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Singer Vehicle Design: Bespoke menace


The words “Everything Is Important” are scrawled large in black ink on the whitewashed walls.

Below the phrase is a table entirely covered with the guts of one of the world’s most recognizable cars. Nearby sits the quietly menacing, dark grey shape of a Porsche 911. There is something different about this one. It blurs the boundary between machinery and art. It is difficult to look away.

Successful musicians often buy exotic cars, but rarely do they make them. Singer Vehicle Design is what happens when that rule of thumb is broken. Rob Dickinson was a member of the 1990s alternative rock group the Catherine Wheel, before tiring of show business and moving to California to make cars.

From a defiantly low-key workshop in Burbank, California, Dickinson begins with a mechanically sound but well-loved 20-year old 911 – a car that to him represents the ideal blend of classic Porsche styling and modern performance. His small crew of artisans then eviscerates the car and, from bare bones, begins a painstaking rebuilding process. A new body is created in military-grade carbon fibre, trimming pounds and adding strength. Next, the bespoke tailoring begins.

“We like customers to create their own ideal interpretation of what a Porsche 911 should be,” says Marlon Goldberg, director of operations. “Their car should be unique.”

This approach means that the Indonesian owner of the grey car has chosen a custom-built 380-horsepower, 3.8-litre engine from Cosworth, the British race-engine manufacturer and tuner, in place of the original car’s 3.6-litre, 250hp unit. There is also a six-speed manual transmission and rather special, fully adjustable sports suspension made by Swedish firm Öhlins.

Beyond the technical wizardry, the Singer flaunts captivating aesthetic details. The fuel filler does not hide under a neat flap, but instead surfaces through the hood, like an aluminium sculpture, in homage to the construction of Porsche’s 1970s racecars.

There is quilted leather inside and a stereo that appears to float in the dash panel as a classic 911’s would, but here delivering modern sound quality. The discrete slate-grey paint has been exactly matched with that of a 911 driven in the opening frames of Steve McQueen’s 1971 film Le Mans.

“I just wish people could see the attention to detail,” Goldberg says. The all but unseen genetic engineering is indeed extraordinary. The car’s electrical wiring is completed to standards that exceed motorsport requirements. The machines are painstakingly sound-engineered so that their owners hear the intoxicating wail of a performance motor without being plagued by grating boom on the highway. They are also comprehensively tested at a nearby racetrack.

Befitting a business of this caliber with such an exacting clientele, there is a bewildering array of upgrades, ranging from upholstered roll cages to Xenon lighting. Of course this attention to detail comes with a price tag; Singer’s creations cost around $350,000, depending on the owner’s lack of restraint. What they buy is automotive art with a boxer’s punch – and, with production just into double figures, almost complete certainty that they will never park next to another one.

Beyond the technical wizardry, the Singer flaunts captivating aesthetic details.