March 11, 2009 at 1:00 am

Rex Roy: Car culture

Three pros join forces at Grand Sport car boutique

Detroit is all about hot domestic cars: Mustangs, Challengers, Camaros and everything on the floor at last weekend's Autorama. But what if your automotive tastes lean toward products from Weissach rather than Warren? Can a Porschephile find likeminded souls in this town?

Yes, if you know where to look.

Grand Sport is a boutique car brokerage and service facility on Melrose Avenue in Southfield that's run by three local enthusiasts: Robert Schneider, David Laing, and Michael Melville. The three have created an oasis for sports car enthusiasts.

Three-pronged business plan

A little history: Schneider once owned The Sports Car Exchange, an exotic dealership on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn that sold Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and other fun-to-pronounce brands hailing from foreign shores. The urbane Laing may be the most-trusted Porsche mechanic in Michigan, aided by his significant background in physics and engineering. Melville started his career in the business selling Volvos and Lotuses in Birmingham back in 1982 and has a well-known affliction for Volkswagens.

Grand Sport's trio of partners put together a three-faceted business plan that includes providing service for all sports cars, with Porsches being the shop's specialty. Grand Sport also buys and sells sports cars (consignments accepted). Again, the team's expertise is with Porsche. Vehicle storage is the operation's third element, with Melville noting, "We'll store anything. It doesn't have to be a Porsche."

By design, Grand Sport is not on a main thoroughfare. Melville says, "Nearly all of our sales are done over the Internet, so we made a choice to avoid the high rent of being on Woodward."

Set back in an office park, the shop's modest facade doesn't begin to prepare you for the automotive eye candy inside.

As my eyes adjusted to the fluorescent lights, the unmistakable prow of a Ruf Porsche greeted me. The hand-built Ruf represents the zenith in specialized Porsche craftsmanship and performance. This particular model was Alousi Ruf's personal car, a Cayman 3400K with a supercharged 3.4-liter flat-six engine making 400 horsepower. Unleashed, the Ruf Cayman will run a very un-reptilian 181 mph.

Across the small showroom sat a perfect 1987 Porsche 930 Turbo slant nose. The example shows less than 39,000 miles and caused me to have an immediate flashback to the Miami Vice era. I instinctively looked around for Rico Tubbs or Sonny Crockett. Neither was there, but I did spy a sharp 911 GT3 on a lift being prepped for delivery by mechanic Laing.

The nearly sterile, brightly lit, and air conditioned service bay says a lot about how Grand Sport conducts business. These guys do things straight up and clean; adjectives that are not often applied to this category of business. Additionally, the only place you'll find grease at Grand Sport is on bearings.

Neatly parked along one wall, several 911s representing various generations of the icon awaited Laing's attention. The service area does double duty by accommodating the overflow from the showroom. Standing out like an American tourist, a lone Corvette Z06 demonstrated that Porsches aren't the only vehicles Grand Sport maintains and sells.

Porsche market has good values

Melville says that the young business is doing well.

"We're doing better than last year," Melville said.

"Tough times have made for some really good values in the Porsche market. While we hate to see people forced to unload cars, this means there are deals for somebody else.

Realistically, for the cost of a used Toyota you could be driving a Porsche."

If that's not a reason enough to visit Grand Sport, I don't know what is.

Information: (248) 304-9001 or http://www.GrandSport-Michigan.com">www.GrandSport-Michigan.com.

Rex Roy can be reached through his Web site, http://www.RexRoy.net">www.RexRoy.net.