The Porsche 356 has become an icon, and today, almost every example is deemed a candidate for salvation. Many are rebuilt as pleasurable drivers, while others are exactingly reconstructed and contend in international Concours. However, more than a few owners dismiss the idea of a just-like-it-left-the-factory restoration. They enjoy customizing their Porsches in ways that Zuffenhausen could and would never have conceived. Their non-conformist ideas have roots in the true hot-rod and custom shops that had emerged in Southern California.
Gary Emory’s father, Neil, owned Valley Custom Shop, one of the best-known, but Gary’s interests carried him to those strange little German cars. For years, he ran the parts department of a major dealership, immersing himself in all the nuances of the marque. He liked to add small custom touches to his own cars, as well as customers’, and he even created a small badge with a Maltese cross to replace the 356’s stock rear torsion bar cover. He called his cars “Outlaws.”
His own son, Rod, also had the Porsche bug. Together, they began creating a pair of highly modified 356s. The first was a stunning cabriolet built for Rod’s use and the other was a 1955 coupe that was intended to be Gary’s personal ride. The cabriolet was finished in time for Monterey’s tribute to Porsche in 1998, but the coupe was put aside, that is until a Florida airline pilot named Jeff Hathorn called. He’d seen Rod’s cab featured in Excellence magazine and wanted something just like it. He bought the Emorys’ coupe and financed its completion. The car was fitted with a full roll cage and sub-frame, and the body was cleaned up to minimize drag, which included adding a removable roof panel. The suspension was modified and lowered to enhance handling and performance. Four-wheel disc brakes with Brembo calipers from an early Boxster were installed, along with distinctive 16×7 “Special” wheels.
The new drivetrain employs one of Dean Polopolous’ ingeniously engineered four-cylinder SOHC “Polo” engines. The powerplant was based on a sectioned 901/911 five-main-bearing six-cylinder that had the central pair of cylinders removed, and it is fitted with a Velasco billet steel crankshaft, J&E pistons in Mahle cylinders, Elgin camshafts, and twin plug heads. It breathes through a pair of Weber 48 IDA downdraft carburetors and a custom Bursch exhaust, creating 137 brake horsepower. The five-speed 901 gearbox has a 904 mainshaft and custom gear ratios.
The “Emory Special” project was a success, as the little coupe set a new unofficial one-way E/GT class speed record of 151.52 mph. Afterwards, the engine was completely rebuilt, the body was stripped and repainted, and the chassis was set up by Heritage Motorcar Restorations in St. Petersburg, Florida.
This unique Porsche 356, the epitome of the “Outlaw,” was featured in Excellence in November 2003, won First Place in the Concours at Brumos Porsche Octoberfest in 2004, and participated in the Daytona Rennsport Reunion in 2004.
This 1955 Porsche 356 Pre-A ‘Emory Special’ Coupe will be offered at the RM Auctions Arizona sale, scheduled for January 15-16, 2015 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix.