Haulin' Oates

Story by Chris Brewer. Lead Photograph by Drew Philips. Other Photography as Credited.

This article is from a past issue of Classic Motorsports, and references planned events that have already happened.

Forget all the rock-and-roll accolades–the big hits, the filled arenas, the nearly 50 years of chart-topping success. John Oates, half of the legendary rock duo Hall & Oates, has long held a guitar in one hand and a steering wheel in the other.

Ignited in early childhood after he discovered a discarded cardboard box of Road & Track magazines, John’s love of automobiles and motorsports is well documented. From pulling the muffler off the family Renault Dauphine as a teenager to earning a seat co-driving a factory-backed Pontiac in professional IMSA GTU competition, John’s involvement in the hobby stretches far beyond casual collecting.

My passion for motorsports goes back to my childhood growing up in Pennsylvania,” he recalls. “Memories of attending the Reading Road Races, Giant’s Despair Hillclimb, Hatfield Speedway on a Saturday night–it all fueled the fire for me to eventually start racing and establish wonderful memories and friendships along the way.”

356’s Greatest Hits

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Over the years, the musician’s fleet has included a 1955 Chevy convertible, Porsche 356 Speedster, Jaguar XKE, Alfa Romeo Spider and 1977 Porsche 930 Turbo Carrera–one of the first to arrive in the United States. John currently owns a 1959 MGA Twin Cam as well as a more recent acquisition: a bespoke Rod Emory-built 356 Outlaw.

“When I became aware that 2018 would be Porsche’s 70th anniversary as well as my 70th birthday, I wanted to do something special to celebrate,” says John. “I saw some video clips on Rod Emory Motorsports and wanted to see his work firsthand. During one of my tour stops in Los Angeles, I looked up his number and called the shop. He invited me to come by and I was blown away by not only his workmanship, but his warmth as a person, his sense of history, and genuine respect and love of the Porsche heritage. I took a test drive and I was sold.”

That visit kicked off a two-year quest to create John’s ultimate version of the classic 356–a project Rod describes as an exercise in restrained customizing. “What evolved was what I fondly began calling 356’s Greatest Hits,” John says, “since we incorporated what I consider to be some of the best design elements of the model.”

John drove the 1960 Emory Special Cabriolet for the first time in September. The car took its maiden voyage at the iconic WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca during Porsche’s platinum birthday party, Rennsport Reunion VI. While there, John also manned Gunnar Racing’s Pink Pig-liveried 1957 Standard tractor in the first-ever official Porsche tractor race.

That relationship with Porsche motorsports legend and Gunnar Racing owner Kevin Jeannette led to another driving invitation for John: seat time in a similarly pink Porsche 962 at a Gunnar Fun Dayz event at Palm Beach International Raceway that November.

“Spending the weekend at Palm Beach International Raceway with the wonderful folks at Gunnar Racing and a lot of old friends, like Derek Bell, Jeff Zwart and David Donohue, was an experience I’ll never forget,” John recalls. “To be able to drive some impeccably prepared race cars after over 30 years ‘out of the saddle’ was thrilling, to say the least.

“The highlights were getting behind the wheel of the legendary 962–I admit I was nervous and impressed,” he continues. “Also, getting a chance to drive the Revs Institute’s beautiful Le Mans-winning Abarth Porsche was magical. I have to thank Rod Emory for introducing me to Kevin and Gunnar Jeannette for this rare opportunity.”

Twin Passions

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Rod Emory has built many of the country's coolest outlaw Porsches, including John Oates's newest car. It's based on a barn-find 1960 Porsche 356B Cabriolet body, but the nose comes from an earlier 356A. THen the windshield was tilted back just a tad.

The latest chapter in John’s automotive journey is only beginning. This March, he’ll work with the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance to present “Cars of the Rock Stars.” The special class will pair guitars with classic vehicles connected to famous musicians. John will curate the exhibit, which will draw partly on his personal collection.

This marriage of musical and motoring instruments was a natural idea for someone with John’s lifelong passions. “Both the machine and the instrument are paragons of inspired and purposeful design,” he notes. “Both tell their unique story historically and culturally. Both have their roots in the late 19th century, evolving and continuing to fascinate and excite through the 20th and now into the 21st centuries.”

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

Photograph Courtesy Drew Philips

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mvh
mvh New Reader
4/22/19 6:37 p.m.

This Derrington steering wheel is mounted upside-down. The whole point of the three evenly-spaced spokes is to get them out of the way of the two large gauges. Mounted this way they are directly in front of the speedo and tach. If the single spoke were straight up in the middle, as it is supposed to be, all gauges would be unobscured. As a bonus, the 9-and-3 and 10-and-2 hand positions would also be unobstructed.

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