Renngruppe Rendezvous
December 1, 2011
The Historian’s Desk By Lou Scalzo
As I traveled up I-85 North from Charlotte to Lexington, I was really excited that Dave Brown had invited me up to do a interview for December’s Tobacco Roads historian article. I had talked to Dave at the August swap meet held at his spacious facility, formerly home of a NASCAR team, about a future article and he was very enthusiastic about it.

area looking like a very ordinary brick fronted metal building, blending in with all the others in the area. When you enter the building into the office area 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 racecars 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. Dave 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 962’s, one of which is an overall Sebring winner in the mid ‘80’s, a 908, Carrera 906, an original 1973 IROC RSR driven by Emerson Fittipaldi, and three 935’s - 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 to Goodwood’s Festival of Speed in the Summer of 2012. One of the engine rooms had a nearly finished original ‘74 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 ½ years old, and I’ve been doing this ever since,” Dave said. 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 90’s 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 2252lbs 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.”

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 ½ hours that Thursday, 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 5 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 Fla. “I lived there for 6 ½ years as a kid. My Dad had a metal fabrication shop and worked on privateer’s racecars, 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 Porsche’s.” Dave attended Florida State and graduated in 1980.

“I would try and attend as many races as possible back then, Daytona 24hr, 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 1980s 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 944S2 cars It was worth moving to Atlanta for that, a good experience and a steady paycheck”

In the late 80’s 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 N.C. in 1991. “I worked in the engine shop as a cylinder head specialist doing NASCAR stuff. We worked 7 days a week, but after a few years was pretty bored with it and wanted to get back to sportscars.”

“In 1994, I started a shop in Mooresville 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 where able to build and race this car in less than 2 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 700hp, 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.

2003 brought another shop move up to Thomasville 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 Mazda’s 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 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 multilink 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 mechanics 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.”

‘Till the next Rambling, your historian.