It is perhaps fitting that the same architect responsible for the Disney World Epcot Dome penned Champion Motorsports' new wonderland. Grown men wander Champion's 22,000-sq-ft facility and gaze at the assorted hardware like children visiting Disneyland for the first time. It's a place where we'd all secretly like to live.
"This is a perfect marriage of companies," explained Naveen Maraj, president of Champion Motorsport. "In addition to selling new cars, we can offer high-performance, factory-warranted tuning programs and accessories."
If you're a Porsche fan, chances are you've already heard of Florida-based Champion Motors, a powerhouse of a dealership that ranks as number one in the entire world. Founded some 15 years ago by Dave Maraj, Champion Motors has flown Porsche's flag on both the retail and racing end with an active involvement in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Daytona, Sebring and the Speedvision Challenge Series.
Nearly 10 years ago, I remember photographing Hans Stuck campaigning the first 996 GT-3 on the banks of Daytona. Under the management of Don Skuta, Champion's point man in racing, the Stuck-driven GT-3 set the fastest lap of the entire race. Champion Motorsport was a logical next step for the business, a "race on Sunday, sell on Monday" deal. Given what I saw in Pompano Beach, it's obvious Naveen is geared to follow his father's extraordinary automotive model.
Beyond the dazzling "starnet" showroom lie six lifts in a surgically clean shop, an all-wheel-drive Dynojet dynamometer, a hermetically sealed ECU microchip room, and a laser alignment machine. The facility has also been equipped with several machining rooms, a pair of tire mounting/balancing units and 50,000 sq ft of warehouse with a computerized loading system. Do these guys mean business or what?
Champion Motorsport employs a full-time engineer responsible for Champion's current line of ultra-lightweight forged wheels. Technically speaking, Champion's wheels are beyond reproach, blanked from aerospace-quality aluminum and forged into shape on an 8,000-ton press. The rims are then heat treated, machine finished and coated in a protective final layer. A typical Champion wheel (18-in. diameter) weighs a paltry 17.9-lb, an impressive piece of engineering given their strength.
I've seen several Champion wheels in SoCal, fitted to exquisitely modified Audis and Porsches. The styling is drop-dead gorgeous, nicer than what you'd see coming from the manufacturers themselves.
Champion also carries the Tubi line of sport exhausts and its own suspension components. In time, Champion Motorsport will undoubtedly design and fabricate its own line of ultra-high-quality tuning products.
Service manager Bobby Varela spent some time with me during this grand tour. Varela had joined Champion after a stint as BMW tuner and a life based on motorsport, including a father who is a certified Porsche Master Mechanic.
"High-performance tuning in Germany is very different than what we see in the States," said Varela.
"The Europeans have much stricter codes than we do here. Actually, there are no real laws regarding aftermarket quality here...you can pretty much do what you want.
"With the exception of a few companies, domestic privateer tuners have given a dark side to the business. You're pretty much on your own after you let them open the hood."
It's a quandary Champion Motorsport hopes to remedy. As I write these words, Champion Motorsport has finalized the negotiations to become the exclusive North American representative of Abt Tuning products for Volkswagen and Audi cars. After purchasing say, a new 1.8tq Audi Avant from Champion Motors, you can take it down the street to Champion Motorsport and kit it out with Abt's entire catalog of go-fast gear. Better still, Champion will honor the factory warranty.
"We are currently re-designing the Audi ECUs to work with U.S.-spec cars," said Varela.
"When the Abt chips go to market, they will be perfect, the way they should be."
Champion Motorsport also has become an authorized dealer for Dinan BMW products.
"Steve Dinan came down here for a visit. I guess he liked what he saw," said Varela.
A new M5 shod with Dinan's 429-bhp S2 package sat on a lift, prepped for customer delivery. It looked bad-in a good way. A few modified MINIs flanked it.
"I think the Dinan gear for BMW and MINI should do very well," said Varela.
"This is the quality of product [Dinan hardware] you can expect from Champion Motorsport."
Champion Motorsport has set the bar very high-it's doubtful anyone will be able to reach this mark. A tuner-friendly European car caf linked to a powerful automotive dealership. It's a place where you'd want to live.