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Starting any classic car is special. There is the sensation that something distinct and superior is taking place because of the rituals observed and details you notice. On this 1956 Porsche 356A T1 Speedster for example the windscreen is removable, the seats have a thin fiberglass shell and the steering wheel is elegant and spartan. There is little concession to comfort and virtually none to safety.

When new, this was the least expensive Porsche available and had a 'less is more' philosophy behind it. Indeed, the car was intended to be taken to the track and be a legitimate club-racing contender. It seems that that's precisely how this 356 spent a large portion of its early life. Raced around Connecticut, the car racked up trophies and actually won the E-Production Championship in 1963. The majority of this car's first 50,000 miles were racked up on the track.

It wasn't designed to coddle. Although it only makes about 60hp, it causes an adrenaline rush as you're close to the road, the instruments, and there isn't a lot surrounding you. There's immediacy about the car. And according to the owner, Mr. Jon Warshawsky, "It feels like a racing machine." When driving on B-roads, "you feel like you should be on the track." There is an intimate mechanical interaction because the power-band is narrow; both you and the car have to agree that the next shift is appropriate otherwise there might be bogging or might over-rev the engine. The feeling that something great is happening is due to this constant dialogue between you and the car.

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Nowadays, it seems "outlaw" Porsches are everywhere and all the rage. Back in the mid-1990s, however, when Mr. Jack Griffin decided to modify his 1955 Porsche 356 Continental, he wasn't following a customization trend or fad but, rather, taking it upon himself to build the car Porsche would have built given the technology and resources.

Originally powered by a 1500cc, 60 horsepower engine, the 356 certainly offered potential aplenty for customization and improvement. The curvy, sports car lines that are echoed and still visible on Porsche cars to this day, disguised the fact that, underneath, the car was more Volkswagen than anything else. It was also, to a large extent, a product of the 1930s.

With the onset of World War II, global automotive development ground to a halt as manufacturing resources were diverted for military use. Organized racing on a large scale was thus out of the question: even the the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans race, so critical to automotive research and development, took a hiatus from 1939-49. Thus, in the years immediately following the war, even a new car was bound to be something of an antique until car companies had time to retool and begin innovating again.

Having owned a long line of those vintage 356s, Jack was ready to try something different when, in 1994, he came across this Continental in Hood River, Oregon. Once he got it back to his garage in Texas, he set about transforming the car into a 356 of his own. In place of the original motor, Jack swapped in a 1720 cc engine from a 1965 356 that now produces 115 horsepower. Next came a 1962 gearbox, which provides a smooth robustness not found in the original, Volkswagen-based gearboxes. The car also received disc brakes all around and, finally, an upgrade to a 12 volt electrical system.

Purists may scowl, but Jack finally has the Porsche he always wanted.

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About an hour northeast of Los Angeles, nestled among the joshua trees and the hush-hush R&D operations of the aerospace industry, sits the home of Emory Motorsports. The company’s founder and nonstop ball of energy is Rod Emory who, along with his father Gary, effectively kickstarted the “outlaw” Porsche movement with their eye-catching 356 builds. Rod's history as a visionary outsider is even deeper than we knew, as we discovered when we recently visited him and his team at their shop.

In 1948, Rod’s grandfather Neil cemented the Emory name in automotive history when he started Valley Custom Shop in Burbank, Calif. While other hot rod builders were chopping rooflines, shaving trim, and pulling fenders, Neil Emory developed a reputation for his streamlined builds that employed techniques such as channeling and sectioning. The goal then, as now, was to create a customized car that did not draw attention to any single modification but which rather presented itself as a coherent whole.

Neil Emory eventually found his way into the world of European cars when he joined the Chick Iverson Porsche/Volkswagen team in Orange County, Calif. in 1962. Neil’s son, Gary, came aboard a few years later, working his way up to Parts Department Manager and later, in partnership with Iverson, as the founder of Porsche Parts Obsolete in 1974–the same year his son, Rod, was born.

By the time he was ten years old, Rod had spent countless hours in the shop with his father and grandfather as they pulled bumpers, louvered decklids, and painted numbers on the sides of Porsche 356s. Eventually, family friends dubbed the Emorys “outlaws,” referring both to the cars themselves as well as to the their relegation to the parking lot during big Porsche events.

Much has changed, however. Over time, the artistry of Emory Porsche builds became not only accepted but celebrated for their attention to detail in addition to their faithfulness to the Porsche tradition of design and performance. Perhaps most importantly, as you’ll see in this video, these cars are just a whole lot of fun to drive.

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In the fourth generation of a family of coachbuilders, Rosita grew up surrounded in every way by cars, from the Ferraris her mechanic father picked her up from school in, to the toy cars he brought home for his children. Thing is, even though the family worked on primarily Italian cars, her father's true love was with Porsche.

Fifteen years ago, the family brought home their very first: a 356 Speedster in dire need of a complete restoration. From the beginning, the family wanted to restore it as a race car, because Rosita's father had always wanted to have a race team. Being masters at shaping metal, the finished car wears a number of unique touches, from the shape of its nose to the fuel filler relocated to the front hood.

Now pressed into service regularly, including tours and rallies, the car has a chance to stretch its legs. A hand-formed aluminum hood and doors, uprated engine, and close-ratio transmission are tasteful modifications that fit the car's purpose perfectly.

"Many people think that a classic car is meant to be preserved as a memento, but I enjoy using it and experiencing it as much as possible," Rosita Corato said. "Even if this means coming home with a scrape or a dent here and there."

It may have taken a few decades, but seeing Rosita pilot the silver Speedster around the countryside is proof that it's possible for a car to become part of the family.

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“When you’re out there in something like this, people just stop and…it might not even look like a car at first…it might look like a small spaceship floating around out there,” says Matt Hummel, adding, “this is my favorite car to get lost in”.

A mis-spelled Craigslist ad led Hummel to this barn find-condition Porsche 356 that had been sitting since the ’70s, and is now used lovingly—with refurbished mechanicals—as his dirt road and desert driving machine. And to the people who see him and his car out in the middle of nowhere, he has an answer: “This is a real Porsche…and it’s out here,” he says.

Years of hunting around the world for Volkswagen parts led Hummel to Porsche parts and cars, and he has amassed a large number of hard-to-find parts and a small collection of vehicles. Now, he only looks for old cars with their true character and patina still attached to them. The monetary value of the vehicle doesn’t matter to Hummel, his joy comes from simply getting out and enjoying his travels far off the beaten path.

“You don’t have to feel inferior because you don’t have shiny paint,” he says. “Just get it running. Drive it now.”

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