How Singer remixes old Porsche 911s into supercars: Motoramic Drives
Lolling on a manicured lawn during Pebble Beach Concours weekend – the Super Bowl of vintage car shows – a certain blue Porsche looks the museum-worthy part. But in this faintly ridiculous auto country club, whose members include $25 million Ferraris, matchless Bugattis and other gas-powered masterpieces, the Porsche still manages to stand out.
The Porsche 911 is as obsessively restored as any car here. But it’s not period-correct: Not with a feathery carbon-fiber body, Cosworth-designed flat six engine and an 11,000-rpm tachometer that pays sly tribute to Spinal Tap’s favorite number, 11.
This Porsche, built from the air-cooled bones of a 1991 model, has been restored by Los Angeles-based Singer Vehicle Design. And the Renaissance man behind Singer is Rob Dickinson, a lifelong 911 fanatic, university-trained car designer – oh, and the former front man and guitarist of Catherine Wheel, the majestic, serially overlooked British alt rock band of the ‘90s.
The rear-engined fantasy I’m about to drive today, all $480,000 worth, is soon heading to a wealthy collector in Dubai. It’s just the eighth car Dickinson’s company has completed, with three more in various stages of completion and another 11 on order.
Those owners will experience a Porsche quite unlike any other: One part time capsule, one part modern warp speeder, a seven-month labor of love and screw-the-cost craftsmanship. Dickinson’s Porsche philosophy is all about purity: Keeping old parts when they work perfectly, making new (and perfect) ones when they don’t.
“Everything Porsche did was about pure function, so when we attacked the car, that was our mantra,” he says.
That attack starts with a garden-variety Porsche from the company’s internal “964” classification, meaning the chassis sold from 1990 to 1994 in the United States. Dickinson sees that generation, with its trailing-arm suspension and innovative features, as the best and purest of the air-cooled 911s. From there, the hand-built craziness begins: The provocative, flare-hipped body looks much like the rare 911 ST racers built from 1970-71. The carbon fiber skin trims about 400 pounds from the original car, but unlike many modern cars, it’s entirely unexposed: “This isn’t fashion fiber,” Dickinson says.