This is the best $1.8m you’ll ever spend
Singer and Williams create the ultimate air-cooled 911... maybe the ultimate car, full stop
Rob Dickinson, former musician and genius behind Singer Vehicle Design, is walking towards me in an enormous, empty warehouse, sparking a fag. He’s wearing khaki shorts and cap, a wrinkled white T-shirt and dog-eared trainers. He stretches out his right hand, we exchange pleasantries, then it’s straight to it, discussing the car that he’s been obsessing over for the last four years, and the passion starts flowing out of him.
We’ve managed to intercept both Rob and the first example of his most ambitious project to date, on their way to Goodwood. The car you’re currently gawping at is the product of a collaboration with Williams Advanced Engineering to develop the ultimate, no-expense-spared, air-cooled 911 – resulting from the duo’s snappily named Dynamics and Lightweighting Study. Renderings were released months ago, but this is the first time anyone outside the company has seen the finished product. Rob himself only clapped eyes on it two days ago at Williams’ facility in Oxfordshire, where no more than 75 examples will be reimagined.
“I’m very very pleased,” says Rob, taking a contemplative drag. “It looks like the drawings, which is always helpful.”
I take him back to the start, to the dream that sparked all this off. “‘What would a classic Porsche 911 look like if we touched it with an F1 team?’ That was the Hollywood pitch. To bestow upon what we think is the most important sports car in the world, the golden benefits of the modern age. Do it properly with a proper budget and proper support.”
But ideas of this magnitude are nothing without authenticity, which is why Rob knew if he wanted the right names attached to the programme he had to act fast. “The question was how could we present the most advanced, lightweight, air-cooled 911 that
the world will ever see? And crucially, while there were still people who had touched the original back in the Sixties – principally Hans Mezger and Norbert Singer. They were consultants, they kept an eye on us and kept us honest.”
Williams Advanced Engineering has been Singer’s major partner in all this, entirely redesigning the front and rear suspension (but keeping the traditional trailing arm set-up at the rear), the brake system (incorporating Brembo CCM-R discs, the same compound you’ll find on a Bugatti Chiron), conducting a full aero study to optimise every square inch of the car’s surface, building the world’s finest air-cooled engine (more on that in a bit), and putting the car through an intensive development programme, something not entirely familiar to Rob.
“Whereas we’re quite rock and roll back in California, here in England there’s a bit of a culture difference, and that’s been a learning curve for us. It’s good, though, the discipline of going through proper development cycles.” And once Rob was working closely with Williams, he starting picking up the phone to a list of ‘hero’ companies that were synonymous with the 911 over the last 50 years.
Michelin agreed to make a bespoke 295 Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyre, stretched a little for an 11.75 rim to give the perfect curve on the side wall, something Rob’s famously obsessed with. “It’s where the rubber hits the road, it’s where it all starts. If you can get this right, you’re off to a good start.” Brembo were on board for the brakes, Momo were happy to make a sensational bespoke carbon-fibre steering wheel, EXE-TC produced the adjustable dampers, Hewland worked on the six-speed manual, Recaro delivered on the seats, and BBS crafted perhaps the most striking feature of all, those deep-dish 18-inch wheels.
Momo steering wheel a thing of intricate beauty, balsa wood insert in the carbon-fibre gearlever a nod to the917 racing car, rev counter inspired by Singer’s watch
Carbon fibre: strong, lightweight, easy to wipe the dog hair off