Outlaw Style: Rod Emory’s Custom-Built Classic Porsches

At age eight, Rod Emory was already learning how to sandblast body panels and weld with a gas-powered torch. Enthusiastically committed to helping out in his grandfather’s body shop at a Porsche dealership in Newport Beach, California, in the early 1980s, Emory began learning his grandfather’s tricks of the trade, as well as the strategies and principles that the elder Emory had adhere to from 1947 to 1961, when he created modified sports cars and hot rods at his Valley Custom Shop in Burbank.

“My grandfather was the master of modifying everything but making it look factory built,” he says. “That’s what I picked up early on—how to do all these modifications but to make them look like something Porsche would’ve done.”

Some Outlaws include rally-purposed roll bars with leather straps to secure spares and touring necessities.

Emory’s father was just as passionate about car modifications as his father was. He owned Porsche Parts Obsolete, an automotive shop that supplied vintage-Porsche owners with the original components needed to restore their 356s and early 911s to concours-level condition. “He’d buy a car and say, ‘Alright, Rod, let’s have some fun with this,’” Emory recalls. “We’d lower the car and put fog lights and new wheels on it. We were personalizing them and having fun with them, and his customers would say, ‘You guys are outlaws. Nobody is going to accept you.’

“We didn’t care about what other people thought,” Emory recalls, “so we made these little badges that said ‘356 Outlaws’ and put them on the back of the cars that we were modifying.”

Those unusual formative experiences built the foundation of Emory’s career. Today, from inside a 17,000-square-foot workshop in North Hollywood, the 46-year-old still specializes in the production of highly (albeit discreetly) modified Porsche 356s in coupe and speedster forms, each of which prominently wears the Outlaw badge. When Emory founded his enterprise in 1996—then in McMinnville, Oregon—his automotive Outlaws were zealously received. Back then, Emory says his customer base was “a little more underground. It was the real enthusiast who loved the driving and personalization aspect of the 356. Most of our clients still fall into that category. The majority of them are just like they were in the beginning—real enthusiasts and real drivers who appreciate an evolution of the car and who aren’t as focused on authenticity from a numbers-matching standpoint.”

This bespoke Emory Outlaw interior includes saddle leather, basket-woven inserts, and an original, period-correct steering wheel.

If Emory’s work was underground in the 1990s, it’s entirely mainstream now. The Emory Motorsports team, composed of 16 technicians (including Emory himself), finishes one car a month on average; however, each car requires 12 to 18 months to build. There is also an 18-month waiting list, which means prospective clients must wait as long as three years to take possession of a new Outlaw. Because of that, Emory’s at-large vehicles have appreciated in value, often selling on the secondary market for as much—or more—than what it might cost to build the same car today.

Emory Motorsports’ transitional speedster in Aquamarine Blue

As proof, a 1959 Porsche 356 A Emory Outlaw Sunroof Coupe recently crossed the digital auction block through the online auction company Bring a Trailer. Built in 2012 for a client who asked Emory to design the type of car that Juan Carlos I of Spain might have special-ordered from Porsche to rally around the countryside, the car had accrued almost 11,000 miles of road time at the point of its sale in October. When the gavel fell, following a spirited final hour of bidding, the ’59 Outlaw sold for $500,000—about $150,000 more than what it would cost to build, according to Emory.

“It’s encouraging to see that the appreciation has gotten to the point where the cars are continuing to gain value,” he says. “But I don’t play into the hype. It’s not like my prices changed all of a sudden.”

The speedster’s vivid but minimalist interior

When first-time Emory Motorsports customers visit the shop to commission a new build, Emory begins by asking them about the other cars they own and their experience owning or driving Porsches, though prior Porsche ownership is not a prerequisite. “I have a handful of customers where an Outlaw was their entry into the Porsche community,” Emory says. “If they’ve never driven a Porsche or been in a Porsche, I’ll let them drive a stock car first and then one of ours to gain an appreciation for what we build.”

From there, Emory will include the client in some personalization decisions, offering a palette of colors and details the client can choose from. That said, Emory is particular about what he builds. Every Emory Outlaw must adhere to certain criteria and ultimately conform to the aesthetic he has created for his brand. “People come to me because they know that I’m going to deliver a car with a certain look. They do get input,” he says, “but it’s steered by me.”

Bare-metal Porsche bodies in the Emory Motorsports workshop wait to be transformed into customized classics.

Although Emory’s work is largely accepted by automotive enthusiasts today, some projects—such
as the recent transformation of a 356 coupe with a compromised roof into a topless speedster—still spark ire in Porsche purists. Emory likes to point out to those antagonists that his custom builds preserve cars that would likely have been destroyed without his intervention. “The best part of my work is bringing new life to cars that might otherwise be destined for the junkyard,” says Emory. “These cars that I’m working with are beaten and abused. Some purists out there will say that we’re ruining a coupe, but I’m saving cars that 20 years ago would have been salvaged and crushed. I’m bringing them back to life.”

971.241.7017, emorymotorsports.com

The 356 Outlaws badge, a hallmark of every Emory Motorsports vehicle

—by Shaun Tolson


More than 10,000 car enthusiasts will gather for the 70th annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on August 16. Widely considered the world’s most prestigious competition for car collectors, the Concours d’Elegance takes place at the fabled Pebble Beach Golf Links and features 200 automobiles (selected from more than 1,000 entries) judged on historic accuracy, technical merit, and style.The event also features eagerly anticipated concept vehicles and new car debuts. There’s something for everyone at the Concours d’Elegance, from car lovers to those who just enjoy the thrill of competition. Douglas Elliman is proud to be an event sponsor. pebblebeachconcours.net

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