What is now known as a world class collection of performance vehicles was created through a lifetime of dedication to performance and overcoming adversity. The first Emerson Cobra was built in 1996 by Bill Emerson in pursuit of industry leading performance, safety and luxury. With a custom designed body, improved frame and industry leading engineering Emerson quickly became a well known name in the Cobra world. Setting track records and taking home numerous best in show awards.
Growing up a severe dyslexic in a hardscrabble existence, Bill was written off by teachers and tutors, with his own family questioning his intelligence. But at His only outlet became working on vehicles, which began as a small child.
“My dad was one of Richard Petty’s crew chiefs early on for awhile, when he was racing dragsters,” says Emerson. “Given that I couldn’t read, my dad and everyone else assumed I was stupid. One day when I was about seven years old he got frustrated with me, and just threw a carburetor at my feet. He told me to take it apart, figuring that if I was too dumb to read and couldn’t learn anything like everyone else was, then at least I could turn wrenches for somebody one day. What he didn’t understand is that I have a photographic memory, and that I think in shapes and symbols. Concepts and images, rather than words. Functionally, I can barely spell. But mathematics comes naturally, and I can envision every single part of a car working all at once, right down to pumps, the interior of an alternator, electricity and energy flows, and even how the torque of head bolts impacts the symmetry of engine cylinders. All at once, all in real time. I can actually see how one change will impact everything else, which is a big advantage when engineering our cars, especially their geometry. When he threw me that carburetor it was a pretty severe rejection for a little kid, but it unlocked a hidden gift in my dyslexia.”
Emerson has spent the bulk of his life immersed in engines and motorsports, often seeking out the best specialists and obscure car and engineering knowledge. By high school Bill was spending his time building custom parts for vehicles, and kept a large number of the region’s farm vehicles in working order. After high school his math skills got him hired with the US Forrest Service as an accountant, but the nature of office work soon had him wandering around the shop areas and associating with staff mechanics. This quickly led to him providing instruction on repair of their engines, and other engine repair opportunities, including as a civilian contractor with the California Army National Guard and the US Marine Corps. Exceptional pay and opportunity eventually led him to take over the operations of a small engine and appliance repair business in Oregon, and then to repairing a fleet of the then-new concept of jet ski rentals. Bill eventually began working heavily in the maritime motor industry, including turbo-supercharged racing motors. By 1990, when he opened Emerson Motorsports, Bill had accumulated expertise with virtually every kind of internal combustion motor on the market – and a kind of cross-cultural insight from the numerous technologies and disciplines in the world of motorsports.