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When Over The Top Is Just The Starting Point

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Mar 14, 2016

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


DOUG STOKES: LA CAR BOOK REVIEW ONE MORE THAN 10 SINGER AND THE PORSCHE 911 Authors: Michael Harley & Rob Dickinson Forward by Chad McQueen ISBN 13: 978-0-9891149-4-3 Published by Stance & Speed St. Paul Minnesota, USA 276 pages 10” x 12” hard cover/boxed Available from the publisher (above) Also directly from Singer at Prolog: There are books about Porsches, lots of them, I find that I even have a few of them myself, even though (luckily) I’m not a Porscheholic. Otherwise, I would most likely have had to grind this book up in a Cusinart, soak it in some sort of Teutonic solvent like Schnapps, and mainline it like a skid row junkie. This book is all about a small company that takes Porsche AG’s most iconic modes of the entire Holocene epoch (the timeless 911) and then“reimagines (rehabilitates, reanimates, recaptures, rebuilds, rethinks, refines, retools, reorganizes, refreshes, rejuvenates, re-creates) and generally just recharges the whole spirit of the rear-engined, air-cooled classic. To reframe that premise (since superlatives rule here): the whole basis of the exercise here is taking what many consider one of the finest, best engineered, best outfitted, German sports cars ever conceived and (very artfully) constructed, and, with what seems to most mortals, no regard for budget; reincarnate the car as something that looks to all the world like a 911 Porsche all right, but has become something even more.


Singer and the Porsche 911

Other than all of the above poorly constructed, run-on sentences I really have a hard time explaining this phenomenon any more clearly. Over the top is just barely the starting point here … Yeah, the photos here (hundreds of them!) are way, way too easy to fall into, to fall in love with, and maybe even take to bed with you to marvel over (perhaps even deep under the covers by the light of a cool little LED flash light) late into the night. Page after page it becomes easier to understand the delicious lure of the 911 Porsche and the way that the Singer people rehab them. Another British band, the Rolling Stones, sang about “… the singer not the song.” This book is about the “Singer” Rob Dickinson, the young British automotive designer who wanted to be a rock musician. He became one, and spent 10 years on the road in the band Catherine Wheel first as the drummer and later as the lead vocalist … from whence comes the company name Singer Vehicle Design AND the siren song that this design and re-fabrication house plays using a client’s Porsche 911 as the musical instrument. From about page two on it is understood that these cars are all full-on, no-expenses-spared, blank check projects. “What color were you thinking of?” I can hear the Singer person asking a customer who has just pushed the keys to their Porsche across his desk. “How about blue, or green … What do you think?” SP: “Why don’t you let us see to what color the car comes out. Perhaps what color it tells us that it will most comfortable in … Okay?” Client: “Okay. Er … How long, will it …” SP: “…We’ll call you.” Client: “Er … Hey, that’s great! Thanks!”


Singer creator and founder Rob Dickinson

Actual average gestation time for one of these man-made precious gems is (give or take) 4,000 (you heard me correctly … 4K) hours which includes almost a thousand hours for body prep and paint work. The interior coverings, colors, textures, treatments are as stunning as they are sophisticated. Delicious, edible almost. And then, after this eight-month spa stay … nothing short of something like 500 miles of road testing of every aspect of each reborn 911 will do before one of these machines is delivered to what must be a very patient owner. (“8 months”, “reborn”, “anxiously awaiting” keywords all: anytime, anywhere!) Just about every bolt-on component on a Singer-rebuilt Porsche is bespoke: seats, exhaust, much of the bodywork, wheels, even the headlight covers that are custom-molded from shatter-proof polycarbonate.


The view inside

Some Porsche aficionados consider these machines to be almost sacred objects with many knowing of individual cars by the name that they were given while in the shop. Of course, the “Orange Car”, the very first of the Singer 911 reincarnations, is a venerated object of mythical/religious importance to many of the acolytes. Other machines are named and referred to by the names of the place where their owner resides, like Hong Kong, UK, Brooklyn, Nebraska, Moscow, and Chicago. These are not “100-point show cars” … These are hyper versions of the marque that can be thought of as either wretched excesses or humble homages (or both) depending on one’s viewpoint. Honestly, it really is well-nigh impossible not to be stunned by the concept and the culmination of that concept. Lest we forget that there needs to be some sort of motor powering these incredibly beautiful machines and (obviously) it better be good. There are three basic (as if anything in, on or about these cars could be called basic) “stages” of tune for that famous flat six out back. The standard 3.6-liter is rated at 270 horsepower, the next step was a cool Cosworth-developed 3.8-liter that cranks out 350 HP, and finally the big gun from none other than Ed Pink himself … a 4.0 monster motor rated at a mighty 390 horsepower. All Singer engines 3.6 to 4.0 are now reborn under the care of Ed Pink Racing Engines. And what of the gearbox? A “comprehensively rebuilt” G50 6-speed from the 993 will be very carefully installed with whatever ratios that the owner cares call out. When you get yours back (after those eight long months) you’ll be able to select those gears via a special Singer-designed and applied short-shifter that’s said to take the simple act of changing gears into the realm of lovemaking. Near the end of the book seven years worth of acknowledgements commands two full pages of fairly small type thanking both individuals and businesses in alphabetical order. By our per-inch count we make it well over 400 names that are very graciously appreciated therein (and that would make the start of one hell of a Porsche-friendly mailing list!). Speaking of Porsche people some very thoughtful personal sentiments from some well-known folks the likes of Matt Stone, Tiff Needle, Jeff Zwart, Mario Franchitti, and Jay Leno are included in this book, each with a slightly different take (but equally rapturous) on the significance of the what only can be called the “Singer Effect” (on cars as well as on themselves). I actually had to ask, and I was right, there’s no money mentioned in regard to what one must give to have their Porsche undergo one of these amazing transformations anywhere in this book. As the old saying postulates: “If one has to ask …” Getting what one pays for at a Subway and at a Patek Phillipe timepiece shop are the same thing: simply a number.


Porsche 911 by Singer

PERSONAL: About those Porscheholic remarks above. I’ve been in love with the marque since seeing Ken Miles and J.P. Kunstle battling it out in the driving rain aboard 550A’s at a Cal Club race on the Pomona Fairgrounds road course in 1958. But I have never owned one, nor do I expect to. Which means, that I’m not totally blindered to the fact that there are a few other sports car brands out there that are pretty darn okay themselves. So, when I postulate the idea that some might just think that the Singer peeps are maybe cleaning up a few brushstrokes on “La Gioconda” or “Starry Night” or possibly just adjusting a few notes or a time signature or two in “Beethoven’s 9th Symphony” or the score for “La Boehme”, I’m pretty sure that I won’t get an indignant phone call from old friend Randy Leffingwell. I think that I’m okay to wonder aloud. (Please note that the terms “gilded” nor “lily” have not appeared even once in the above book notes.) To be sure, these cars are very special vehicles that require very special people to “reimagine” them in the passionate fashion that they do … and even more special people to appreciate and own them. I see, pretty much understand, and marvel at the effort.* -DS *And, if I didn’t marvel enough, the book’s dedication should be noted as a tip-off, it stands alone at the front of the book, on a single right-hand page:

Dedicated to the most important sports car in the world and the genius of the people and the company that produce it. Long live the Porsche 911.


By way of some sort of disclosure: I sit on the Motor Press Guild board of directors with one of the authors of this book, Michael Harley. That association has had no influence whatsoever on my review of this book. In fact, the only reference that I ever have made to him about it was at a recent board meeting when I said something like, “Hey, that Singer guy is real intense,” at which he smiled and agreed with me. That’s it. -DS

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