The Emory Motorsports Story
VISITING OUTLAW LAND
Last month, Classic Porsche gave you a glimpse of Emory Motorsports, in the shape of two near-stock-looking but highly tuned 356s. Such performance-oriented models have become a staple for the Oregon-based shop, which has been influential in creating the Outlaw trend, too. Follow us as we meet company owner Rod Emory for an exclusive tour!
Words by Stephan Szantai
About an hour away from the hectic urban pace of Portland (Oregon) sits a 50-acre piece of property surrounded by calm and greenery, where old Porsche 356s come back to life with a vengeance – welcome to Emory Motorsports. The shop isn't totally isolated though, being located in the suburb of a city housing 33,000 folks, McMinnville, which claim to fame is a fantastic aviation museum. Among the aircrafts on exhibit, visitors are usually drawn to the Spuce Goose, the largest airplane ever constructed; a military mammoth designed and built in the 1940s by legendary entrepreneur Howard Hughes.
Emory Motorsports has had a deep impact on the Outlaw scene; but before we address the subject, we need to move back in time, way before company owner Rod Emory was even born. You see, he happens to be a third generation gearhead, with both his father and grandfather influencing the car world in their own way. Grandpa Neil Emory made a name for himself as the co-founder of Valley Custom Shop in 1948. He started various elegant custom trends by perfecting the vehicles' factory appearance, using intricate methods such as sectioning the body – that's when a horizontal 'slice' is removed all around the shell.
Neil wrenched on customs through the '50s; and in 1962 he was offered a job at the VW/Porsche Chick Iverson dealership in Newport Beach, California. As a bodywork specialist, he became an expert at reviving mangled German tin. His son Gary (Rod's father) soon joined him once he finished high-school, later leading to a position as Parts Department Manager.
In the late '60, Gary witnessed a lot of not-so-old Volkswagen and Porsche replacement parts being thrown away, mainly due to lack of space, from luggage racks to 4-cam engine components. He realized the value of this stock and, in agreement with Chick, went to save a lot of it. They eventually partnered to found Porsche Parts Obsolete in 1974, after selling most of their VW/Audi inventory. This business turned very successful, taking over a 10,000 square-foot warehouse. In parallel, Neil and Rod's uncle Don opened Emory's Porsche Restoration, too!
At an early age, Rod (who was born in 1974) started helping Gary after school and during the summer. It didn't take him long to work on whatever project his father gave him. Rod enjoyed helping as a kid: 'During the early part of the '80s, my dad wanted to have fun with these 356s; pulling bumpers off, adding fog lights, polishing drums, putting louvers in the decklid... Basically he longed to hot rod them a little bit, inspired by Porsche's factory GTs.'
From 1984 until the early '90s, the father and son team built a number of souped-up 356s; soon, Gary's buddies nicknamed the duo 'Outlaws'. Event promoters weren't too sure what to do with their vehicles, which were relegated to the parking lot rather than the show area. But the trend began to spread and friends went to assemble their own 356 Outlaw versions – the Emorys would even give a nice 'Outlaw' badge to the people who they thought had a deserving car. Later, even the 356 Registry introduced an Outlaw class in their Concours d'Elegance!
When reaching the age of 10, Rod would also hang out with his grandfather Neil in his restoration shop during a few summers, learning bodywork from one of the best automobile customizers. The younger Emory additionally got a job as a mechanic on a successful nostalgia Top Fuel dragster (circa 1967), four years later – a fantastic way to improve his technical skills! Competition is in his blood, too. In 1989, he went racing ATVs competitively all around the United States; then the following year, he competed on the asphalt with his 1953 356 coupe, as well as the Mickey Thompson series with a single-seat off-road buggy. Not your typical youth, for sure!
After going to college and getting married, he followed his dad Gary to Oregon in 1996 – Gary had brought Porsche Parts Obsolete along with him. Rod and his wife Amy consequently opened Emory Motorsports, as he wanted to follow his grandfather's footsteps and start vintage Porsche restorations, while also specializing in racing – from coaching the drivers to supplying them with 'arrive-and-drive' trackside support.
The company slowly evolved into a facility able to provide unique custom/Outlaw 356s. In 1998, Rod decided to build a car which would change the way people looked at these models, to get away from that 'glorified Volkswagen' image. And so was born the first Emory Special. He started with a rusty 1964 cabriolet; he then heavily modified the body before installing 944 Turbo S trailing arms and brakes, custom alloy wheels, along with a Polo 4 (a.k.a. 911-4) engine. It was a huge hit.
From 2000 to 2008, Emory employed multiple semi-trucks to support between 16 and 18 customers' cars (mostly 356s) at the track. But as racing began to slow down in the U.S., Rod then chose to focus his attention on building 356 Outlaws.
He currently offers different engine options that deliver between 170 and 220BHP, starting with the Emory/Rothsport 'Outlaw 911-4' version – think 2/3 of a 911 flat six as seen in last month's article about a duo of Emory 356s. This motor now integrates a new billet crank case and crankshaft, which can survive up to 350 horsepower. It additionally employs a variety of 964 3.6-litre components, plus Weber 48IDA carbs or EFI. An alternative costing about half the price is a FAT Performance-assembled 2650cc Type 4 boxer, fitted with a 911-style fan shroud, together with 44 or 48mm carburettors. A third choice, though less popular, is the use of a highly-tuned 356 or 912 powerplant.
These engines are typically mated to either a toughened-up 741-style 356 transaxle, or a 901 transmission with a modified nose cone and bell housing mounts, for easy installation. Emory Motorsports produces its own annular disc brakes, too, featuring the factory 5x205mm bolt-pattern and inspired by the racing Porsche RSK setup – but they aren't cheap at US$20,000 a set. A least expensive option would be a disc brake kit supplied by CNC Inc., using the identical 356 bolt pattern.
Emory Motorsports has assembled about 100 Outlaws since 1996, but also performed restorations on a 906, 908, 908-3, a Porsche Cooper and more. Rod is additionally rebuilding a 1949 Gmünd 356 SL coupé (chassis 356-063) at the present time, in a secret location in Southern California filled with all sorts of high-tech machinery. As a side note, we should mention that the crew regularly builds VWs... but always with Porsche running gears.
The Oregon shop covers 15,000 square-feet, not counting the 7,000 of car storage area and the 20,000 taken over by Parts Obsolete, used to stash all sorts of vintage parts up to the late '70s! The facility has been designed to perform restorations from A to Z. A first, large disassembly/assembly area welcomes a few lifts allowing easy teardowns, with all components carefully organized, ready for a new life. An outside company handles bead-blasting the bodies ('It's too messy to have it here' concedes Rod). When they return, each shell is bolted to an octagonal rotisserie rack custom-made to accept 356s, set in a metal fabrication room that handles one vehicle at a time. The rejuvenation continues – floors, rust repairs, etc. – thanks to the talent of Rick Guilmette. Only minimal filler is being used during this process.
Once in tip-top shape, bodies return to the aforementioned assembly area, where you will typically witness Sean Nguyen and Luke Guilmette work on three to five Porsches at the same time. The final step includes a very thorough alignment by Rothsport; and after a 100-150-mile test run, the vehicles are ready to be delivered to their clients.
Ultimately, Rod truly feels blessed being involved with Emory Motorsports, as he explains: 'What's amazing is the fact that we are three generation of car builders and restorers – really three generations of a Porsche family. I was able to take everything I've learned from my grandfather and father and turn it into a modern package, which still has the spirit of our traditional hot rod and Porsche roots.' Way to go, Rod – and thanks for the amazing visit!