WEST COAST MAGIC

For West Coast Met­ric owner Loren Pear­son, the fond­ness for Porsches and VWS be­gan when his dad pur­chased a Bee­tle Cabri­o­let in 1958. Lorenzo – as ev­ery­body calls him – later bought his own Speed­ster in 1965, be­fore go­ing on to col­lect ve­hi­cles of both ma

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words & pho­tos: Stephan Szan­tai

Clas­sic Porsche vis­its Loren Pear­son to view his Porsche and VW col­lec­tion

As a kid grow­ing up in the 1950s, Loren Pear­son wit­nessed the growth in pop­u­lar­ity of the Porsche and VW brands in Cal­i­for­nia. ʻMy par­ents worked hard, though our fam­ily did­nʼt have a lot of mon­eyʼ, he re­calls. ʻDad could­nʼt af­ford a Porsche in 1958, but he man­aged to pur­chase a Bee­tle con­vert­ible fresh off the show­room floor.ʼ Lorenzo at­tributes his in­ter­est in air-cooled VWS and Porsches to this car – he loved work­ing on it.

After en­list­ing in the Marine Corps and com­plet­ing his ser­vice as a teenager, he scored a job as a me­chanic at the fa­mous Chick Iver­son VW and Porsche deal­er­ship in New­port Beach, Cal­i­for­nia. This al­lowed him to get a for­mal train­ing, which taught him all about the in­tri­ca­cies of these ve­hi­cles – or lack thereof.

He re­lo­cated up the coast a cou­ple of years later to join an­other dealer, Lee Whistler VW in Re­dondo Beach, where he quickly moved from the re­pair area to the parts depart­ment, be­com­ing the As­sis­tant Man­ager. His next pro­fes­sional move saw him work­ing at the Los An­ge­les VW & Porsche Dis­tri­bu­tion Cen­ter, lead­ing to a po­si­tion as a Parts Tech­ni­cian – here he dealt with all the Volk­swa­gen deal­ers based in LA and nearby coun­ties.

As the ʼ60s drew to an end, Lorenzo had ac­quired an in­valu­able knowl­edge of Volk­swa­gens and Porsches. He had al­ready owned sev­eral VWS by then, along with his first Porsche, a ʼ55 Speed­ster which he pur­chased in 1965 for just $825. ʻI re­stored it in 1968, after Chris­tine and I got mar­riedʼ, he re­mem­bers. ʻI sold it a year later for $2400 – the new owner to­talled it a month later!ʼ

Dur­ing the early ʼ70s, ev­ery Cal­i­for­nian neigh­bour­hood was swarm­ing with daily-driven Volk­swa­gens, while the Porsche brand saw great suc­cess in the sports car seg­ment, too. This in­spired Lorenzo to open ʻThe En­gine Com­part­mentʼ, a store spe­cial­is­ing in VW and Porsche parts on Pa­cific Coast High­way in Re­dondo Beach. Busi­ness was good, so he ex­panded with a sec­ond out­let down the coast at New­port Beach. It proved to be ex­haust­ing, as both stores were over 40 miles apart… Plus, by now he and Chris­tine had two sons, Scott and Todd. He there­fore de­cided to sell both shops.

It was time to start a new busi­ness! In 1977, the hero of our tale opened West Coast Met­ric (WCM), a com­pany de­voted to the pro­duc­tion of parts that had been dis­con­tin­ued by Volk­swa­gen, or were dif­fi­cult to find. His first item was a win­dow rub­ber for the Bee­tle, made from a new space-age syn­thetic ma­te­rial that lasted much longer than the orig­i­nal parts. More tool­ing and moulds fol­lowed, for the man­u­fac­ture of gas­kets and other rub­ber parts, the ma­jor­ity of which were made in the USA.

WCM had hum­ble be­gin­nings with the fir­mʼs phone be­ing con­nected to the garage at the Pear­son house­hold, which was used to in­ven­tory the prod­ucts. Even­tu­ally, Lorenzo rented a small ware­house near Re­dondo Beach, while wife Chris­tine han­dled the book keep­ing – sons Scott and Todd oc­ca­sion­ally worked there as well and helped at Volk­swa­gen

events. (We should men­tion that the Pear­sons suf­fered a great loss with the un­ex­pected pass­ing of Scott in 2013.)

The com­pa­nyʼs head­quar­ters moved two more times to larger fa­cil­i­ties, be­fore Lorenzo fi­nally bought a 30,000sq ft build­ing in Har­bor City…about a quar­ter-mile from Pelican Parts, which Clas­sic Porsche fea­tured in is­sue #46! Itʼs a small world. The brick struc­ture ac­com­mo­dates WCMʼS man­u­fac­tur­ing and pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties, parts in­ven­tory and the col­lec­tion show­cased in this ar­ti­cle. It mixes Porsches and Volk­swa­gens (with an em­pha­sis on off-road rac­ers), set in a won­der­ful en­vi­ron­ment.

