Porsche has been a standard bearer in performance for sports cars for the better half of a century. Oftentimes, collectors want to own the iconic and legendary vehicles precisely as they were the day they left the factory. But, there’s another school of thought — the outlaw way.
Rod Emory, owner of Emory Motorsports and builder and proprietor of Outlaw Porsches, lives to modify cars — specifically, classic Porsches. Whether it’s the sacred 356, an air-cooled 911 or a more recent Stuttgart creation, Emory has a habit of getting his hands on them and giving them the performance they deserve. You won’t see him bolting on massive wide-body kits or adding ridiculous camber to the wheels, though. No, Emory focuses on the essentials: power and clean design.
Though Emory has disassembled hundreds of old Porsches, rebuilds them and enhances them (he completed his first build at 16 years-old), the rest of us mere mortals aren’t as adept in the art of the wrench. So what about the top-level changes — the most simple of modifications — anyone can do? Emory weighed in with his suggested modifications for our favorite vintages.
If I was a buyer of a brand new 1965 356 C Coupe and I wanted to make the car more my own, I would lower the car 1-1.5 inches, put bigger, wider 5.5-inch rims on and add a more modern performance tire — maybe a 195/60 Pirelli tire. That’ll give the car a little bit lower stance better stance and with lighter aluminum rims, all that will make the car driver better.
I’d also get rid of the bumper guards — the goofy guard on the front of the bumper — clean up the bumpers, front and rear and put fog lights on. And on the deck lid to give the engine more airflow, I’d put a series of louvers like the way Porsche did its GT cars. Then I’d remove the Coupe seats and replace them with the Speedster seats, which are more of a bucket seat instead of the big, hefty reclining seat. All of that will make the car lower to the ground, handle better and help the car be an all-around better handling car.
Upgrading the exhaust is another must, to give the car a more throaty sound, but if I could only do one thing to a 356, it’d be the wheels and tires… and lower it a little bit. They go hand-in-hand, and it just transforms the car.
Early 911 (Pre-1974)
If I had pristine early-911, it’s the same thing as the 356. It will depend on what model, but if I were to buy an early 911 off Craigslist or Bring a Trailer, the first thing I would do is lower it, upgrade the wheels and tires and upgrade the suspension with Koni shocks and struts. Elephant Racing also makes a really good package of suspension upgrades — sway bar, all the bushings — and make a big difference on the older 911s.
Next, I’d replace the stock seats with factory sports seats — they have a little more side-bolstering and adjustability. And definitely, seat belts. On a lot of the earlier 911s, the stock belts are worn out. And if it were my car, I’d put a roll bar in the back.
You’ll see a trend between the 356 and early 911s with a few things, but for a pre-’74 911, I’d also put in H1 Hella headlights. They’re a little hard to find but they clean up the bezel area, and they’re adjustable with a high and low beam.
930, 964 and 993
For the ’80s or ’90s 911 — man, the 911 SCs and Carreras are such good cars the way they are — I would consider changing the bumpers and get rid of the accordion crash bumpers, the impact bumpers and clean up the front and rear. The trend now, with this era, is to backdate the cars, like what Singer does with its products. Singer [Vehicle Design] will take a 964 and make it look similar to a ’73 RSR-inspired car.
The exhaust and importantly the suspension. This era of Porsches can still be torsion bar cars, so suspension setup and alignment are important. And, on top of that, I would upgrade to bigger brakes.
996, 997 and Cayman
The first thing I do, when I get a new car is I take it to E-Motion Engineering to get a proper suspension setup and alignment done. Mainly because these newer cars are set up a little too high off the ground, and the spring rates are very generic. And, for someone who really wants to drive them hard, changing all the suspension settings — the ride height, spring rates, alignment — those are first on my list.
A lighter rim is a huge bonus on the new cars, too — getting less unsprung weight. And if you want to take it to the track, a serious roll bar, roll cage and harnesses. I like to drive these cars on the street, but I also love to go straight to the track and do track days.