Look out New York, there’s a new Outlaw in town and this compact renegade is not only “Special” but means serious business.
Flashback to an unseasonably warm fall afternoon in Brooklyn… Canvas top folded back, hair whipping across my face, the smell of new leather and petrol in the air, and the sound of the “Outlaw-4” engine drowning out the city as Craig hits the gas in his 1961 Emory Motorsports (Emory) built Porsche 356 Cabriolet dubbed the “New York Special.”
In my exuberance, I throw my arms up in the air and belt out a long “Wee” like the little pig in the Geico commercial. As Craig downshifts, we turn and look at one another, grinning from ear to ear. I was not expecting that much punch in a small car! With more than double the horsepower of a stock Porsche 356, its power-to-weight ratio will make your head spin. Equipped with a stiffer chassis and 911 suspension, the New York Special zips over cobblestones and flies along city streets as if it’s gliding on air.
Passion for Porsche
I first spotted Craig’s black Outlaw at Driven To America (DTA), just two months fresh off its complete build and restoration at Emory. Only a few names stand out in the world of pristine Porsche restorations and even fewer in the world of 356 Outlaws, and Emory is at the top of that list.
Rod Emory, owner-builder of Emory Motorsports has been building and modifying Porsche 356’s for more than twenty years. His family’s history of tuning cars spans three generations, and their early work of restyling and adding custom touches to American cars and Porsches (once thought of as sacrilege) earned them the moniker “Outlaws.” Rod personalizes Porsches for his clients, bespoke style; designing and tailoring each custom build to an owner’s specific taste and wishes with high-quality materials and impeccable attention to detail.
The New York Special is a perfect example of a bespoke Emory build, whose concourse black paint and custom details garnered attention at DTA. As the season’s car events came to a close, I was lucky enough to catch up with Craig on a drive through Brooklyn to learn more about his passion for cars and his New York Special.
RG: As a child what was your favorite car?
Craig: My two favorite cars were the F40 and 959. A family friend had an F40 and took me for a ride in one, it was a beast. The smile on my face was so big. That car was so vicious and you felt everything.
RG: What ended up being your first car?
Craig: My first car was a Jeep Grand Cherokee. I was lucky enough to get a new one. It was great for piling all my friends into.
RG: At what point in your life did you fall in love with Porsches and did you have a favorite model?
Craig: Growing up my father always had a fun car. Before my brother and I were born he had a Gullwing. He had a 328 Ferrari and a number of 911s. I remember clearly a white Targa with a whale-tail. My brother and I would happily squeeze into the back of that car.
Surrounded by 911s early in his youth and owning several Porsches over the years–including a 911 Turbo and GT3–Craig never owned a 356, until now. And although the build process was certainly not a quick one, the journey to build the New York Special was well worth the wait.
An Emory Special for A Special Lady
If you’re fueled by the ambition to have a unique 356, you gather inspiration from the outlaw masters and build it yourself or you go straight to Emory and dive into an “Emory Special.” Emory offers three design styles: the Emory Outlaw, the Emory Special, or the Emory RS.
Unlike the “Emory Outlaw” model, which maintains its original body shape and appearance, the “Emory Special” is a restyled 356 Outlaw that is unlike any other Rod and his team will build. In other words, there will never be another New York Special on the road.
As we continue our drive through Brooklyn, Craig opens up about the inspiration behind the build, the reason he decided on Emory, and why this car is “special.”
RG: What inspired you to get a 356 and how did you decide on working with Rod to build an Outlaw?
Craig: This car is actually my wife’s 40th birthday present. She always loved the 356 Speedster. She grew up watching Beverly Hills 90210, and of course, Dylan had that car in black. So that has been her dream car forever. [Working w/Rod] I wanted to get a car that would have some modern mechanicals to it so that it could be driven.
RG: Your wife [Shira] has great taste in cars (and so do you!) Is this her first Porsche?
Craig: It is her second Porsche if you count the Cayenne Turbo we used to have that was her daily driver. I seem to have driven it [the 356] more the first few months we got it but hopefully, that will change this coming summer.
RG: What made you decide on an Emory Special and not an Emory Outlaw?
Craig: A Special is a one-off car and Rod will not make another one like it. I liked the idea of working with Rod to put some details into the car. The oil coolers on the side is one. He has never done a convertible before with those, I saw them on one of his coupes and really loved the look. I also liked the bumper delete as well as the raked-back windshield and center fuel filler. These are things he doesn’t do on a regular Outlaw.
