Features

Living on the Edges: Two Wildly Different Cars, Same Porsche Soul

There’s room in the world for different kinds of outlaws.

If there’s a target-rich environment for the most extreme Stuttgart diehards, it’s Rennsport Reunion, where the Porschedom ranged from the sacred (Dr. Wolfgang Porsche himself) to the profane (a cartoonishly widened RWB treatment of a 993 Targa Tiptronic). The cultural divide is as sociologically diverse as any in the automotive kingdom.

Singer Vehicle Designs, which has meticulously reworked more than 100 964-series 911s, occupies a nebulous area between the ordained and the unorthodox. Not to be confused with some “outlaws” who paint decklids matte black and call it a day, Singer triggers debates about how a modded, air-cooled Porsche manages to sell for upward of $600,000. (Partial answer: When the nickel-plated trim alone runs $12,000, things escalate quickly.) But Singer’s success also defies the odds, hushed skeptics, and predated newcomers like Gunther Werks, earning it ultimate differentiator status in this tumultuous space.

Surveying both sides of this ideological fence, I drove from Los Angeles to Monterey and back in two distinct vehicles: Singer’s 51st car and a stock 718 Boxster GTS.

Prior Singer experiences were jaunts up and down Little Tujunga Canyon, a tantalizing mountain road near the company’s HQ in Sun Valley, California. The cars felt just right, uncorking an aggressive but playful demeanor on the tight rhythm of switchbacks. But a full day of driving 400 miles of back roads between L.A. and Monterey delivered a deeper, more informative experience.

With just more than 3,000 miles on the clock, this example has an Öhlins suspension setup with more aggressive compression and rebound settings compared to the Singers I sampled previously. It felt sharp to the point of sometimes being jarring, but it also proved a crisply effective solution for a few laps of Buttonwillow Raceway. It turns in aggressively, especially compared to original 911s, which have a tendency toward understeer. It’s a curious sensation, this quick-turning, classic-looking car, and that eagerness kept me on alert.

The pure beauty of Singer’s conceptions shines through in each example it produces.

Yet there was ease to piloting the Singer all day. The snug-fitting track seats were surprisingly amenable. Less accommodating was the exhaust note, boomy at about 3,000 rpm. Singer is working on a new exhaust system with Borla to fix the drone; expect mass retrofits from owners.

One of the things we’re proudest of is that our work doesn’t necessarily alienate members of the grassroots Porsche community.

Pulling up to Rennsport after 400 miles of bug-splatting usage produced a satisfying afterglow. Despite its incremental imperfections, our steed’s carbon-fiber departure from stock bodywork is so well executed, and its mechanical underpinnings so harmoniously unified, that it feels like a small-batch über Porsche, an ultimate expression of the 911 no mainstream manufacturer could build because of the expense and man-hours involved.

“It’s anathema to some, messing around with an original Porsche and modifying it,” Singer founder Rob Dickinson said as Rennsport wound down. But then he added, “One of the things we’re proudest of is that our work doesn’t necessarily alienate members of the grassroots Porsche community, of which I’m one.”

Ten years and 100 cars into this experiment, how does Singer fit within the Porsche fold? With the ambitious $1.8 million DLS model waiting in the wings and a new CEO in place, Dickinson anticipates more efficient manufacturing processes that could trim production time from three years to 12 or 18 months. More tellingly, he’s bullish on the idea of old-school motoring at large.

“It’s no surprise to me that passion for machinery as we go into the revolutionary age of uncertainty, autonomy, and electricity is only going to increase for the next 25 years,” he offered. “These oily internal-combustion engines are going to continue to fascinate.”

In today’s world of over-the-top performance, the Boxster GTS reminds you that everything doesn’t need 500 horsepower.

As for the 718 Boxster GTS, my drive home was exactly what you’d expect from a production sports car built by one of the most highly regarded carmakers: swift, comfortable, and efficient in that eminently workaday Porsche way. Without Singer’s preciousness, it feels more usable and adaptable, with the flexibility to change suspension settings and exhaust notes at the push of a button.

As technologically evolved as the modern car is, the Singer embodies a different kind of evolution: mechanical exceptionalism honed to within a millimeter of its nostalgic life and obsession with fits, finishes, and modern materials masked as vintage. Although there’s temptation to pin the Singer as the outlier, both represent the extremes that inspire fanaticism—Singer for its maniacal craftsmanship, Porsche for its unending pursuit of ultimate engineering—making each a sort of outlaw in its own right.

Buying Guide
Powered by Motortrend

2020 Porsche 911

MSRP $120,600 Carrera 4S Coupe