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.
One of my first cars, a highly modified 1956 Cal-look Beetle
An early Rod Emory Special
The future of Emory Outlaws? The 356 RSR work in progress
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.
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.
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. There might be a reason why my Volvo Amazon is still disassembled in my barn.
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.
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.
Setting ride height:
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.
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.
Straight out of a rattle can:
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).
Before wet sand, mock up:
Final wet sand, polish and wax:
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! Enjoy!