This Porsche 356 Used To Be A Theatre’s ‘Greased Lightning’ Prop
Photography by Drew Philips / Emory Motorsports
When discussing one of Rod Emory’s recently-completed projects, namely, this Porsche 356 Roadster, our conversation drifted to another one of his finished cars—a car with a scarcely believable history as a stage prop.
“In fact, I even have pictures of it hanging from the roof of my shop,” he said. The car is a 1964 356 Cabriolet that Emory found in Portland, in about 1998. “It was stored in somebody’s garage. He got it from a play that was running in Portland, Oregon for a number of years—Grease. It was Greased Lightning and they use a Porsche, go figure.”
“What they did with the car is they actually took it, and filled the entire inside of the car—and underneath the hood—with spray foam. Then they built a little platform in the driver’s compartment area, the driver’s area. They put the hood back on the car so that all the actors could dance on the roof and run around the car. It was an ongoing play and it was in Portland, Oregon, for years.”
Where most would see trouble, Emory sees opportunity: “Here’s the cool part, because it was off the road for so many years—that was in the ’80s when the car was part of this play—the car didn’t have any rust”. Once the right customer came along, “Greased Lightning” was taken from the rafters and work began in earnest to make it roadworthy again.
Originally built for a client who wanted the car to be, in essence, a sheep in wolf’s clothing, it may look like a traditional 356 Cabriolet on the outside…until you spy a few of Emory’s “outlaw” tricks. There’s a fuel filler through the hood, lightweight billet wheels with a centre knockoff nut, hood straps, and fog lights neatly integrated into the bumper. That’s what a wolf wears, in Slate Grey.
Open the engine bay, however, and you’ll see a 185 horsepower “Polo 4” engine, one of the latest and most promising developments for those hoping to add more power to a 4-cylinder Porsche.
“This has a 2.4 liter, 4-cylinder 911 engine that was originally developed by a gentlemen named Dean Polopolus,” Emory says. “Essentially, it’s a 3.6 911 engine that has been reconfigured in a 4-cylinder case; and two thirds of a 3-point-6 is a 2.4 liter. It’s all overhead cam 911 components in a 4-cylinder configuration.”
To match its firepower, the car was uprated to a 901 transmission, allowing for independent rear suspension to replace the car’s original swing axle. “The car drives and handles like a ’73 911 as opposed to a ’65 Volkswagen Beetle,” he says.
From being born in Germany as a corner-carving Porsche to being transformed into a stage prop—and back again—the transformation couldn’t be more impressive. That said, let’s hope this Cabriolet doesn’t leave retirement to tackle the role of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Thanks to Rod Emory at Emory Motorsports for taking the time to chat about his latest work; you can follow him and the shop on Instagram and Facebook.