“It’s not a revolutionary idea; taking an old car and adding some new stuff polishing it up a bit and… ‘tah-dah’. It’s not revolutionary: lots of people have done it, especially in this country with Mustangs and ‘resto mods’ as they’re called over here. I don’t think any company has been crazy enough to do what we’ve attempted to do in such a cross-the-board, spectacularly over-the-top way.”
Whatever about polishing Porsche parts, the likeable Rob Dickinson has certainly polished the rhetoric regarding his Singer 911s since our first meeting, when Jamie Lipman and I were the first guys Rob invited to see his creation, and shoot Singer number 1 on the road in California. Back then, the Singer idea was still forming: what base car, what market, what price?
Rob Dickinson Singer Porsche
Unveiled in 2003, Rob’s Bahama Yellow RGruppe ’69 E hot rod was an inspiration for me, and for many others who followed their hearts to the air-cooled 911. This latest video on Singer eschews the same old Singer shots and lets the organ grinder talk on how his dream has developed. In fairness, the approach could have led to Rob digging a rather large hole for himself, but I think he makes heartfelt sense of his concept and product. Kudos, mon ami.
“Freeman Thomas started this club (RGruppe, with co-founder Cris Huergas) for hot rodded sports purpose early 911s in 2001, so I immediately joined the club when I built my car in 2003, and my car became quite well known in the RGruppe. As I enjoyed being part of this ‘clique’ if you like – this team of guys who had similar tastes – I started to see these expensively executed hot rods.
“My little car was done on the cheap, but a lot of people started to show up to the yearly meetings of the RGruppe in very expensively restored early 911s which had big engines shoehorned into them, and spectacular brakes, and some of these cars were better than others. I happened to drive a particularly well executed version of this car, and was just blown away at how refined and sophisticated an early 911 could actually be.
Steve McQueen references are so important
“That was part of the germination of this idea that these cars don’t have to be rough-and-ready hot rods with limited appeal. The 911 is so evocative – Steve McQueen references are so important for the vibe of this car (and everything that surrounds this car is important) – if someone was to restore a 911 so that it had a wider attractiveness for a wider audience, you could probably appeal to that audience and make a business out of it.
“I started to see that, and the combination of how my car was reacted to in the taste-making world of Los Angeles with the aesthetics, and then I’d got in this car where the engineering had been well sweated, and I thought: put these two together and there’s some fun to be had and maybe some business to be done.
“We generally try and improve every aspect of the car, while honouring everything that is Porsche. We hate custom cars here at this shop. Maybe ‘hate’ is a strong word, but the idea that our car might be seen as a custom car makes me feel nauseous. Our car needs to be seen as a Porsche through and through. We only put Singer badges on our car for the sake of clarity: this is a Porsche 911 that’s been touched by us.
“Hopefully, it’s a line in the sand as to how good an air-cooled 911 can be that isn’t a race car. It’s very easy to build a thinly-disguised race car for the road, but that’s not something we’re too interested in doing. We want to do a properly rounded car which is properly usable, that can be driven to the office on a Monday and driven to the track at the weekend: it has that wonderful duality but just fine-tunes the focus a little bit.”
I have a feeling that the high-end hot rod Rob tips as inspiration is SHTang: the 3.6-litre early 911 built by WEVO for Steven Harris, but I might be wrong. I’ve done many miles in SHTang, but not driven a Singer yet, so can’t tell you how the two compare. That is the obvious next step.
Pics by JamesLipman.com for Car & Driver