From Barn Find to New York Special
The backstory of any restoration or car build is as interesting as the finished product. Like so many Porsche’s that have been left to the elements and forgotten for decades, the New York Special had a rough past as well. Craig explains how they rescued the donor car that would undergo a major transformation from a barn in New York and after our drive provided images and an email excerpt from Rod – added below:
RG: Tell me about this car and its condition prior to the build?
Craig: Since Rod knows all the 356 guys, people send him cars all the time to look at and rescue. He found a really beat up 1961 Coupe notchback. It was really just the shell of a car.
Rod [from email excerpt]: When I am building an Emory Special, I am looking for a car that has the body shape I want to start with and has many of the core components that are going to be necessary for the build. I am not concerned with the original engine or transmission because all of those will be upgraded and modified. I started hunting around the US for a 1960/61 Cabriolet or notchback for the build and a good friend of mine in NY, Adam Wright, had a notchback that was perfect for the build. Earlier in this car’s life, it had a small engine fire so the rear deck lid and quarter panel were a little toasty but nothing that we couldn’t fix. I had the car shipped from NY to LA and the project began.
RG: A typical build process takes some time, how long did it take and what was it like working with Rod and his team?
Craig: I first contacted Rod in May of 2016. By the end of May, I sent him a deposit and he started looking for a donor car. The original idea was for the car to be ready by July. Shira’s 40th birthday was at the end of June 2017 and it was supposed to be a surprise birthday present for her. It ended up taking two more years to finish the work. I think part of that was Rod moving to a bigger shop and also getting some special projects along the way that took priority. But it was well worth the wait when we got it delivered at the end of August 2019.
The once-forgotten barn find was shipped from New York to Emory’s shop in Los Angeles where it was stripped down to bare metal, removing any unnecessary bits to save weight. The roof was cut off to make room for a removable, custom race-inspired roll bar and speedster-style canvas top. Several Emory signature details were hand- fabricated and added to the body including rolled rocker panels, a reverse-louver decklid, louvered rear quarter panels and louvered oil system doors that look like shark gills.
The custom interior is finished in Hydes cognac leather with a clean, speedster-style dash and seats, complete with 4-point harness seat belts. While admiring the glossy black paint (Sprayed by Little Shop of Kustoms)–which reflects everything like a mirror–Craig explains how they decided on a few details:
RG: How did you settle on the aesthetics? Did you and Shira have specifics (absolutes) you wanted in the build?
Craig: Based on Shira’s cover of Dylan’s black speedster convertible [Beverly Hills 90210] is where this [project] all started.
RG: What are your and Shira’s favorite features of the car?
Craig: It’s hard to pick just one thing, it’s really the whole package. The basketweave interior is really something Rod pushed me to. I trusted his instincts and of course, it worked out.
Not only are the interior and exterior details of the New York Special handsome but its heart and soul under the body and hood are stunning. For increased agility, a 901 independent rear suspension was added, custom front and rear swaybars, hidden custom disc brakes (that stop on a dime), rack and pinion steering, custom headers with 911 sport muffler, and the transmission was swapped out for a 5-speed 901 aluminum case. (Full spec sheet below)
And finally, the New York Special was given a new lease on life with a 2.6L Emory-Rothsport “Outlaw-4” EFI engine co-developed by Emory and Rothsport Racing’s Jeff Gamroth. Weighing only 1,850 pounds (yes, you read that right), this born-again renegade generates 260 hp—enough to easily dust its stock brethren and give any air-cooled 911 a run for its money.
After stopping to take a few photos, we hop back into the car, and Craig continues to tell me more about the car and how it handles.
RG: This is my first ride in a 356 Outlaw and I absolutely love it. Tell me about the driving experience…What is it like to be out of the city and out on the open road in the New York Special?
Craig: It really is amazing to have an 1850-pound car with 260hp. Basically the equivalent of close to 500hp in a brand new 911. So the car moves. The other thing is that because you are so low to the ground and your center of gravity is so low it handles really well and you feel connected to the road. Of course, you don’t have nearly as much grip as a new 911 because you have a lot less tire, but you have more than enough to have a good time. I have been asked to show the car at The Bridge and at DTA III. Those two experiences were great. I really got to see how other car people feel about the car. Most people have been blown away by how nice it is and the job Rod and his team have done restoring the car and adding all the Outlaw details.