While Todd Pear­son stepped-up and took the helm of WCM full time, Lorenzo still shows up al­most ev­ery day to play in his ʻman caveʼ, which com­prises two sep­a­rate ar­eas. The first ac­com­mo­dates his sta­ble of over 20 ve­hi­cles; the sec­ond, his work­shop, as he en­joys wrench­ing on his own project cars.

The place has a cosy feel, thanks to a ton of good­ies put on dis­play: vin­tage gas pump, Porsche and VW neon signs, rac­ing ban­ners, etc. One cor­ner is solely de­voted to Porsche mem­o­ra­bilia, with pic­tures and posters, in­clud­ing a rare one from the ʼ60s fea­tur­ing Steve Mcqueen. It came from the nearby Vasek Po­lak deal­er­ship that closed dur­ing the ʼ90s, where Lorenzo had con­nec­tions with the man him­self and his em­ploy­ees. This al­lowed Pear­son to ac­quire a com­plete NOS Porsche 935 glass­fi­bre nose piece for just £2000, which he then dressed in the fa­mous Mar­tini liv­ery.

Not much of a cir­cuit or drag race fan, Lorenzo loves of­froad­ing as demon­strated by two ba­sic sin­gle-seaters built in

“IT MIXES PORSCHES AND VOLK­SWA­GENS…”

Al­ways on the look­out for in­ter­est­ing off-road ve­hi­cles, Lorenzo found a ʼ68 911T built by Don and Gary Emory for desert out­ings. Don did a fan­tas­tic job with the body­work, later paint­ing the coupé as a Roth­mans trib­ute. It fea­tures a chro­moly roll cage, an in­ter­com sys­tem, and a 2400cc ʻS­camʼ mo­tor with me­chan­i­cal fuel-in­jec­tion, while the rims are gen­uine 5.5Jx15 and 8Jx15 Fuchs. Lorenzo also has a 993, which he pur­chased from the sec­ond owner. It has only cov­ered 8000 miles since new.

Sev­eral other ve­hi­cles com­ple­ment his col­lec­tion, such as the ʼ62 sun­roof Bee­tle daily-driven by the Pear­son fam­ily from 1968 un­til ʼ84, along with the ʼ64 ʻBuga­zonʼ Baja Bug con­vert­ible with a fan­tas­tic story. This VW was cus­tom-built to test WCMʼS prod­ucts dur­ing a rally com­pe­ti­tion, specif­i­cally the 1st Transamer­ica Race in South Amer­ica, in 1988. Start­ing in Co­lum­bia and end­ing in Buenos Aires, Ar­gentina, Lorenzo and his co-pi­lot ended up cov­er­ing 10,000 miles, fin­ish­ing 1st in class and 11th over­all out of 72 cars. At one point, he drove for three days straight with no sleep!

Al­though we can­not list all the fine au­to­mo­biles that be­long to the col­lec­tion, we should men­tion a cou­ple of odd­balls… The first is a par­tially-re­stored ʼ67 Bee­tle. Only the left side has ac­tu­ally been re­done, painted and up­hol­stered, whilst the other half re­mains un­re­stored, from the ʻpati­naʼdʼ orig­i­nal paint to the rusty (half) bumpers! Lorenzo is also un­der­stand­ably proud of his ʼ47 Ford Woody, that re­lies on a mod­ern Lin­coln V8 en­gine, gear­box and sus­pen­sion – the per­fect ride to hit So-calʼs best surf­ing spots.

We had a great time hang­ing out for an af­ter­noon with Lorenzo, whoʼs a ter­rific story-teller. Look­ing at all the won­der­ful ʻstuffʼ he has gath­ered over the years, any­body would un­der­stand why he spends most days in this vast, cosy cor­ner of WCMʼS head­quar­ters. Mis­ter Pear­son is a lucky man! CP

Above: In­dus­trial rack­ing al­lows Lorenzo to dou­blestack his col­lec­tion, sav­ing vi­tal floor space Be­low left: Lorenzo re­stored this 1965 356 Cabri­o­let with his dad back in 1974

Be­low right: Out­law ’57 356 runs a 238bhp 2.7-litre RSspec flat-six mated to a Porsche 915 transaxle

Be­low: What started life as a 1968 911T was con­verted into an off-roader by Don and Gary Emory. It runs a 2.4-litre ‘S’-spec mo­tor with me­chan­i­cal in­jec­tion

Above, left and right: Loren Pear­son’s first Porsche was a 1955 Speed­ster pur­chased in 1965 for just $825. Re­stored in 1968 and sold a year later, it was to­talled by the new owner within weeks

Be­low: With all that horse­power tucked away, you just know Lorenzo’s out­law 356 will fly…

Above left: Bee­tle limou­sine was used to trans­port John Wayne to the Os­car cer­e­mony in 1970! Above right: Dis­play cases are packed with rare and valu­able Porsche and VW ac­ces­sories of all types

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