Revisiting my Emory Outlaw 1:18 build on the 2 year anniversary of finishing and delivering it.
Excerpt taking from my LALD artice written originally in two parts. The build story was picked up and condensed on the automotive blog site Petrolicous later on and can be read here but it leaves out many details including the crucial story of the delivery. This build was the pinnacle of my model making skill set, it literally took so much out of me that I haven't built a custom since. Enjoy the journey!
The silhouette of an Outlaw.
Part 1: The Build
The best place to start a story is at the beginning. This story began almost exactly a year ago this week, and I would even argue it started far before that. The thing is I knew what an Emory creation was long before I knew who created it. My start down the automotive rabbit hole was with early aircooled Volkswagens and deep down inside I think every early Volkswagen owner at the end of the day wants to end up parking a Porsche in the garage. I clearly remember cutting out pictures of Emory’s Special out of an Excellence magazine and putting them up in my garage. At the time it seemed so radical and still is in my opinion, even with his new 356 RSR creation debuting next year.
The first exposure to an Emory creation I had early on.
More then attention grabbing is how an Emory creation inspires and this didn’t just start with Rod, it goes further back into his families history and how they touched the automotive world. I’ve always appreciated these modified vintage Porsche’s and so it was natural for me to gravitate toward emulating them in diecast which was something I could afford unlike the real thing. So back in November of last year I took a leap at modifying something bigger then a Hotwheels and took a 1:18 Maisto 550 Spyder and used many of it’s parts to modify a 1:18 Sun Star 356 Coupe. No paint work, just some cutting and swapping, fabricating a roll bar and an exhaust, fairly simple stuff. I posted it here and on Instagram as many of you will recall. The next morning I woke up to a flurry of activity on my account as Rod had reposted it on his account. I was flattered. That’s where this project started.
My personal 1:18 Outlaw build that put me on Rod Emory's radar.
So why choose Rod’s 1953 Outlaw #80? First and foremost I needed to be certain that I could acquire the correct base model and once that was out of the way I learned that this particular Outlaw would hold much more special meaning then just another build. From what I gather Rod really cut his teeth on this car, it was his first car that he built for himself when he was 16 and he would go on to race it for many years following. It also held a special connection between him and his young family as they would join him at these races and track days in support (his son Zayne’s name was on the passenger door). So I was surprised to find out that a few years ago he raffled this car off to a charity that was dear to him, a story in itself. So for these reasons that’s why I decided to choose this car to build for him, because it’s just not another car he built, I knew it would be something that he would appreciate and hopefully remind him of his early days.
The original Emory Outlaw, built by Rod when he was 16 in the building that now houses Period Correct
On to this build (thanks for hanging in there if you’ve made it this far). From the beginning I wanted to push my skill set with this custom while at the same time maintaining a high degree of accuracy between this and the real thing. I wanted it to be museum quality at the end of the build which I knew would require lots of fabrication and painting. Rod assisted with providing me with plenty of exterior and interior shots which I greatly appreciated. I did take some artistic licensing along the way as well as combining different aspects of the car throughout its life. I did focus on how the car appeared at it’s debut at Steamboat Springs, CO back in the 90's as it sat at it’s most radical ride height prior to being raced. I honestly found the biggest challenge of this build was to find the correct shade of blue, which according to Rod was a 60's Mercedes color, it drove me bonkers. I literally have a case of spray paint in a dozen different shades and though what I landed on was close it still wasn’t it but I’m still happy with it overall. When it was all said and done I had at minimum 150 hours into this project. Yeah, 150 hours.
This is the base model out of the box from Signature Classics.
