The L.A. Lit and Toy Show is organized each year by Prescott Kelly, Jim Perrin, and Wayne Callaway. If you've never been, it's quite a spectacle: vendors and Porsche aficionados come from all over the U.S. and Europe, along with the SoCal faithful, converging on the LAX Hilton to see, buy, sell and discuss anything and everything Porsche.
I caught up with Rod Emory and his son Zayne at the show, on Saturday morning, while they were on the hunt for hard-to-come-by parts. Rod explained to me how, from hot rod beginnings in the 1940's at Valley Custom Shop in Burbank, California, his grandfather Neil Emory became a pioneer of customized body work (Dick Flint Roadster, So-Cal Speedshop Streamliner, etc.). In the early 1960's, Neil was recruited to run the bodyshop at Chick Iverson Porsche, followed by his son Gary who joined the parts department, setting in motion the Emory family's involvement with Porsches. Rod honed his bodywork skills with his grandfather and he developed his 356 mechanical know-how from his father.
Call it prescient, but Gary Emory started Parts Obsolete in the 1970's to preserve leftover old inventory from Porsche dealerships. Although still a teenager, Rod advanced his mechanical skills working for a top fuel drag racing team and absorbed the knowledge passed on by his father and grandfather. With help from his father, and his parts stash, Rod built the family's first two hot-rod Porsches, a '53 Coupe and a '65 Coupe. Friends would stop by the Emory family's garage and tell Gary and Rod that they were "Outlaws" for what they were doing to the 356's, and the name stuck.
As Rod raced his '53 Coupe in the Pacific Northwest, people took notice and asked him to build 356 race cars and hot rods. This led to the formation, a few years later, of Emory Motorsports. More recently, the Emory family has transitioned from its Oregon base of operations back to Southern California, and now builds most of their customer cars from their new facility in Lancaster. Although Emory Motorsports has built and restored well over 150 cars, including some very special 904 and 906 racers, Rod now concentrates strictly on Outlaws. At any given time his facility could be engaged in up to six projects, each with an average build time of twelve to eighteen months depending on the particulars. Rod tailors each Porsche to the customer's needs and budget, even assisting the customer in finding the right donor car for the build. Prices range from $175,000 to $300,000, including the price of the donor.
Over the past few years, Rod has noticed an interesting shift in Emory Motorsports' client base. Taking advantage of social media (Facebook, Instagram) to show progress on builds and engage new audiences, around fifty percent of Rod's customers now are people who have not previously owned a Porsche. They will often ask Rod to design and build the car to suit their needs, but with minimal input on design or mechanical specifications. Repeat customers and Porsche owners tend to be more actively involved in a build, asking for specific elements and components.
Although Rod's Outlaws have the look of factory GT style 356's and showcase race inspired elements, such as louvers, gas caps and lightweight parts, they are much more than that. Customers turn to Rod because they love the 356's styling but are searching for a drivable 356, one with an old school look but with more power, better suspension and brakes. Rod meets their needs, offering two engine options: A 914-based FAT Performance 2.6 liter or a 2.4 liter 4-cylinder 911 based motor. Of course, the cars then need to be set-up to handle the 180 plus horsepower engines. To do so, Rod incorporates 911 suspensions and transmissions and modern disc brakes, resulting in a timeless look with an updated feel and road handling manners. Ultimately, To achieve his brand of perfection, Rod relies on a blend of old school techniques and modern technology, making use of CNC mills and 3D scanners along with pullmaxes and English wheels.
In addition to the Outlaws, every two years or so Rod is inspired to build an Emory Special. What's the difference between and Emory Outlaw and an Emory Special? The Emory Specials, of which six have been completed to date, have more extensive body modifications, taking the Outlaw look to a whole other level, a bit more streamlined than the 356 GT style bodywork, with inspiration that in cases may be reminiscent of Porsche's famed RSK and 550 Spyder racers. Recently, Rod has been engaged in the restoration of an early Gmund SL, while at the same time building a special all-wheel drive running gear 356 Outlaw and working on yet another Emory Special.
If you're wondering whatever happened to Rod's first build, the '53 Coupe, the one that started it all? Well, in 2009, after racing it for twenty years, Rod and his wife Amy decided to make a special car even more so by donating it to the Limbs for Life Foundation to help raise money for people in need of prosthetic limbs.
About the author: Alex Baghdassarian is a longtime Porsche enthusiast and amateur photographer who resides in Southern California and loves to exercise his air-cooled mounts. Along with his wife Joyce, they attend various PCA, Early911s and 356 Registry events. Alex is a construction law Partner in the Los Angeles office of Peckar & Abramson, P.C. and can be reached via the comment section below or at [email protected] To see more of Alex's photographs, follow him on Instagram at Weissach911.
[Photos by Rod Emory]