What Car Should Get the “Customized By Singer” Treatment Next?
The Porsche 911 has had its fun. Let's think differently.
Let's talk for a minute about what Singer Vehicle Design does. The straightforward answer is: Singer chases perfection.
Take the Porsche 911, Singer's current and sole métier. That car has long been a source of quibbling by enthusiasts trying to nail down which of the iterations is the very best. My vote has long been the 1993-1998 Porsche Porsche 993, the last of the air-cooled, "modern analog"-era 911s.
But then I saw, in person, a Porsche 911 that had been restored by Singer Vehicle Design, in California, and it was a revelation—a product that shifts the conversation from "what's the best, most perfect iteration of the Porsche 911?" to "is there a best, most perfect execution of the idea of the 911?"
Of course, a Porsche modified by Singer starts at around $400,000, or about four times the cost of a brand-new 911. If you spend 300 percent of the value of any given car on improving it you should, in theory, be able to perfect it. And yet even a cursory look at the aftermarket says otherwise, where the impetus is usually more or bigger or louder. Not: perfect.
Even if money were no object, I don't want a faster 911. Hell, I don't even want a modern 911; I respect the current 991, but I don't lust after it. I want an idealized 911, the one in my dreams, the one Porsche never made and never will, at any price, because it was and is a mass-produced vehicle. Even my favorite version, the 993, has a spartan interior with serviceable-at-best touchpoints; Porsche never built a 993 with interior door handles that weren't plastic, panel gaps are, let's say "acceptable," and countless items both visible and not were similarly cost-engineered. The Porsche 911—every Porsche 911—makes compromises in service to the reality of the car-building business.
But not a Porsche 911 that's undergone the Singer treatment. These are cars that have the proportions and exterior of the 1970s classics, the handling balance of the early 1990s, the power of a modern 911, and build quality and materials, inside and out, that are as good as they can possibly be. Not, mind you, as good as Porsche could build them at a price point—as good as they can possibly be with money as no object, without resorting to the "more expensive is better" ethos, either. Everything just feels, well, exactly, intuitively right—and that's the genius.
Supply the company with a 964-era 911 from 1989-94, and upon that they will build the 911 that never existed, a car of such engineering and taste that it's inconceivable anyone could do better, at any price. Singer hasn’t redefined “resto-modding” as much as superseded it, to the point that “Singerization” is the logical, generic term for the reimagination of any excellent product to an idealized, perfect form. Singer creates cars that never existed in their own time period, mixing modern mechanical components and heritage design touches, in a way that somehow feels timeless. Hell, even Chris Harris calls it "the perfect distilled essence of the world's most famous sports car."
Which begs the obvious question: what car should be "Singerized" next?
In fact, I asked Singer CEO Rob Dickinson whether he intended to move past reimagining 964s specifically, and 911s in general. His response: “We’ve got the next three or four years pretty clearly mapped out,” though he added that “anything is possible.”
But let's come up with some suggestions anyway. First, some ground rules.
It has to be a car with something I call “consistency of concept.” In other words, DNA isn’t enough. Ferrari DNA underlies virtually every car they’ve ever made, but no Ferrari model has had the longevity of the 911 because Ferrari doesn’t believe in carry-forward design. Also, I’d venture that the customized-by-Singer treatment isn’t applicable to Ferraris for another reason: cars out of Maranello aren’t idealized as much as they're idolized, and Ferrari’s corporate (if not political) culture has shunned the aftermarket since the beginning, even at the dealer level.
To consistency-of-concept, let’s add “cultural center of gravity,” which I think of as the ongoing relevance of a single model to multiple generations of owners. (Or, you know, a cult following.) But a Honda Accord might qualify for Singerization if these were the only two criteria, so we need to add the last and most obvious barrier to entry: enthusiast demand.
Which brings us to cars that fit those criteria. For the sake of fairness, I’ve limited cars to one per manufacturer. Each of these cars is iconic, timeless, imperfect, and begging for for idealization:
- Chevrolet Corvette: Utterly iconic, and yet even when it became a world-class sports car it’s biggest fans agreed that the interior was utter junk until the C7. I’m still not convinced it’s good enough.
- BMW 6-series: I’m talking about the E24, of course. Built from 1976-1989, I consider this the most iconic of the shark-nosed coupes from Munich. I owned an 1988 M6 and loved everything about it except the electronics. And I mean anything electronic, from the dash lights down to the window- and seat switches. With styling that good, the E24 deserved better.
- Porsche 928: Talk about longevity—the 928 was manufactured from 1977-1995. It’s almost impossible to conceive of how Porsche might have replaced its still revolutionary and unique silhouette, but 21 years after its demise it has begun to get the respect it deserves. Porsche-philes hated it for betraying the 911’s rear-engine layout, but its front-mounted V8 was never the problem. It was the cheap dash and overly complex engine and electronics. I owned a ‘91 GT and loved it. The running costs and gauge cluster? Not so much.
- Range Rover: The original SUV of the one-percent, but even I’ve been nearly seduced by the low, low prices for off-lease models packing dealerships throughout Miami and SoCal. Is there any cooler truck than an old Range? Yes, but Icon is already hitting that market, which suggests that old Rangies can’t be saved, or at least turned into anything good for less than...what? $250,000? You can get into a new lease for less, and you’d really have to love the old styling. Now that I think about it, this makes no sense…
- G-Wagen: AMG is already doing this with the new ones, sort of. I’d still rather have an old one with the Singer treatment than be seen in a new one. At any price.
- Mazda Miata: Because the answer is always Miata. And an Übermiata would be gem for the ages.
Which is your favorite pick? What would you add to this list? Tell us below.