The US-based tuning house is synonymous with Porsche’s iconic sports car across the globe and even showcased its latest works at the recent Goodwood Festival of Speed at the personal invitation of Lord March.
Though Singer works exclusively with the 964 911s, the company has recently branched out to start restoring Targa variants as well as traditional coupés. We arrive at a photographic studio in east London to see both cars in more detail, and Singer boss Rob Dickinson explains the idea behind the brand.
“I thought, 'Why not try and celebrate this incredible air-cooled era of the 911 with some kind of halo machine that embodied everything that was great about the car? Something that was a kind of greatest hits car,'” says Dickinson, a former Lotus engineer.
The first Singer model was restored by Dickinson himself, as he melded together a 1969 Porsche 911 chassis with a 1979 engine to create his own daily driver. “I was constantly being asked to sell it,” he says, “and I started to tell people that while they couldn’t buy it I could maybe build them something similar. That car was the genesis of Singer.”
Singer’s customers source their own 964s – described by Dickinson as “the sweet spot” of Porsche’s air-cooled 911 era - and then hand them over to the company for an extensive reimagining.
It’s important to note, as Singer does, that the company doesn’t manufacture its own cars, with its work instead being very much in the spirit of a tribute to Porsche – something which Dickinson says has enabled Singer to “tread gently” with the brand.
Though the original 964 came with a 3.6-litre flat six engine with 222bhp, Singer offers its customers either a Cosworth-tuned 3.8-litre flat six with 345bhp or a more powerful 4.0-litre flat six with a ‘conservative’ 385bhp.
To put those power outputs in context, a 4.0-litre Singer customer car recently lapped the Laguna Seca circuit just two seconds slower than McLaren’s P1, becoming the ninth fastest road car to ever drive the circuit.
Engines are linked to either a five or six-speed manual transmission, although Singer is already working on an automatic gearbox for a customer.
Sitting inside the cockpit of the coupé, you can easily see the attention to detail that Singer has lavished on the Porsche 911. It’s a classic interior but one which has been modernised to include luxuries such as air conditioning and satellite navigation. It’s all hidden, though, with the sat-nav screen only emerging when needed and the retro air-con button blending with the car’s original dashboard. Perhaps Singer’s most famous design trait, the rev-counter that goes all the way up to 11, is also present.
Dickinson hints that in the coming years the company will expand operations and bring out some surprises. “We intend to prove to the world in the next two years that we’re not one-trick ponies, but Singer will remain very Porsche-centric,” he says.
Singer has restored about 24 cars since starting operations in 2009, and despite its workforce expanding to 50, each car still takes around 10 months to produce at a cost of around 4000 man hours per vehicle. For Singer’s customers, however, the hand-built quality and exclusivity of the product is part of the appeal – as, arguably, is the price tag.
Singer’s services start at about £250,000, not including the cost of the donor car. With the various options and extras customers can specify, however, the average cost of a customer car can rise to around £285,000.
For Dickinson, though, the appeal of Singer is in experiencing what he believes is the pinnacle of Porsche’s heritage, and in taking “an icon like the 911 and polishing it up and re-presenting it to a new generation”.