In Need of A Little TLC
So, let’s rewind… Craig and I were just about to begin our spin through one of New York’s favorite boroughs. He folded back the canvas soft top and demonstrated how to use the 4-point competition harness seat belts. I hadn’t yet thrown up my hands in glee… We were sitting at a red light under the Brooklyn Bridge, and I glanced over at the Derrington steering wheel and odometer.
RG: How long have you had the car? How many miles have you put on it?
Craig: I got the car the last week in August. It now has just under 1000 miles on it. I believe Rod put on around 200 before he sent it East to New York.
And then, it happened. Someone put a dent into what was supposed to be a perfect afternoon. LITERALLY. We had just been rear-ended by an Uber driver in a Honda Accord. Jolted, we both look at each other in disbelief as Craig says, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” He quickly jumps out of the car and walks to the rear as I struggle to get out of my seatbelt. Upon first glance, we were both shocked. Although the left taillight was busted, the damage was surprisingly minimal. This Outlaw handled the impact better than expected! However, upon further inspection, it was clear that there was damage to both the rear and left rear quarter panel.
As Craig calmly exchanged information with the driver, tourists snap photos and the Uber driver repeatedly mumbles in a low voice, “It’s not bad, man, it’s not bad.” Not bad? We were incredulous. “You have no idea what you just hit! Do you even know what this is?! (as if I actually expected him to know)?”
Over the winter, the New York Special was shipped back to Emory Motorsports for some TLC. The car was stripped down, repaired, and repainted just in time to be displayed at Emory’s Open House during L.A.’s Lit Show weekend. We were in town for the show and related events so we were able to see the car at Emory’s.
Seeing the car again gave me flashbacks of that afternoon in Brooklyn with Craig and put a smile on my face. I couldn’t stop looking at the car; there it was, parked front and center for all to see, smiling back with its curved hood and bumperless frontend. I watched as visitors and enthusiasts were equally captivated. Towards the end of the evening, while chatting with Rod, I was happy to hear him say that the car was heading back to New York shortly after the show.
Outlaws in the City
The black badging on the decklid says it all: “356 Outlaws.” Members in a family of unique Porsche 356’s. As newly minted Outlaws in a city that is congested with taxis, Ubers and, pot-holed streets, Craig provides some insight on how he and Shira get around in it and some final words on being an Outlaw:
RG: NYC isn’t exactly car-friendly. How do you deal with parking and driving here?
Craig: It may not be the best place to drive but it can be amazing too. Driving through Dumbo with you was awesome. Through the heart of Times Square with the top down, Amazing! Thankfully the parking lot next to my building is pretty cool about letting me park between two columns and also letting me self-park the car. I don’t think they want to be responsible for driving this nice of a car. I have done the same thing with past cars such as [a] 911 Turbo and GT3.
RG: In one word, describe the 356 Outlaw ownership.
The Emory built 356 New York Special is indeed amazing. With winter behind us and spring fast approaching, Craig, Shira, and their Emory Special are back to cruising New York streets and gunning down open roads. That dream to build a “Special” 356 Outlaw, based on the memories from their youth, was in the rear-view mirror. Now, it’s an epic reality.
- 2.6 liter Emory-Rothsport “Outlaw-4” EFI engine
- Full-flow oil system with remote filter and cooler
- Motec-controlled coil-on-twin-plug ignition with cam sensor
- 260 hp
- Custom 911 sport muffler
- Customer headers with heat boxes
- 901 aluminum case 5-speed
- Proprietary 4-wheel disc
- Custom 15 x 6 billet alloy wheels
- Powder-coated satin silver finish
- Radial-brushed brake hubs
- Pirelli P Zero Rosso 205/55 ZR-16
- 901 independent rear suspension with custom-narrowed trailing arms
- Koni adjustable shocks
- Front and rear sway bars
- Rack and Pinion Steering
- Hydes cognac leather interior
- Speedster-style seats with basketweave inserts
- 4-point competition harness
- Oatmeal square-weave carpet with rubber floor mats
- Black knobs and escutcheons
- Derrington Steering wheel
- Outlaw shift knob
- 904-style triple gauge
- Removable roll bar
- Windshield laid back
- Speedster-style soft top
- Hood handle delete
- Bumper-less body
- Reverse-louvered deck lid
- Louvered rear fenders
- Through-hood fuel filler
- Rolled rocker panels
- GT side-view mirrors
- 18-gallon custom GT gas tank
- 1,850 pounds