25 07 2018

Perfect Imperfection: Singer Vehicle Design at Goodwood

Human error: it’s usually a bad thing, but sometimes simple mistakes can be the start of something beautiful. Take last Thursday, for example. Riding as the passenger in a 1991 Porsche 911, someone waved us left when we should have gone right, and the unintended events of the following 30 minutes or so left me with an experience I’ll never forget.

To be honest, the day hadn’t exactly started badly. I was at the Goodwood Festival of Speed to meet the team from Singer Vehicle Design and to see the result of their four-year Dynamics and Lightweighting Study (DLS), a client-inspired collaboration with Williams Advanced Engineering (part of Williams F1 Engineering Group) in pursuit of the most advanced air-cooled Porsche 911 the world has ever seen. Then, I was to be driven up the Goodwood hillclimb by 12 Hours of Sebring winner Marino Franchitti in one of the other customer-owned Porsches ‘reimagined’ by Singer. For a Porsche addict like myself, it was close to perfection.

But close to perfection isn’t good enough when it comes to Singer. Renowned for their extraordinary attention to detail, their restorations are on another level to almost everything I’ve previously experienced. And, when we were mistakenly waved down the wrong part of the Goodwood track, it resulted in a very expensive traffic jam, and around twenty minutes when I was left entirely alone with the Wasabi Green, 390hp, 4-liter 1991 Porsche 911 that had been ‘reimagined’ by Singer Vehicle Design that Marino had driven me up the hill in.

It’s times like these that you really look at a car. I always tell people that the first thing I do when I buy a car, old or new, is to give it a good clean. Not necessarily to make it more presentable, but to really get to know it. I opened the boot, then the engine lid. I looked behind the seats and under the dash. Don’t get me wrong, the ride up the hill was phenomenal - the roar from the engine sucking in the Sussex summer air and spitting it out the twin exhausts was automotive manna – but I loved having time to notice all the little design details that would have been lost on me if I’d simply been a full-on sprint passenger.

This attention to detail is taken to another level as the result of the DLS project: a 500hp naturally-aspirated 911 with lightweight throttle bodies, F1-inspired upper and lower injectors, and a novel induction system that takes the place of the rear quarterlight windows.

But this isn’t some huge-engined angry beast that can’t control its own strength; every carbon fibre panel in this bespoke car was crafted using computational fluid dynamics, focusing on enhancing airflow and downforce. Even the iconic ducktail spoiler has been redesigned to work with the roof channel and rear window spoilers to maximum effect. Williams’ portion of the lightweighting study not only used Colin Chapmans’ mantra of “add lightness” but also redistributed weight: even the engine position has been adjusted.

Nor is this a fragile racing car. As Singer founder Rob Dickinson told me, “Although there’s a lot of racing intelligence in it… it’s a proper road engine, with all that implies in terms of durability and usability.”

The list of other partners recruited by Singer Managing Director Mazen Fawaz reads like a who’s who of motorsport excellence: Bosch advanced control systems, Hewland transmissions, Brembo brakes, BBS wheels, Recaro seats, Momo steering. Michelin even created a bespoke Pilot Sport Cup tire for the car. Everything, in usual Singer style, is meticulously designed and beautifully made and the tach, of course, goes up to eleven. It’s one more than ten.

Two cars resulting from the DLS were unveiled at Goodwood: a 1989 Porsche 911 in Heart Attack Red that took to the track and a 1990 model in Parallax White. For me, the latter was the stand-out; colour and decals seem unnecessary adornments on a thing of such beauty; it’s like trying to make an angel more beautiful. Dickinson put it perfectly, saying: “We’ve worked relentlessly to present a machine that visually celebrates the past, while acknowledging the future – both inside and out.” And this isn’t just a pair of show-focused specials; Singer are taking orders for a limited 75 cars incorporating DLS advancements, and the word is you’ll have to be quick if you want one.

So, what’s next for Singer? I asked Dickinson whether the company would ever move away from the 911 to other models. “So little time and so many cars… our love of Porsche is somewhat holistic… we’ve a few more 911 ideas up our sleeves but we’ll see. Porsche’s air-cooled era is a particularly fascinating one; there’s a rich vein of stuff to mine there, who knows what we’re going to do.” So that’s not a no…

The Singer brand has already branched out into one new area in the past year: the Track 1 watch made by Singer Reimagined is now available in four variants with this month’s launch of the DLS Edition, reserved solely for DLS project customers. With the most affordable still just a shade under $40,000 (plus taxes) it’s not accessible for many but, as you’d expect, a huge amount of effort has gone into its engineering and design as co-founder Marco Borraccino told me: “We started from the idea of reimagining the most iconic horological function, that was born in the same period as the Porsche 911 – the automatic chronograph. All the architecture of the movement has been completely reimagined from scratch.”

Up close, it’s a work of art, with hidden features that enthral. “Nothing in our watches is [obviously] evident; you have to look for them,” Marco explained. There’s a clasp spring in the shape of the Singer ‘S’ and one wheel, hidden deep inside the timepiece, is shaped like a Fuchs alloy. “Everybody else would have put it on top of the dial, or on the back of the movement; we put it underneath the dial. If you come to collect your watch at the workshop, the watchmaker will show you where the ‘Fuchs’ wheel is.”

As you can tell, I enjoyed my time with the team from Singer. I loved the cars, the attention to detail and the way that ultra-modern technology and materials are used in the evolution of a classic without detracting from the design ideals of its creator, Dr Porsche. I loved getting to know the team, all utterly passionate about this car, the Porsche 911, all approachable and all ready to gush with enthusiasm given the slightest provocation.

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2 reader comments

  • 1
    Nigel Matthews Vancouver, Canada July 25, 2018 at 4:18pm
    With the most affordable still just a shade under $40,000 (plus taxes) Perhaps a typo and it should be $400,000 What an amazing car.Thanks for the great article
  • 2
    John Mayhead UK August 20, 2018 at 8:24am
    The $40,000 quoted is for the watch... not the car!