SPECIALIST: RENO RENNSPORT
Porsche maintenance Nevada style
The Reno and Lake Tahoe areas of Nevada have long been associated with Porsche, what with Porsche’s US operations being based there for many years. This has resulted in a number of Porsche specialists taking residence, with Reno Rennsport playing a prominent role in local Porsche expertise, as we find out when we drop in for a shop tour...
There must be something special in the air round the Lake Tahoe and Reno areas of Nevada, as the place is rife with Porsches and Porsche people. Porsche Cars North America was once located there, prior to its move to the current HQ and Experience Centre properties in Atlanta, Georgia. Porsche mega collector Ranson Webster and his world beating, multi-hundreds deep car collection lives there, too. And Porsche specialist shops EBS Racing and Reno Rennsport are each within a few minutes’ drive of the Reno Tahoe Airport.
Reno Rennsport opened doors in 2008. There are currently four owner/partners piloting the shop. They are Mat Lowrance (pronounced much more like “Lawrence” than “Low-rance”) began his career in the bay area servicing early air-cooled Porsches. Mat worked on and owned a number of 911 Ss, RSRS, RS and other now highly collectible models. He also helped develop and maintain professional race cars such as the 935s that were campaigned in the IMSA series. He also built and ran his own Porsches in several professional IMSA races throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s. After IMSA he moved to SCCA regional racing in which he notched dozens of podium finishes. He is responsible for building a number of front running club racing Porsches in both Spec 911 and GT race classes. Once he relocated to Reno he became the lead Porsche specialist for Sport Haus for 28 years. Mat became a partner of Reno Rennsport in 2009. Mat will work on anything in the shop, but can be thought of as the “old school, air-cooled” partner. He remains an active 911 racer.
Jess Lattin is a certified Porsche Master Technician who began his career with the Porsche dealership in Reno over 15 years ago. He has logged over 1000 hours of Porsche factory training in Porsche’s North American facilities. He earned its highest certification as a Porsche technician and was the head tech at the dealership for many years. Jess has exceptional expertise with water-cooled Porsches and newer models. He has significant training and experience working on 996s, 997s, 991s, Cayennes, Caymans, Panameras, 918s and Carrera GTS. He was one of the first few Technicians in the US to complete 996 and 997 engine displacement enlargements. Jess is the Technical Chairman on the board for Porsche Club of America’s Sierra Nevada Region. The “water-cooled Porsche guy.”
Partner John Trautwein’s day to day job is Head of Shop Operations and brings over 10 years of experience as Rennsport’s head BMW Technician. He is also intimately involved with Rennsport’s Porsche work and helps manage all large builds and projects at the shop. John became a partner in 2014. He is known for exotic BMW stroker engine projects, turbo and supercharger builds, but has also built Porsche spec 911 race cars and prepared several Mini Coopers for race competition in SCCA. John has extensive training and certifications for water-cooled Porsche engine management and mechanical systems. Think of him as the BMW guy and shop manager.
Brian Lowrance (yes, Mat’s son) is Reno Rennsport’s business operations manager, bringing over a decade of experience in finance and corporate operations. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (driving a ’75 911 through college in central California) and has earned numerous financial designations. Brian has spent nearly 20 years racing and developing Porsches with father Mat. He currently campaigns a 1969 Porsche 911 in the Porsche Racing Club’s Spec 911 series – often running against his dad. Brian
became a Rennsport partner in 2016.
Reno Rennsport currently employs 13, including the four partners, and occupies a 12,000sq ft industrial building space; including reception, offices, vehicle and parts stores, main workshop, fabrication shop, and an engine room. Brian advises that Reno Rennsport is primarily a services company, although has begun participating in more and more product and parts development. “We’ll do anything from an oil change to a full concours restoration” on virtually any Porsche, from the oldest to the newest and most exotic (SUVS and Panameras also welcome). Plus all manner of race car builds. One of the more interesting projects in the shop is a Cayman which was written off by the owner’s insurance company as a total in last year’s Hurricane Harvey flood in Texas, which is being rebuilt as a big-engined track-only monster with a full in-house fabricated roll cage; its nickname is the Hurricayman. Cayman race builds are becoming more and more popular given that early Caymans of relatively modest spec are common and not exceedingly expensive to acquire. Of course, many of the go-fast goodies developed for the 911 and even the Boxster fit the coupe and the Cayman’s natural midengined weight balance and stiff chassis structure give it some natural talent on track, especially for novice or relatively inexperienced racers. One of the fascinating things the Reno Renn folks have learned during the Hurricayman build is how much certain factory installed components weigh, such as an air conditioning system, obviously stripped out and not needed in a track car. Another big weight adder is the factory wiring harness which, when you think of all the sensors placed around the car and the audio system and engine computers, and how many components connected by wire, adds up to a lot; in the case of this Cayman, about 150 pounds of wiring has been removed, and it will all be replaced by a much simpler, lightweight racing harness.
