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RennGruppe Motorsports – Profile and Photos

Renngruppe Rendezvous

By Louis Scalzo | Photos by Tom Morgan

Renngruppe Motorsports is located in Lexington, North Carolina in a industrial park area looking like a very ordinary brick fronted metal building, blending in with all the others in the area. When you enter the spacious facility, formerly home of a NASCAR team, you quickly realize that this place is anything but ordinary! It can only be described as a Porsche Mecca, or Holy Land of sorts. As you enter the large shop area, instantly you see magnificent, historic Porsche race cars of all eras that you would only see normally in a book or on a computer screen. It’s visually stunning for sure. The bright white walls are adorned with pictures of racing Porsches and posters from events from all over the world and the floors are painted a sterile gray. There are two engine rooms off to the right of the main gallery, and I can only describe this place as hospital clean and very professional.

RennGruppe Motorsports owner Dave Brown insists on keeping this shop this way and instructs his crew to do so as well, “I look at it as a honor to have these cars here to work on, and I insist on cleanliness here.”

Currently parked in the building where two Coca-Cola Porsche 962s, one of which was an overall Sebring winner in 1985, a Porsche 908, Porsche Carrera 906, an original 1973 Porsche 911 RSR IROC driven by Emerson Fittipaldi, and three Porsche 935s – JLP 2, Desperado, and Bob Akin’s Coca-Cola-sponsored 935. There are also three early 911s, one being Al Holbert’s personal car.

Also present were two of the McLaren-powered Greenwood Corvettes from the mid-70s. One of these is undergoing a full restoration to be completed and delivered for the 2012 Goodwood Festival of Speed. One of the engine rooms had a nearly finished original 1974 RSR 3.0 motor, and there were various race engines in different states of overhaul.

“High performance engine building is really my specialty and what I enjoy doing more than anything. My first engine build was a Bug Eye Sprite when I was 14 1/2 years old, and I’ve been doing this ever since,” said Dave Brown. He realized early on that he had a natural mechanical ability, much of which was self-taught, and the skill to get the best performance with limited resources. Dave then went on to elaborate a little further, “Since the early eighties I have worked on many different race teams, many on very tight privateer budgets, but competing with large budget factory teams.”

“To me, it was a real challenge being the ‘underdog,’ so I would try to be very resourceful when finding horsepower, and enjoyed the challenge. The ’90s where a fun time, the rules formula was way more flexible back then. We would compete against the factory teams using the 3.8 liter motors (such as Alex Job) and they were more restricted. We would use 3.6 rules that had more flexibility, such as a lighter minimum car weight of 2252 lbs and more tube framing for the chassis, 16” tires, but the fun part was engine mods- we could do pretty much anything with the 3.6 block.”

Dave did just that – he showed me an engine that had been radically modified using spacers under the cylinder barrels and cam housings so that they could go to a shorter stroke and Chevy NASCAR rods. This created higher rpms and gained horsepower, with a 103.6mm bore and a 70.00mm stroke. “The other teams really looked at that engine, but couldn’t put a finger on what was different. It was actually wider by an inch or so. There was a lot of satisfaction being able to sometime beat the big guys – and we did.” Over the years Dave has built over 770 full race engines. “In 2000 the factory went to the factory sealed ‘water’ cars and the rules changed with Grand-Am. We couldn’t build and modify engines anymore, so the game was over.”

1973 Porsche 911 RSR IROC, Fittiapaldi
This 1973 Porsche 911 RSR IROC was one of the original 15 built by Penske racing for competition in the first IROC series. This car was qualified on the pole by Emerson Fittipaldi at Riverside Raceway in October of that year.
El Salvador Porsche 935 K3
This Porsche 935 K3, also known as the El Salvador car, was campaigned for many years by a team of racers from El Salvador.
Dave Brown, owner of RennGruppe Motorsports
Dave Brown, owner of RennGruppe Motorsports
RennGruppe Motorsports
Porsche eye candy at RennGruppe Motorsports
1989 Porsche 962C, Le Mans 24 Hours
1989 Porsche 962C raced at Le Mans with the Almeras Brothers
1973 Porsche 911 RSR IROC, Emerson Fittipaldi
1973 Porsche 911 RSR IROC, ex-Emerson Fittipaldi

The thing I noticed about Dave he is really an enthusiast about what he does for a living, and has a total passion for it. It really shows. I was at his shop for 5 1/2 hours, and he spent the entire time with me talking about Porsche and all the cars he has worked on. I’m sure we could have talked for another five hours. Time just flew by. “I love getting up and going to work every day, and can’t wait to work on a car or engine project.” But Dave is also very humble about his accomplishments, he didn’t want me to write this article about him, but about the cars and the shop. But I told him I had to share a little bit on his background with the club, and how he got to where he is today – I apologize Dave.

It all started down in Sarasota, Florida. “I lived there for 6 1/2 years as a kid. My Dad had a metal fabrication shop and worked on privateer’s race cars, sometimes building roll cages and exhaust systems, mostly on English cars. “My Dad took me to the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1971 as spectators in our 1963 Country Squire station wagon. I was really impressed the way Mario Andretti, who was down by many laps, caught up with Steve McQueen at the final lap to win. I was hooked right then and there.”

Dave’s family then moved to North Carolina in 1972, “Dad wanted to get away from the Florida heat and worked at Florida Steel on Highway 21 near Huntersville. As a teenager, he worked at Stowe’s Exxon in Davidson and attended North Mecklenberg High School. “The Exxon had some drag cars, but I really wanted to wrench on Porsches.” Dave attended Florida State and graduated in 1980.

