MAKSE POWER: Singer Teams with Pfaff to Cel­e­brate Porsche 911

Rob Dick­in­son on com­ing to Canada and be­yond

Ignition - - Contents Table 0f - By Brian Makse

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.”

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