So far Reno Renn’s largest and most involved product development project has been a partnership with Brit company AT Power. AT Power’s speciality is extremely precise high-performance throttle body systems. These butterfly valve throttle bodies are crafted of very high tech materials including aluminum and titanium alloys; and while they are particularly well suited to race cars, they are also proving quite popular when tuned for high performance street applications. Reno Rennsport is a primary AT Power development partner, and exclusive distributor of these systems in North America. Lowrance also advises that Reno Renn has other joint ventures, with a few others under evaluation.
Something else the company has developed a considerable reputation for is big inch engines. 3.5, 3.6 and 3.8 litres – both air- and water-cooled – are now everyday builds, with 4.0-litres and up
becoming ever more common.
As you’d imagine given the company’s geographical location, most of its business comes from in and around the western United States, primarily Nevada, California and Arizona. Although occasionally a car is shipped in long distance if that customer knows of Reno Renn, or wants their particular brand of service or build.
Besides purveying the goods from AT Power, ESS Tuning, Haltech Engine Management and Braid Wheels, the Reno partners are also beginning to dabble in used parts, and particularly used race parts: After decades of wrenching on professional IMSA racers, Mat Lowrance has collected binloads of period racing spec pieces, primarily for 911s, and the shop is finding a ready market for some of the rare and racy bits. Plus all manner of used wheels, engines, engine parts, body panels, take-off brake systems and the rest. Look for this area of the business to expand.
Another aspect of the Porsche business that appears to be ever more common at Reno Rennsport is the recommissioning of ‘garage find’ cars that belonged to a parent, friend or relative of someone, and have spent the last five, ten or 30 years sitting, and the original – or a new – owner wants to get the car freshened up and back on the road. Naturally a comprehensive all systems major service is the minimum starting point here, and may or may not evolve deeper restoration into paint and bodywork. Something that happens all too often in these cases, depending upon the location and security of the car’s storage, is rodent and/or insect infestation. Rats and other such critters feast on a car’s wiring and insulation, chewing and eating into it so dramatically that a car may need a new electrical harness to get back on the road. Often the entire interior of the car will need to be stripped out and thoroughly cleaned and deodorised – the little buggers tend to make quite the mess of an old leather interior. Sometimes it can all be cleaned up, treated and reused; other times it adds up to an interior retrim.
Another interesting problem that Brian and the Reno Renn team have had to deal with more as of late is when rats or mice lay their nests on the cylinder bore fins in between the cylinders. “If the rats have built large enough nests on the cooling fins, and enough of them died in there, it usually means we have to disassemble and then reassemble most of the engine to properly clean everything up.”
Besides race builds, Reno Rennsport handles all manner of street performance upgrades: engines, wheels, tyres, brakes, suspension mods and full transmission services. And if you’re in or around Northern Nevada, there’s almost no job Reno Renn won’t tackle on your Porsche, old or new, air- or water-cooled. PW
Ever more common at Reno Rennsport is restoring ‘garage find’ cars
Reno Rennsport can work on the full gamut of air-cooled and water-cooled Porsches, with the four partners/owners each specialising in their own Porsche area of expertise
Reno Rennsport employs 13 people to keep the Reno district Porsches on the road, although we can only see 11 here, so they’re either camera shy or have pulled a sickie!
Right: Wild, widearched racer rather catches the eye. Far right: Reno Rennsport’s latest project is the ‘Hurricayman’, so named after the donor Cayman was written off in flooding in Texas, thanks to Hurricane Harvey
Reno Rennsport has formed a productive association with UK based AT Power, to use AT’S super highquality throttle bodies