This car consists of a base model from Signature Models, a 1950 356 coupe with a Maisto 550 Spyder again as a parts donor vehicle. I used many other bits from other left over projects as well but these were the main two donors. Both vehicles were taken apart and the 356 was stripped down to bare metal. It was quickly apparent that the 356 would need a lot of metal shaping before I could even think about paint, it’s a fairly poor casting, not to mention the custom body work. Also apparent was the need for proper rolling stock, but I’ll come back to this. With the body stripped I deleted the drip rails (a common Emory modification, but this car always retained its drip rails in real life) and reshaped body lines where needed and cleaning up casting marks. In order to achieve that super low ride height I spent a couple of hours with an air powered die grinder removing huge blocks of metal from under the fenders where the plastic base screwed together, something I’ve never encountered on any casting before. With the main body finished I moved on to the very intimidating louvered decklid. This was a measure twice cut once moment with lots of practice with different techniques on my donor 550 body. Ultimately, it took me two tries with the help of epoxy to get it to an acceptably state and even then I decided to keep the louvers closed. The hole for the gas filler was fairly simple and came later when I had the interior base finalized. The last major body modifications were the bumpers, ugh. These were plastic and two pieces each as they had deluxe trim laid in a groove where as the real car had solid painted pieces. Again I pulled out the epoxy and filled the trim grooves and after setup carefully sanded and filed a new radius, the rear getting a clearance cut for the Sebring stinger exhaust.
Preparing the body.
Lots of car was taken in reshaping the body and removing inperfections, just like the real deal!
Hand cutting louvres was extremely intimidating, measure 1000x and cut once!
The interior is where I took most of my artistic liberties, especially with colors. I was happy that the base model had the correct dash, which I would later mask off the gauges, spray and then hand paint the remaining details. One of those liberties was the steering wheel as Rod had installed a custom black three spoke steering wheel in the real car that I felt was too modern and instead used the the wood rim 550 wheel. Seats were also replaced by the 550 units and the rear was deleted and replaced with a hand built full cage out of aluminum rod, to the correct scale diameter I might add. Once everything was glued in place I sprayed everything in a light gloss gray. I painted in details like wood trim below the windows and added leather window straps. Also fabricated was 5 point harnesses for both bucket seats out of fine leather strap. Both front and rear of the base were modified to accept the new ride height, notably the front having the 550 suspension and steering grafted on like my first 356 Outlaw. The roof and pillars of the shell were painted white to simulate a headliner. I like to do the little things that you might not ever see but I know it’s there. Under the hood the gas tank was modified with a filler neck and cap and then painted. I was able to fit a spare tire in there which was a feat in itself considering the room needed for the Maisto strut towers. At the back of the car I did very little with the engine as it was fairly well detailed, just the addition of the hand made Sebring style exhaust.
Lots of testing fitting body panels was required.
Getting the ride height dialed in dictated many aspects of the build.
Many, many, many test fits were made between body and interior once suspension and wheels were created and modified. The front has a grafted on Maisto suspension adjustable by springs while I had to create aluminum drop spindles for the rear axle which allowed me to easily dial in camber as well as ride height. The wheels were also a great accomplishment for me as they were built to the correct offset using hoops and tires from a Jada model with centers from the Maisto 550. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I had a few hours in fabricating EACH wheel alone.
Creating the hybrid Jada/Maisto wheels.
The finished wheel set after many hours of detail work.
Many pieces including the cage were hand made from scratch.
Details like harnesses and center fill gas tank were a must.
It's all in the details!
Paint work was intimidating, mainly because I hadn’t tried painting anything so large or with so many pieces carefully before. A Hotwheels is one thing but a larger model presents it’s own challenges. A huge shout out to Pillarless Coupe who helped walk me through some of this process with his experience in re painting various 1:18 scale models. Once I was satisfied with the surfaces I sprayed a light coat of primer down and a light color coat, then a medium top coat, followed later by a heavy top coat. Everything sat and cured for weeks just to be safe and then wet sanded and polished. I chickened out and ended up not clearing the paint, so it’s technically an old fashion single stage.
Enamel striaght out of a rattle can. After a few days of curing and a wet sand it would look even more glassy.
I ended up going with a Krylon color, regal blue I believe, which really plays with the light, dark or light depending on light exposure much like the real car, though this paint has a tad too much red in it to be correct. My regret with not spraying the car in clear besides not properly sealing the decals down was how surprisingly easy it is to accidentally chip the paint. By the end of final assembly I had to do quite a few touch ups. Speaking of decals, MASSIVE shout out to Tony of Diecast Photography/Brew City Customs fame. He worked closely with me perfecting all the one off decals I needed in order to make this model perfectly accurate (even though I do admit I like this car most without decals, sorry Rod).
First test fit post paint work.
Glamour shots post wet sand and pre decals.
