Why This Show Must Be on Every Porsche Lover’s Bucket List
It was a Porsche Parts Palooza.
Last weekend was the 39th Porsche Lit Fair, held at the LAX Hilton. The show promised private vendors offering over 300 tables-worth of Porsche parts, posters, catalogs, and just about anything you could want in a Porsche, from the 356 Pre-A to all years of 911 up to the 997, and everything Boxster/Cayman from 1997 to 2011. There were even items for 914s and 944s, not to mention a variety of Volkswagen ephemera. (I myself have a handsome VW key fob purchased at a Lit Fair 20 years ago that dangles from my Eurovan key to this day.)
“I’m trying to think the first time I went to the Hilton, people kept saying, ‘You have to see this,’” said Porsche racer Patrick Long. “It’s wall-to-wall toys and literature, grille badges, and little knickknacks. But what really struck me was it was so international, there are people from all over the world who came to LA for a week of Porsche collecting and social time.”
The Lit Fair has been put on by Stoddard NLA LLC, a company that has its own long story which we’ll tell you some other day. Oh, what the heck, we’ll tell you now: A company called Stoddard Imported Cars Inc. was founded in 1957 by Charles A. Stoddard, an MIT engineering graduate who had been working for the precursor to TRW. The new business was called Stoddard Imported Cars and operated out of what was at one time going to be a Tucker dealership in Willoughby, Ohio. Stoddard had a magnificent selection of new car dealerships, importing just about everything fast, fun, and foreign—from Messerschmidt to MG to Morris and Mini. It had franchises (such as existed in 1957) for Alfa Romeo, Porsche, and Lancia, too. They did service, sales, and parts. Yes, parts.
Then, “In 1974 Chuck Stoddard made a significant decision, which was of everlasting importance to his business and to many Porsche enthusiasts, which was to purchase all the available 356 parts from around the world and to expand his market via mail-order to the entire United States, followed by Europe, and finally expanding worldwide,” reads the “About Us” section of the Stoddard website.
The business evolved, Penske bought the Porsche Audi dealership, yadda, yadda, yadda and now Stoddard is still a major powerhouse in the Porsche parts business, including its annual winter Lit Fair at the LAX Hilton.
But the Lit Fair is only one day, in this case last Saturday, Feb. 25. To really immerse yourself in all things Porsche parts, you want to get outside of the fair and visit some of the 16 parts shops and private collections, and take a show tour offered by the Lit Fair organizers. This year those ran from Thursday to Sunday and went to 16 different shops and collections all over Southern California. For $80 a day you got bus fare and whatever pizza and donuts were offered by the proprietors of said shops, from the Beverly Hills Car Club and Redline Weber Carburetors on Thursday to Goritz SIXFIX and Performance Vintage in Costa Mesa Saturday. On Sunday they even went out to The Boys Republic in Chino for the 356 Club’s Swap Meet
It was a Porsche paradise.
I managed to get to three Porsche tours during that time, each with its own character and automotive ambiance.
First was Auto Kennel in Costa Mesa, a small operation that specializes in curated car sales. It was a small, L-shaped shop packed with Porsches, and a few other cars.
“We only sell cars on consignment,” said Ed Kramer, who, along with his son, Paul, runs Auto Kennel. “We don’t buy them. We don’t flip them. We don’t repair them. We just take good cars. If they’re not good, we give them back. We refuse about half the cars that people try to get us to sell. And as a result, we have a good customer base. They follow us, they buy the cars, they bring them back when they’re tired of them, and we sell them again. About 70% of our cars go to people who’ve never seen them in person.”
How do the Kramers know a good car? By how it feels to drive it.
“We had a car that I drove last week,” said Paul Kramer, the son. “If the client will let me, I’ll do a longer test drive and go up to (the Good Vibrations) Breakfast Club (on Angeles Crest Highway) and do the mountain drive, which is great, because I get traffic, highway, mountain routes, and the car drove fine on the freeway but on the turns it just was not right. It was a late-model C4 S, like 15-year-old, 10-year-old. And so I started really digging into it and talking to the mechanics, and it turned out it had been hit really hard in the rear.”
They did not wind up offering that one to customers, but sent it back to its owner instead. If you want a good 911, there’s an email that goes out every morning at 6 am PST listing everything they have for sale. www.autokennel.com
Next up in my personal Porsche parade was Pelican Parts. In addition to being the best name in the parts business, Pelican is your source for all things Porsche, as well as many things Mercedes, BMW, Mini, Audi, Volkswagen, Volvo, and Saab. But where’d they get that name?
