Dwain Dement had a vision of a race shop that would transform customer cars from road-going vehicles into championship winning racers. After working for Dietel Enterprises and Andial as a mechanic, he branched out on his own, creating Vision Motorsports in 1995. He set up shop in Laguna Hills, CA. His facility offers a one-stop-shop for customers who have a desire to chase speed.
Autologic’s resident racing champion, Rick Knoop, remembers when he first met Dement. “I was working for Dietel Enterprises. We were a private independent BMW shop that specialized in Alpina BMW conversions and gray market cars. Dwain came up one morning in 1984. He pulled in on a twin head lamped Suzuki Canyon Racer—crotch rocket—and applied for a job. Mike Dietel hired him on the spot.” He became a master mechanic, working at some of the best and most influential race shops in the nation with a stint at Andial, the Porsche legendary race shop, before leaving for five-years with Exclusive Motorsports, before he opened Vision.
In today’s world of manufacturer produced customer race and track day vehicles, it’s hard to find a space to exist in that environment. Dement found his niche by offering customers something that differs from what Porsche is currently selling. “I appeal to a client who wants something different than what Porsche is supplying, or [gives] an advantage that Porsche is not supplying in that particular car,” says Dement. He describes the areas where he can take a factory spec car and release its untapped potential. “People think about Porsche Cup cars as this awe inspiriting race car, but realistically most of the cup cars, I would call a ‘spec car’”, describes Dement, “It’s a nice race car, but they have their limitations, and what makes them work is that they all have the same limitation. So, when they leave that spec class and go club racing, we can add ABS braking to make the braking better, [and] we can widen the fenders a little bit so we can add an inch or two of tire on them…”. These improvements can transform the Porsche Cup Car into a much more lethal opponent in club racing events run by sanctioning bodies like Porsche Owners Club (POC) and Porsche Club of America (PCA).
He says he takes pride in being able to make cars from scratch, “I like the creative side.” It allows him a degree of creativity that sticking to the standard car does not provide.
His top-class car is Vision’s twin-turbocharged Porsche 911s which race in the GT1 unlimited class. These cars get increased engine displacement, larger turbochargers, larger intercoolers, bigger camshafts, and radically altered suspension geometry. Dement says that although Porsche now offers turbocharged track day cars like the 935 and GT2RS, he doesn’t think that people will be racing them in serious competition “because their value is so high.”
Customers who are intent on racing in a spec class bring their cars to Vision Motorsports and Dement’s team takes it from there. “We’re a full-service shop,” he claims, “We sublet nothing.”
“We do everything from daily brake jobs and oil changes. We have mechanics who do just service jobs, and then we have guys who can strip a car basically down to nothing—strip it down to metal, then build a roll cage, relocate suspension pick up points, change suspension geometry, paint the car, [and] reassemble it. We have a complete engine and transmission shop where we build all our own motors, and we send those all over the world, and then after paint, full assembly, to whatever spec from Boxster spec to GT1.”
The suspension geometry changes that Vision completes, is something that most shops cannot do. “It is beyond the capabilities of your average Porsche shop,” says Dement because “the fabrication and understanding [of] roll center and roll structure, is more than your regular good Porsche repair shop.”
In many cases, a shop may have a customer whom they have built a race car for, but they have reached the limit of their knowledge. They call on Dement and his team to take it to the next level. “When they’ve taken their race car as far as they can go and they still know that they are missing something, we will take it in and do the work—fabrication—custom work, that they don’t have the tooling, equipment, or knowledge to do, and then [we] send it back to them and support them after the fact. So, we’re not out there trying to take everyone’s customers because we get more business from other Porsche shops than individuals.”
An accomplished race driver in his own right, Dement is able to use his driving skills to instruct customers and diagnose vehicles. He can get into a car, push it to the limit and then quickly understand the issue that the driver was complaining about. This helps as he bridges the communication gap between driver and engineer that sometimes exists.
Despite Vision building and preparing race-prepped cars, their best-selling product is their Porsche crate engines. Vision increases their motor’s displacement by milling and removing the original aluminum cast cylinders from the engine block before installing their own chromoly CNC cylinders. These cylinders increase the bore diameter, are stronger than the original cast piece, and they dissipate heat more effectively. By replacing the original cylinders with their own version, Vision has been able to create a new boring technique that avoids the overheating issues which normally hamper engines that have been bored by old technique of removing material from the factory cylinders which makes the cylinder walls thinner and transfers more heat to the engine coolant.
