world on the Florida Gulf Coast, the author of numerous books on Detroit’s insane performance years, a car collector, and practitioner of online journalism. I’m very proud and grateful to know Marty. He’s the real deal and absolutely one of the good guys.

Born in the Bronx, Marty served in the Army Reserve in the early 1960s, picking up a 1961 Pontiac Bonneville with a Tri-Power 389 as his daily driver. As a member of a Yonkers car club, he’d already rumbled around in a rodded 1940 Mercury convertible sedan, of all things, and later in a 1949 MG TC powered by a full-house Ford V8-60 flathead. He was elected as the club’s publicity director, which brought him in touch with the editors of car magazines, many of which were then headquartered in New York City. That triggered his desire to write about cars and photograph them, even though he only owned a six-buck Kodak at the time. In October 1960, Marty was offered the job of editor at two magazines then published by Magnum-Royal Publications in Manhattan, Custom Rodder and Car, Speed and Style. He was further named editor of CARS in 1965, whose title Marty changed to Hi-Performance CARS, in the process hiring Fred Mackerodt as managing editor and my fellow East New York native, the late Joe Oldham, as staff writer. This was the Murderer’s Row that covered the muscle, drag and yes, street-racing scene in the New York metro area during the 1960s. A cover of the magazine shows Marty’s own hot rod, atypically powered by Ford via a Cobra small-block.

The magazine was a deep-down dive into the world of American high performance, tales told with both enthusiasm and irreverence. A big part of the job involved track-testing muscle cars to acquire real-world performance numbers. In other words, Marty and company drew regular salaries for testing Detroit’s fastest at the track, to prove empirically just how fast they really were. This shows one such test session from at the immortal Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey.

Marty department Magnum-Royal in 1973 to establish Performance Media Public Relations, which he still operates today, while also putting out magazines like Chevy Action and Vette for other publishers, plus doing a series of books. Before that, in 1967, he began collaborating with Joel Rosen, a racer and AHRA national record holder who became a business success by founding a speed shop, Motion Performance, that specialized in shoehorning big-block Chevrolet engines into everything from Chevelles to Vegas, usually obtaining the engines from Baldwin Chevrolet, just a few doors away on Sunrise Highway in the eponymous Long Island town. Here’s one such stormer, which effectively countered General Motors’ reluctance at the time to put mega-inch engines in smaller cars.

Hi-Performance CARS began sponsoring Baldwin-Motion in drag racing, demonstrated by this 1967 image of Rosen launching a 427 Camaro at New York National Speedway in Center Moriches on Long Island, where the magazine did a lot of its track testing. This was truly crazy stuff. Today, documented Baldwin-Motion cars with known histories are highly prized by collectors of vintage GM muscle cars. Marty produced catalogs and other materials for Baldwin-Motion while he was growing PMPR, a process that led to Buick selecting to handle public and media relations from Maine to Florida, a post held from 1982 to 2000. If you wrote about cars during these years and knew Marty, you were guaranteed some memorable experiences. One of mine was attending a Buick V-6 performance seminar at Phoenix International Raceway that featured rides with NHRA Super Stock legend Kenny Duttweiler, who ran a twin-turbo Regal T-Type in the doorslammer wars, and the late Scotsman Jim Crawford, who led the 1988 Indianapolis 500 with a stock-block Buick turbo V-6 over a horde of cars with Cosworth-Chevrolet power until losing a lap in the pits near the end. Some wonderful things happened during the Buick turbo years, including the McLaren-massaged, one-of-547 Buick GNX, which Crawford and I got to hot-lap at the Phoenix happening. Marty even let me drive a new Roadmaster sedan away from the event, which I used to make my first visit to Death Valley, amid a rare riot of springtime flora.

If you’re ever in or around Sarasota, Florida, you might be able to take part in one of Marty’s luncheon gatherings for car guys, which drew significant numbers until coronavirus worries interrupted things. Find out about them and keep in touch by going here. Marty’s other site, Car Guy Chronicles, deals with more conventional automotive news and features, including a recent entry on one of my heroes, E.J. Potter, the Michigan Madman, a guy who realized it was cool to smoke his way down countless Midwest drag strips astride a Harley powered by a built small-block Chevrolet V-8. Let Marty know who sent you.

One thought on “Roaring through automotive history with a genuine car guy

  1. N Y National Speedway was in Center Moriches, not Westhampton. Westhampton has its own track named Westhampton Dragway that later became Long Island Dragway. Otherwise great story.

    Like

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