I love this community and all it’s support. Throughout this year long journey and over a 150 hours invested I pushed myself farther and accomplished what I consider my pinnacle up to this point. I really owe it to all of you, I couldn’t do it as well without your advice, motivation and inspiration. I’m traveling down to North Hollywood this Thursday to deliver the car in person to Rod, stay tuned for part 2 of this journey! In the meantime enjoy the finished product!
Foglights donated from a classic Mini Cooper. Hood straps from a 550 Spyder.
Both bumper filled and shaved, rear has cutout for Sebring style stinger exhaust.
Center fill fuel tank required modified hood.
Hand cut louvres in the rear engine cover.
Fender mirrors were donated from a Ferrari 250 California.
Hand fabricated exhaust. Outlaw badge mounted to rear grill.
Ride height set to aggressive.
There is still a 1200cc engine hiding in there.
Dash was hand painted. Hand bent tubes to make the cage required many hours of test fitting to clear body.
Steering wheel from a 550 Spyder.
Bucket seats from a 550 Spyder. Harnsesses hand made.
Custom decals by Brew City Customs made this model complete.
Part 2: The Delivery
Well by now you might have heard that I made a little trip down to North Hollywood to deliver my creation to Rod Emory this week. I have to say right off that this was an amazing experience from beginning to end, yet I don’t think it’s quite over just yet...
Custom plaque commissioned for display case.
It started with a phone call to Rod a few weeks ago to let him know it was done. He’s an easy guy to get a hold of and he posts his personal cell everywhere; he does pick up. The one thing you won’t find is the address to his shop, top secret stuff and I quickly found out why. He’s an easy guy to talk to and our short conversation was filled with mutual anticipation, I’d been sneaking him a few progress pictures along the way.
Non descript warehouse in North Hollywood hides many gems.
Unfortunately, our original visit was postponed due to the devastating So Cal fires but things cleared up enough recently to make the trip. I’m lucky enough to be only 4 hours or so from his shop and traffic up and down the interstate was relatively easy going. I arrived late morning at the front of a nondescript industrial complex and parked in a fairly vacant lot. The only hint of what was inside were two primered 356 coupe bodies and Rod’s daily 911 turbo. Rod was finishing up a prior appointment so he invited me to hang out in the waiting/showroom. That’s where the eye candy started.
Surrounded by Porsche memoralbilia in the waiting room.
The center piece is the 356SL, the real deal, arguably one of thee if not the most significant Porsche in existence. Rod and his team (which includes his family) meticulously restored this car for Pebble Beach but that is a well documented story found elsewhere. The waiting area is littered with Porsche memorabilia, books, manuals, art, photography, models. The sitting table is a drafting cabinet reimagined to hold all of Rod’s 1/64 collection. On top sits a 1/8th highly detailed model of the Attwood/Hermann 917 given to Rod as a gift from Porsche. From this main room you can look over and see Rod’s large scale collection on the wall in the hall connecting into the main shop.
Perhaps the most significant Porsche of all time?
Rod Emory is a kid at heart like the rest of us!
Rod later told me that this was the culmination of his and his son Zayne picking up cars at race events and where ever really. I would learn from Rod that he surrounds himself with and involves his family in much of his daily life.
Rod finished up with his appointment and met me in the waiting room. I’ve probably said it a dozen times but Rod Emory is one of the most genuine guys I’ve met. One thing we both have in common that I learned early on is we both share the same faith and core to that is our family and values. When you meet Rod it’s like you’ve been his friend your whole life. No exaggeration.
Just some body panels hanging around the rafters, no big deal.
The guy is dedicated, he works from 4 to 4 each weekday right along side his employees and it’s been like that for years. The main reason the shop is unlisted is because Rod doesn’t have a secretary, his phone is literally always ringing, buzzing, dinging, 24/7. He also fields all of his social media following as well, with quick response time no less. But it’s all important to him to interact with admirer or client alike. I can see it eats up the vast majority of his daylight hours which is why he is by appointment and why he works long hours. But he took a solid four hours out of his day to share with me who he is and what he does and that was more then I could ask for.
