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He was five years old when his dad, Gary, first asked if he wanted to drive. The golden Pismo Beach dunes rolled before him, but all he saw was a Baja Bug. It was in fact, the first Baja Bug ever. He climbed in, dad stuck a cushy pillow behind him, and he popped the clutch and stalled. The rest of the weekend was spent figuring out how to shift and driving it up and down the sandy dunes.

That’s how Rod Emory of Emory Motorsports was hooked for life.

Car Stories – Rod Emory

He was born into a family that comes as close to Los Angeles automotive royalty as possible. And while that’s fortunate, Rod has made his own mark by building subtle, gorgeous Outlaw Porsche 356s. While his grandfather, Neil, was a hot rod and custom legend (he built the body for the SoCal Streamliner among others), he transitioned into the Volkswagen and Porsche world during the early ‘60s and his son Gary followed along.

But Gary wasn’t a craftsman, like his dad Neil. He’d always been a parts guy. And in the early ‘70s he partnered with his boss Chick Iverson and started buying parts that Porsche wasn’t going to make anymore. In 1974, he went into that business full-time and started Porsche Parts Obsolete. And even though Gary couldn’t weld or fabricate like his dad, he did have a great design eye. In fact, there was a bay in the back of the PPO shop where they’d make some light mods to customer cars, like hood straps and fog lights. Rod still remembers helping his dad set the camber on a lowered Porsche when he just a boy, in the ‘80s.

“The Emorys, we weren’t the first ones to customize and lower Porsches, and do all of that. But we were, you know, because of our hot rod background and our roots, we were always drawn to, you know, lower cars and kinda changing the look and changing the aesthetic and so my dad and I, we’d take these 356s and change them to look a little bit more rally-inspired.” Rod explains.

“What happened was all my dad’s customers and everybody that was restoring cars, they’d come to our shop and be like ‘Oh man! What are you guys doing? You guys are outlaws.’ Well, that stuck.” A friend who was a jeweler made a badge for them that read “356 Outlaws” and that was the beginning of the term ‘Outlaws’ as it pertains to 356s.

Originally, Rod wanted to be a racecar driver and began racing in the Mickey Thomson off-road series. He also worked as a mechanic in nostalgia drags and NHRA Top Fuel for a year. When he was 16, he got his SCCA license and began racing in their historic series, but had some trouble finding sponsors and didn’t have enough money to finance himself. A chance meeting with a guy in Portland however, allowed Emory to build him a car and teach him a bit about racing. Within a few years he was building vintage racers for a few clients, transporting cars to races, and providing full race support.

Consequently, his customers liked Rod’s cars so much, and were running competitively with them, that they began asking about street cars. In 1998, he built his first “Emory Special” a completely designed and customized Porsche 356 for the street. In 2008, due to the economic downturn, he switched his focus from building racecars to only building road-going cars of higher quality. Since around 2007, Emory Motorsports has almost exclusively been building Outlaw 356s.

While people think of him and his cars as Outlaws, there are certain things that Emory won’t do. While obviously not a purist, he likes his cars “subtle”, and doesn’t like crazy colors. He stays away from using bright ignition boxes or shiny braided lines, and won’t chop tops. For Rod, if one detail is stealing the attention, it’s wrong. He wants the cars to look OEM as if it emerged from the Porsche factory that way. It has to look original.

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Podcast Interview by A.J. Gordon / Article Written by Yoav Gilad