Reunited, & It Feels So Good: 2017 Emory Porsche Campout [Gallery]
I’m going to make a few Porsche owners laugh and a whole bunch of them angry with the following statement: A lot of Porsche people, they’re kinda goofy.
Yeah, the brand that descended from the Beetle and was marketed as a layman’s sports car has garnered a following that’s a little, well…uptight. Historically speaking, stock was king at a typical Porsche event. If a car was special, it was for some sort of provenance, and not because you did something to it. This whole deal where people earn points by doing crazy stuff with Porsches — that’s relatively new.
And that change is due in large part because of a family, the Emory family.
Descendants of Neil Emory — half of the esteemed Valley Custom Shop in Burbank, California — the Emory offspring was practically born to modify. But it was son Gary’s prominence in the parts-trading business that changed things in the Porsche world. How so? Well, for starters, you didn’t restore or even maintain a Porsche without dealing with Parts Obsolete, Gary’s company. His power meant that his sanction could get an otherwise outlawed car into a hoity-toity event. And his hot-rod side meant Parts Obsolete built a few outlaws, a term the shop embraced and formalized with a capital “O.” Rod, Gary’s son, carries in the tradition by building bespoke Outlaws at Emory Motorsports. In Burbank, California. I mean, where else?
Anyway, if Gary jabbed at purists, it was light-hearted. For at its core, the Emory family was all about acceptance. And it proved so much by hosting a giant picnic for pretty much anyone who bothered to show up. And it was the antithesis of purist. Heck, you could steal the show by arriving in a hot rod or custom car.
What started 23 years ago as a casual get-together transformed into an annual event. The family’s relocation to a large property in McMinnville, Oregon, gave the happening the opportunity to expand into a three-day campout. Check your celebrity at the gate; everyone — at least for a few days — stands on equal footing. Restored cars park cheek-to-jowl with rusty beaters and nobody bats an eye. Hotels? Dude, bring a tent and a bag and sleep on the ground like you used to. Then just break bread and spill wine.
This is a show — nay, a low-key party — for the rest of us. It’s like a ‘70s rod run: relaxed, informal and happy-go-lucky — which, given Gary’s background, makes sense. The event’s popularity explained the respectable attendance, which grew to about 350 people in 18 years. Bear in mind this is at a guy’s house. Not some park. A big deal, really.
But what also grew was the family’s weariness. There were permits to pull, caterers to reserve, fields to mow, shop space to clean, cars to arrange, bands to hire, artists to commission, T-shirts to print, rosters to maintain, and the list goes on. What began as a fun, low-hassle party for friends began to look like real work.
So in 2012, the family announced there were no plans for any subsequent events. We all groaned, none of us from surprise, though. We all felt as if we lost out on a family reunion, and we had seen it coming.
That changed last year with the announcement that, after a five-year hiatus, the campout would return in 2017. This time Emory Motorsports took the title lead, but as in all years past, it was the whole family and a group of close friends who would do all the legwork. They remarkably hide their strain.
Devotees immediately took to the website for registration. At least I did. Going by pre-event ticket sales, some 450 fellow enthusiasts felt similarly, making it by default the most attended Campout to date on pre-registration alone. But by the Saturday of the show, nearly 650 — close to double the last event’s attendance — packed the fields.
What follows are some of the highlights of the Campout. Unfortunately, what we couldn’t capture were the sounds, smells and vibes. Underpinning this was a PA system stuck on Soft Rock hits. Yeah, you’ve heard Steely Dan a million times, but it’s the context that makes the million-and-first time good. Smell that barbecue? Hey, someone’s running race gas. Wanna ‘nuther beer? That kind of weekend. Kinda like the weekends the kid in you expected to have when you became an adult.
As expected, there were no definitive plans for a future event, although a few hinted at another five-year anniversary. But if it happens, count me there. In the course of my work I’ve gone to some of the most esteemed events across this country. This is one of the only events that I’ll not just go out of my way to attend, but also pay my way in. Because for three short days in an otherwise hectic year, I get to be part of a family that has such a good time goofing off with old Porsches and not getting goofy about them.