“We had gone down to Point Vicente Lighthouse and we were taking some photos,” recalls company co-founder Tom Gould, who started the business with Wayne Dempsey. “We both had 356s at the time. So we’re taking some photos to put on marketing materials. And part of the deal when we were down there, we were going to come up with a company name, but we didn’t want to sound like everybody else. We didn’t want to be ‘European Parts House’ or whatever. So we were writing down this list of parts and getting names and we’re just getting more and more frustrated. And we’re standing there when, literally, a flock or whatever you call it, a bunch of pelicans flew over. Neither of us know who said it, but one of us said ‘Pelican Parts!’ And we both looked at each other and said, ‘That's it!’ We packed up and then that was how we got the name.”
The company had gotten started when one of the founders needed 914 parts.
“Wayne was a MIT grad who had a 914. I was working for a Porsche repair shop up in Venice at the time. And he was a customer of ours. We got to be kind of friends—I was helping him out with his 914 in his garage at night. He was looking for things to sell on the internet—this was in 1997, the internet was new back then. We talked about, well, maybe we could do Porsche parts on the internet. And some of it was just used parts that we had. But I already had the connections with the parts industry, the wholesalers, and stuff like that. They all thought we were nuts, trying to sell stuff on the Internet back then. And we kind of combined forces. He built the website, he did all the technical stuff. I had all the Porsche background and the industry background, and it kind of just blossomed from there to where it is today.”
What it is today is the world’s leading Porsche parts supplier—outside of the Porsche dealer network. The way they became so big was not just parts. In those very early days of the internet, Porschephiles then (and now) tend to be very much technically oriented, and many of them were first-adopters to this then-newfangled “internet” thing. So when the company started, in addition to an online parts catalog, there were online do-it-yourself technical articles.
“The basis we got founded on was providing Do It Yourself articles and tech articles for people,” said Gould. “The weekend mechanic, empowering them to work on their own cars. And by doing that, they would buy parts from us as kind of a thank you or whatever, like, ‘Hey, you guys taught us how to do this, we’ll buy parts from you.’ And we’ve had this loyal following for years. It’s a 25-year-old company, now going on 26 years. We’ve just had growth, tremendous amount of growth.”
So much growth that the founders no longer own it. Dempsey has retired (but keeps a fine car collection at the shop), and Gould still works there just because he “loves the parts industry.”
Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life!
Die Backerei at Patrick Long and Rod Emory’s Hagerty Garage + Social
There are car storage spaces popping up all over Southern California and across the country. Many attempt to incorporate some level of social interaction along with the parking spots, like they do at The Motoring Club in Marina Del Rey. Hagerty Garage + Social has nine locations across the country where you can store your classic car and then hang out with your high-speed homies. The newest, almost-finished such location is in Van Nuys, in The Valley north of LA. It has two buildings—one a big garage warehouse—while the other building houses the social club, with meeting rooms and a lounge.
Rod Emory, who has become something of a metalshaping messiah with his Emory Motorsports 356s and 911s, is involved in this enterprise. His main business, Emory Motorsports, in nearby North Hollywood, is too small to hold the company’s annual open house. It’s even too small to host visitors who see the word “Motorsports” on the sign and want to stop in and ask questions. There were so many of those that he renamed Emory Motorsports “Die Backeriei,” or The Bakery. So this year he had the open house at Garage + Social.
“The workshop is too hard to get people through, we had 3000 people last year and it’s just too challenging,” said Emory. “So we moved the open house here because we’ve gotten more space. And since Patrick Long and I partnered with Hagerty to do all these cool events we’re bringing the bakery to Van Nuys.”
While there were many Rod Emory creations lined up inside the main warehouse, the Porsche affiliations of Porsche racer Long and Porsche recreator Emory doesn’t mean the Hagerty Garage + Social will be Porsche-exclusive.
“I think this facility will be multi-brand, multifaceted,” said Long. “It won’t be Porsche-specific. But I have a sneaky suspicion based on the turnout that this will be the place to be on a Saturday night.”
And with that, LA Lit Fair was done. Start planning now for 2024. Keep a flying eyeball on lalitandtoyshow.com. See you next year!