We didn’t get straight to the model, introduction formalities and a brief tour of the shop was first. What a cool place! If you photographed it in black and white it would be like stepping back into a 50s era race prep workshop. The air is filled with the smell of warm metal and the sounds of hammers and welding torches. It’s all done in the old ways with the help of modern magic.
Art imitates real life, hand formed louvres in the side of a soon to be Emory Special.
Like Rod, his employees are genuine. Everyone there wants to be there and though they are hard at work you can tell it’s not really work to them but a passion. Even with a stranger poking around they are willing to stop, take out their ear plugs, shake your hand and answer questions. Master craftsmen at work, it’s just plain inspiring!
Waiting to be made into functional automotice art.
So many stories to tell and Rod knows them all!
The main shop is quite large and houses around 8 builds at any one time in varying states of completion. From the walls are hanging large prints of past automotive history as well as former body work of past Porsche legends. Almost 1/4 of the shop is dedicated to storage of cars waiting to be transformed in addition to the on going builds. Rod knows the stories behind all of the cars in his facility, his memory is impressive. Sprinkled in the mix are a few of Rod’s personal cars as well as client cars in for various repairs. There is so much to take in!
Can't get enough of the heritage and legacy in one building.
After the tour Rod needed to catch up on business so I walked around and chatted with employees and admired close up some of the insane fab work such as the Momo RSR build, truly impressive stuff! As I found myself back in showroom the entire scope of the Emory operation was coming into focus. It was finally time to unveil my model to Rod.
In good company.
As I unwrapped the car and display from it’s box I saw Rod go from excited to stunned. It was truly humbling to see his reaction, coming from a guy who literally builds cars for a living. I went in for a hand shake and he pulled me in for a hug. This car really meant a great to him and I knew in that moment that I had made the right choice in choosing this car to replicate as a way of giving it back to him in a sense. We talked a bit about the details of the model and he related many personal stories about the cars legacy and role in his life.
The remaining part of my time with Rod was most certainly a highlight of the trip. Part of my offer to build him this model was a drive in one of his cars and boy did he deliver. Though his GT3RS was on the plate I wanted to experience something older, something I could relate to, so I was pleased that we would end up taking out Rod’s 356 ‘55 Coupe. As soon as he fired up the carbureted flat four it instantly took me back to my 20s where it all started for me with my early aircooled beetles. Even though Rod insisted this wasn’t one of his bells and whistles builds it ticked all the right boxes for me.
Unfortunately, due to the carnage of the fires in the area many of the popular driving roads were closed preventing us from a longer drive up the canyons but we still found some room to open up the warmed over Outlaw, mechanically still very much 356 DNA. After a gas station stop and a few miles out Rod pulled off and we swapped seats. Though Rod was pretty humble about this particular car it put me right back into the seat of my 1956 Cal look beetle nearly 10 years ago, hard to believe I was driving a six figure car! The sound of the Weber induction and the grunt of torque from down low was all very intoxicating.
Drive of a lifetime in Rod's personal 356 "shop" car up the backroads of North Hollywood canyons.
As we pulled back into the shop I knew our time was coming to a close. We spent a good while talking about life and I gleaned what advice I could from such a great example of not only a shop owner, but husband and father who values his family above all else. An experience I’ll carry with me always. Thanks Rod, it was a pleasure!
Delivery complete, best day ever!
Now two years later I can look back on this experience as one of appreciation. It's been flattering to not only have this model recognized by a significant online media venue but also to have others in the Porsche world and diecast world alike recognize and appreciate it. Since delivering it to Rod the model has been displayed at the hallowed grounds of Period Correct where the original car was first built by Rod as a teenager, as well as having a portrait painted on a large canvas and displayed at the PCLA center. Rod also uses it frequently on shop tours as well as point of reference when explaining to clients the heritage of the cars he's creating for them. He has been quoted as saying it's the most significant model in his collection, if that isn't humbling I don't know what is. To build an Outlaw for the Outlaw builder himself will be unforgettable. I hope you enjoyed this little adventure, in my case meeting my hero was a dream come true!
#80 now greets anyone who visits Rod's shop in his waiting room.
Rod uses the model frequently as a point of reference.
...so much in fact that he has worn the decals off in 2 years! It's well loved!
Portrait hand painted on large canvas and displayed at multiple Porsche venues by Beau Robinson.