Bill Emerson founded Emerson Motorsports in 1990 with one guiding principle: uncompromising luxury performance.
Our shop is driven to craft an elite level of bespoke sportscars, mating premier technology and engineering to rich, hand-crafted opulence. Emerson Motorsports is renowned for the attention to detail and innovative application of cutting-edge technology we build into our vehicles, which comes from the culture instilled by Bill Emerson and his values. Emerson has been called an “R and D addict with a car-crafting compulsion.” He doesn’t dispute this.
To fully appreciate the level at which we craft our cars, we welcome you to browse our engineering section, which covers in detail the level of extreme performance and quality we create.
Bill Emerson with Ballista #2, in very early pre-production fitting and testing.
Were one to know Bill Emerson’s early story, however, they may not have predicted this level of elite production. Growing up a severe dyslexic in a hardscrabble existence, bouncing across small towns of the American west as his father chased job opportunities, Bill was written off by teachers and tutors, with his own family questioning his intelligence. 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 rest of his life immersed in engines and motorsports, often seeking out the best specialists and obscure car and engineering knowledge. At age 11 his family moved to Arcata, California, where Bill found one of the premier American mechanics of English sportscars, who took him under his wing and mentored him on the arcana of English cars, as well as proper electrical theory and craftsmanship. Pretty soon he was rebuilding entire brake and electrical systems, as well as larger powertrain components, and rebuilt his first car at age 12, a Triumph TR4.
With his homelife disintegrating during his parents’ divorce during these years, Bill got the only vehicle he could drive, which was a Honda 50 Mini-Trail motorcycle. At 11, he had driven it so much it wore down, and with circumstances requiring resourcefulness, rebuilt the entire cylinder and valve train by himself, with a manual.
In high school and back in Redding, Bill’s skills were at the level where his shop instructors largely gave him free reign of the shop, were he built 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.
“People would be surprised how isolated many of the technologies and techniques are in different parts of the motor world,” Emerson says. “You might pick up an idea for extreme strength and durability from the heavy equipment side of things, an engineering concept from Indy Car, or a new innovation from the maritime world, and put it together to have a hugely innovative application for your vehicle. But none of these guys are talking to each other, generally speaking. I mean, we use a lot of aerospace technology, especially in our supercar, but that’s only because I seek out new tech, wherever I can find it. Information is kind of siloed sometimes, but having friends in all these industries and with so much time in the trenches, it provides me with a unique heritage that I bring to my shop. We’re doing things with Cobras and the Ballista, our Supercar, that would blow your mind. Stuff Formula One guys aren’t allowed to do. Stuff some people have never heard of, and our shop is the only one in the world providing it. It’s exciting.”
To date, Emerson Motorsports has handcrafted over 100 bespoke Cobras, and has five Ballista supercars under early production.
R&D on the Ballista, in the earliest days. Our R&D never quits.