One of the wildest builds that Vision has embarked on is the Jägermeister 935 Vision project race car prototype. Once a popular club car, the customer wanted to modernize it with new modern components. The owner, Geoff Steinbach, contacted Dement after he drove a modern Porsche Cup car. He was amazed with the brakes of the new car. He wanted his clone to have the same braking performance as the Cup. After contacting other shops to see if the Cup brakes could be retrofitted, he found his way to Vision Motorsports. Dement told him that to replicate the braking performance, his car would require an entire redesign of the braking system. “[The 935s have] outstanding brakes,” describes Dement, “but when you push on the brakes hard, the front spindle flexes, [and] the brake rotor wobbles, and it pushes the pads out.” He told the customer that the new Cup cars have a massive hub assembly that prevent flexing. The only way to duplicate this was to completely rebuild the car.
Dement told the Steinbach, “We can put these front uprights [in, but] I’d have to cut the car off at the A-pillar, remake all of this tubing, and put the subframe from a 997 RSR in there [along with] all of its components and you’ll that kind of brakes.”
After they performed the front-end swap, the owner wanted to go even further. He wanted the engine to be repositioned in the car, changing it from a Standard Porsche rear-engine setup to a mid-engine configuration.
“We cut the car off at the B-pillar, redid all of the square tubing, lengthened the wheelbase 7-inches, turned the motor around so its mid-engine, then added the RSR 997 rear suspension” (Dement). They also made heavy modifications to the car’s suspension geometry as well. “The RSR suspension is badass, but it is a homologated car, so the front suspension was a little bit lower than it should be, and the rear suspension was a whole bunch lower than what it should be to make it not a two-seat sports car,” says Dement. He raised the suspension pickup points 22mm and he made it adjustable so a change of a metal spacer can lower or raise the suspension. Dement did all of these measurements with a tape measure and a plumb bob. His work was checked by a friend with a $100,000 3D scanning arm, who came back with the only fixes being that he should have went 24mm instead of 22mm. Dement laughs saying “I fixed Porsche’s problem by 22mm’s, but I missed perfection by 2mm.”
The Jägermeister is also getting a very special engine. It was powered by an air-cooled engine, but now it is getting fitted for a monster water-cooled Porsche V8. Although air-cooled power plant rings true to the traditional Porsche purist, the new water-cooled engines have surpassed them in performance applications. Dement describes the differences in terms of power production and engine management, he illustrates that the “air-cooled [engines] were neat in their day, but you can’t compare them to the water-cooled. The water-cooled—across the board—is a better motor. The air-cooled was an awesome idea for weight [and] power management at the time, but as soon as they went to the water-cooled you can control everything better with water, and you can have a 4-valve head. To build a hot rod 3-liter air-cooled motor, it wouldn’t have much of a time span on it because it would have to turn a lot of rpm, it would run really hot, you would have to run it on race gas, as opposed to a stock 3-liter water-cooled, smog legal motor makes more horsepower. We can run a lot more timing because we run knock sensors and we can pull it out, 3D mapping, fuel economy— [and they have] great gas mileage on crappy gas.” Dement says that Vision still works on air-cooled engines, “We’re happy to do it, but as far as performance goes, you can’t compare.”
The Jägermeister is being upgraded to a water-cooled engine that is based on the Cayenne V8 that won the 24 Hours of Daytona.
The Lozano Brothers turned a Cayenne V8 into a world-beater, taking what was thought of as a pedestrian motor and turning it into a fire breathing monster that powered the Action Express Racing Rolex 24-hour entrant. Dement says that the Lozanos “could pick any motor that they wanted, but this is the one that they picked.” It was restricted to 550 horsepower, which was barely breathing in its racing configuration, but it was so durable that they could run an entire race season with it. He spoke to the Brothers, asking them to build him a V8, but instead of selling him a motor, they offered to provide him with the know-how so that he could build his own.
He made a motor that used CP Carrillo Rods, higher compression, and bigger pistons. The final result was a 10:1 turbocharged engine with Vision Motorsports chromoly liners that increased the V8’s displacement from 4.5L to 5.0L. According to Dement, the engine is like jewelry inside and as it sits today he has $82,000 invested into it.
The reason why a Porsche engine is so expensive to build is because of supply and demand. He says, “The small block Chevy motor is cheap, but they’ve been selling them since the ‘60s. Porsche builds a motor and it’s a 4 to 5-year run, and then it’s onto another one. I tell people all the time, a bracket we fabricate for a roll cage might take six hours and therefore its $900, but if you can buy it from Pep Boys it might be a $1.98. It’s how the market is. We have to make it, while they can stamp them out.”