“I would try and attend as many races as possible back then, Daytona 24 Hour, the Paul Revere, Sebring 12 Hours, to name a few. I would always end up in the garage area observing the crews and see what was going on. I knew what I wanted to do, I just had to figure out how to get a steady paycheck out of it.” That turned out to be somewhat difficult at times. “In the early days sometimes I had to call Dad to help pay the electric bills.” Dave started by working for several privateers who did just a few races a year. Most didn’t run the full season, so Dave’s work would last sometimes only several weeks at a time. In the mid-80s Dave found steady work for a couple years full time with the Firehawk Series – “Jim Hicks (retired NFL) was the team owner, and we ran a couple Porsche 944 S2 cars. It was worth moving to Atlanta for that, a good experience and a steady paycheck.”

Porsche 906, Porsche 908
Porsche 906 and Porsche 908
RennGruppe Motorsports
RennGruppe Motorsports
RennGruppe Motorsports
RennGruppe Motorsports
Coke Porsche 962 Bob Akin
Porsche 962 of Bob Akin, Hans Stuck and Jo Gartner, winner of the 1986 Sebring 12 Hours

In the late ’80s Dave worked for Tom Gloy who ran a Riley & Scott-built GTO Mustang, and also worked on some IMSA privateer teams, like Dauer from Germany who ran a limited schedule with a couple 962C models. Former F1 racer Thierry Boutsen was one of the team’s drivers.

“I got married in 1990 to Lisa, and am still married to same wonderful woman for the last 21 years, but needed to find employment were I wasn’t traveling so much.” So Dave went to work for Penske racing in Mooresville, North Carolina in 1991. “I worked in the engine shop as a cylinder head specialist doing NASCAR stuff. We worked seven days a week, but after a few years was pretty bored with it and wanted to get back to sports cars.”

“In 1994, I started a shop in Mooresville (NC) on Hwy 150,” Dave continued, “I shared space in the center building with Greg Clark who was running a NASCAR Busch Series team with Stanley Tool sponsorship. We both shared the lease and Ralph Brawley was the property owner. In 1995 the Busch team lost its sponsorship and I took over the lease for the whole building starting Brown & Slayton for Drew Slayton, who was a former crew chief with many big teams including Interscope and the Whittington brothers.”

“We stayed there until December 1999 and moved once again to a larger facility in the Mooresville Motorsport Park which was the ex-Rahal/Gloy Icehouse Craftsmen truck facility. That shop became Carolina Speedwerks, where we had the opportunity to prepare an AGT Camaro for the 2000 24 Hours of Daytona. The car was based on a Benco full tube frame chassis with a 366 cubic inch Chevy NASCAR type engine, but I decided to change the front end. We were able to build and race this car in less than two months at Daytona because we had a lot of experienced guys in the shop, including Tim Cowell, formerly with Rousch Racing. For qualifying I used 1.75 lift rockers, but for the race went to a 1.5 lift rocker for durability. This car had about 700 hp, and did very well. Well enough to take 1st place in the AGT class, a major accomplishment for all involved indeed. We ran the entire season, finishing second, only losing it on the last race.”

Dave continued to campaign the car. “In 2001 we ran the Camaro once more, but on a limited race schedule with Andy McNeal driving. But in 2002 we did not race on a National level; we did mostly HSR and PCA club race events, maintaining club cars.

Coca-Cola Porsche 935 K3
This Porsche 935 K3 was one of three K3 935s owned by Racing Associates consisting of Charles Mendez, Bob Akin and Roy Woods. It started life as a factory 934 raced by George Loos, and had a long distinguished career including wins at Nurburgring and Daytona.
Coca-Cola Porsche 935 K3 and El Salvador Porsche 935 K3
Porsche 935 K3 and El Salvador Porsche 935 K3
Porsche 908 and Porsche 911 RSR IROC
Porsche 908 and Porsche 911 RSR IROC
Pair of Coca-Cola Porsche 962s, plus the Almeras Brothers 962C
Pair of Coca-Cola Porsche 962s, plus the Almeras Brothers 962C

The year 2003 brought another shop move up to Thomasville (NC) and a name change to Speedwerks. “While at Speedwerks, we built a 3.6 twin turbo 914 for driver Andy McNeal. We raced this car for a number of years, developing and refining it along the way. The 914 was putting out approximately 800 peak horse power. We had a lot of success with this car with a 110 class wins and 55 overall wins. We once almost beat a 962, owned and driven by Don Style, only losing by a few car lengths.” In 2006 Speedwerks built a Mazda to race in the Grand-Am series. This RX-8 was unique to the other Riley-built Mazdas in the field in that Dave’s design incorporated a Porsche torque tube from a 944. “The first year we brought it to Daytona and went through tech inspection, we had a lot of strange looks and questions from the officials, but it’s totally legal and runs competitively.”

Dave moved once more to his current location in Lexington in 2009, now named RennGruppe Motorsports, maintaining many Porsche Club of America (PCA) club race cars and two race car collections with some seriously nice cars in them. RennGruppe is currently developing a VW GTI race car for a new support series, building a radical 1953 Bent window 356 with a multi-link suspension and 3.6 engine, and is continuing what Dave likes best – engine building – getting historic engines shipped from all over the world for him to rebuild. “The only one I haven’t done yet is the 12-cylinder 917 engine. Yet.”

Dave says from a mechanic’s perspective, “The opportunity to work on what many consider the best there is – Porsche. Well-built, proper, done correctly, the highest quality and standards. What also makes what I do so great are really the people in the PCA, with the same interest in these great cars that I have, many of the same customers have been coming back since 1994.”

This was originally published in the December 2011 edition of Tobacco Roads, the official publication of the Carolinas Region, Porsche Club of America. Louis Scalzo serves as Historian and Tom Morgan as Editor of the monthly newsletter. For more information, visit Carolinas PCA and RennGruppe Motorsports.