MAKSE POWER: Singer Teams with Pfaff to Celebrate Porsche 911
Rob Dickinson on coming to Canada and beyond
I’m an unabashed fanatic of the work that Singer Vehicle Designs does and, while I’ve driven just about every supercar and numerous hypercars, there is nothing that compares to the experience of driving one of Singer’s Porsche 911 restorations.
If you’re not familiar with Singer, it is a small company located in the suburbs of Los Angeles, conveniently within shouting distance of some of the best canyon roads for which Southern California is famous. Which is perfect for testing its work, which is to take the ugly duckling, early ’90s generation 911 and perform the ultimate in restoration and modification.
While I’ve written extensively on the subject of Singer, the totality of my work can’t adequately describe the level of detail Singer’s work needs to be articulated. Recently, Singer has produced a book about its work, appropriately named One More Than 10, referencing the iconic rev counters fitted to their cars, which do indeed go to 11. If you’re a fan, I highly recommend picking up a copy.
In late 2015, Singer announced a partnership with Toronto’s Pfaff Automotive Partners, in which Pfaff will serve as the Canadian representative and assist Singer’s customers with sourcing donor cars and otherwise support customers’ needs as it relates to the restorations, which take place back in L.A.
Singer’s founder, Rob Dickinson, and members of his team visited Pfaff at its Vaughan, Ontario showroom and I took the opportunity to catch up on what the company has been doing since my last visit to the California atelier. Surprisingly, there are some Porsche enthusiasts who aren’t familiar with Singer’s work, so it’s best if I let Dickinson explain it in his own words.
“We celebrate Porsche’s heritage. It doesn’t get much more complicated than that. That’s what Singer is about. That’s what our work represents.”
“It’s about Porsche and celebrating the genius of the 911 and the genius of the company itself,” he continues. “... and bringing this amazing sports car from its original iteration, it’s air cooled
specialness, hopefully to a new generation and introducing it in a way which retains all of its charm, all of its iconic essence, but makes it a little more relevant to the 21st century.”
As much as I pay reverence to Singer’s work, even I can’t stay abreast of the latest company news. “The big news for us in the last 18 months has been the four-litre engine, the Targa configuration,” Dickinson tells me. “We did our first two Targa restorations (in 2015) and the carbon ceramic brake package, which is in testing at the moment. Massive reduction in unsprung weight to the degree that I think we’ll have to revalve the Ohlins (dampers) for the carbon ceramics because it takes so much weight off the axles.
“We’re now moving into a period where we’re finessing and diving into details both mechanical and performance, and also durability details,” he says. “We’re trying to make the car a little more durable. We’re trying to toughen it up a little bit without losing any of the quality.”
Singer hasn’t had any trouble attracting customers from its small base in Southern California. It’s a proper atelier, where no one ever rushes and the only concern is – as it’s so eloquently graffitied on the wall – everything is important. Still, Dickinson thinks that building relationships with partners like Pfaff is better in the long run. “We’ve certainly enjoyed some success sitting on our backsides in California,” he jokes, “but there’s a sense that introducing the car personally in some of these territories around the world is necessary to show that the car is real and that we’re real.”
This go-get-em strategy has worked extremely well for Singer in Hong Kong and the Middle East. “We hope to do the same thing in Australia and Japan,” Dickinson reveals, “and obviously here in Toronto and Canada as well. We’re so fortunate to be able to attract the kind of world class partnerships that we have with people like Pfaff who are deep in the in the trenches in understanding the clientele who would be interested in a car like this.”
If there is an Achilles heel with Singer’s work, it’s the price, but the reality is that there is a price to pay for perfection. For some context, the 911 restoration I drove a couple of years ago was a fairly standard spec, fitted with a six-speed manual and a 3.8-litre engine. At the time, it cost roughly $370,000 USD.
On the other hand, the Targa restoration you see here was completed for a customer in Montreal and is priced at an entirely different level. Being the first Targa that Singer’s done and using the bored-out four-litre flat-six, it’s rumoured to cost approximately $650,000 USD – easily a million bucks Canadian these days. With between 4,000 to 5,000 hours that go into a restoration, these are the prices Singer has to charge for their work, as Dickinson has told me many times.
Given these prices, according to Dickinson, Singer’s international representatives “help legitimize our work in those areas where there is probably some suspicion of this odd little company in California restoring and modifying these 911s. There’s a sense that they add a third-party validation to what we do that we can’t necessarily do ourselves in farflung corners of the world.”
Dickinson also went on record saying that 2016 will be about going out into the world and showing people Singer’s work, much like they’re doing here in Toronto. “(It’s about) giving people the opportunity to touch and feel and smell the car, and hopefully prove the cars are as good as people say they are. There’s a lot of noise around what we do, which is fantastic and we’re very flattered by it, but there’s a sense that the expectations around our work is very high and we want to prove that (our) cars are even better in the flesh than they are in the magazines.” Are they ever! Undoubtedly, I’m guilty of characterizing their work as being near perfection. But as humble as Dickinson is about his company’s work, a Porsche 911 restored by Singer is the finest car I’ve ever driven. Bar none.
We celebrate Porsche’s heritage. It doesn’t get much more complicated than that. That’s what Singer is about. That’s what our work represents.”