Originally Dement planned to build the engine for himself, but situations and priorities changed, and the motor is now headed to the Jägermeister’s engine bay.
The Jägermeister customer convinced him to sell it. Dement says it was a perfect scenario as he had another larger project that had become his priority. So, the wild Cayenne V8 is being fitted into the 935 Vision prototype. It will be attached to an Albins gearbox. The car is currently under construction as Vision fabricated mounts to install the V8. The car is still under construction but it has a race scheduled for April this year. When it debuts, it is bound to set track records wherever it goes.
Claiming championships and track records is nothing new for Vision Motorsports, as they have become known for racing victories and championships.
The blue Vision 996 GT1 twin turbocharged Porsche (that is in the pictures of this article) has lap and track records for Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, Buttonwillow Raceway, and has set the track records at Streets of Willow and Big Willow at Willow Springs Raceway for POA and PCA.
Dement says that he likes GT1 cars, but his customers have had a lot of success in the GT4 class. “Lately we’ve had a winning run in GT4. We’ve been taking 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in GT4, and GT3. We’ve won the championship in the last three years. We’re doing so good that I’m thinking about running a GT2 car, to drive myself, so we could possibly win GT1, GT2, GT3, and GT4.”
Vision Motorsports Willow Springs Country Club
Dement’s newest venture is joining the country club race car world. He recently purchased a historic property that is located directly at the front gate of Willow Springs Raceway.
The building was built in the mid-1970s by a man name Aldin LeGrand. Nicknamed “Red”, LeGrand built Formula cars. “He was a really good engineer,” says Dement. LeGrand built the building so that his shop could be near the race track. He built and tested his cars at Willow, but when LeGrand shut down his company, LeGrand Racing Car Company, he hid his tooling somewhere in the ground of the back of the facility. “What I’ve heard just recently was that when he retired, he buried all the tooling in the backyard somewhere, and the LeGrand Historical society wants to come out and try to dig it out.”
After LeGrand, the shop was bought by the Los Angeles’ go-to man for racing Shelby American vehicles in historic racing, Dave Dralle of Dralle Engineering. Dralle built and raced Shelby American Cobras and Cobra Mustangs. “Dave was a piece of history, he hung with Carroll Shelby,” says Dement.” The fact that the building was home to both LeGrand Racing Car Company and Dralle Engineering because “a real racing history goes with this place.” When Dralle passed away last year, Dement purchased the property, and he has been on a mission to reinvent the facility.
It took some time, but now he is well underway to building his newest dream—a Willow Springs based country club.
The goal is a concierge club that is located an hour from Los Angeles. He says, “When I come out with customers, we have 20-25 customers at a time that we meet at a racetrack, now we’ll just meet here.” The track has been supportive of Dement’s effort, “The racetrack has been kind enough to give me keys and a remote control at the gate, and on track days we’ll just have a radio and go to and from here,” he says.
“My direction with this place is that in the back we’ll build a big building with an automated stacking system for cars, from historic to whatever. LA is just an hour away. LA is where most of the cars are. I think I will end up with members […] who want to park their car here and will contact the valet and say ‘I’d like my car out at 10 am, warmed up with tires and fuel. I’d like to drive around for a little bit.’”
The ability to always get onto the racetrack is an allure for prospective members, and as Dement says his members will be welcome at “Private [and] semi-private days. We’ll have a special rate with the track for that, and we’ll rent days—Vision days—all the other Trackmasters, POC, will accept our members, so the members just have to follow those rules.”
Autologic visited the new facility at Willow Springs Raceway. Rick Knoop was on hand, along with Dement, and Vision Motorsports and Saleen Cup race car driver Martina Kwan. The three drove Vision Motorsports cars on the Streets of Willow. Knoop drove Vision’s blue 997 GT1 car with 600 horsepower.
Knoop described the day as meeting his expectations of what he believes Vision’s race cars to be. “I had a very alive car on a very technically small track. Never driven the track before—Streets of Willow, I knew I didn’t have to worry about the preparation, I knew I was in good hands mechanically. It was a lot of car, for a small track.”
Knoop says of Dement’s new club, “his vision on the site of Willow Springs at a track that has been around since ’53. The tour we had shows the level of integrity not only of his race car but the recreation of the club/cabana and pools. Speaking of the racing part of it: I’ve been driving his cars almost on an annual basis for the tribute to Le Mans.”
Dement has created a famous Porsche brand and now a new facility at Willow Springs, all with a vision. We’ll be back out covering the Jägermeister once it is finished and we will do a full piece on the country club once it is near to opening.