Bluebird Sings
911 & Porsche World|December 2017

A very special drive in a very special car as we get nfettered access to a 964 restored by Singer ehicle Design.

Dan Trent

Vision of the perfect customised Porsche? Or overblown caricature? You may consider the megamoney restorations carried out by Singer Vehicle Design a bit of both. But any high-minded convictions you may have regarding backdated 911s are hard to stick by once you’ve witnessed or, better still, experienced what the cars are actually about. After a visit to the workshop a few years back I had a sense of this, the tour revealing the obsessive attention to detail lavished on every last component. And like many I’ve pored over cars they’ve restored, awed by the quality and finish.

But drive one? You only earn that privilege by acquiring a 964, sending it to California and then awaiting its return, ‘reimagined’ to your personal spec. Given rising values of donor cars and shifting exchange rates mean this car is now insured for considerably more than the half million or so the restoration cost it’s not surprising owners keep their cars to themselves.

Most owners. The man who commissioned the ‘Dorset’ car you see here is of the opinion his car should be enjoyed. And if he’s too busy, well, he’ll delegate the task to someone he trusts will appreciate it appropriately. Somewhat incredibly that person is me, my instructions best summarised as ‘enjoy yourself’.

Our man’s admirable lack of pretension extends to where he keeps the car, the anonymous council lock-up in which it lives a classic case of hiding in plain sight. And with a shove the door squeaks open to reveal perhaps the most perfectly proportioned 911 rear end I’ve ever seen. The baby-blue paint – actually Farrow & Ball Parma Gray if you’re interested – pings from the gloom of the windowless garage, the contrasting Porsche script across the engine cover, the perforated acrylic panel under the grille and paired centre pipes of the ceramic-coated exhaust recognisable visual signatures of any Singer restoration. In the shadows I can just about make out wide body arches and 265-section rear tyres stretched over deeply dished 11-inch Fuchs-style wheels. I’m itching to get going but indulge a few moments contemplation before jumping in, starting up and backing carefully out into the crisp autumnal sunshine.

Appreciation of the details will come in due course. For the first few miles I’m in that acclimatisation period required for any special 911. Because while they’re all the same they’re also all different, each with individual character traits demanding you apply yourself to the job at hand. As I leave the city limits behind I’ve just about dialled into the weight and bite of the RS-spec clutch, the well-oiled action of the stubby gear shifter and the instantaneous response to the accelerator. Forget the inertia of modern engines and their weighty flywheels; the Aasco single-mass item fitted to this car means you need to rev match up as well as down the ’box, the weight of the sole of your shoe on the hinged throttle pedal usually enough to avoid an unpleasant lurch as you go up through the gears. A humiliating flare of revs is never far away if you get too greedy though, the tightrope walk between kangarooing down the road and the stink of slipped clutch demanding constant focus.

As we get to know each other I’ve been happy enough to enjoy the healthy torque delivered by the Ed Pink Racing Engines-built 964 motor, the bored-out 3.8-litre capacity meaning it’s happy to pull tall gears from below 4000rpm with no complaints. At last an opportunity presents to find out what lurks a little further round that orange-faced rev counter. Nailing the perfect downshift takes timing and precision but I pull it off, right foot pushing against the accelerator’s firm spring and deep into its long travel.

As the needle passes the ‘5’ on the rev counter the engine takes on a totally different character, vocal chords opening into a sophisticated howl that builds in intensity to a second level of ferocity past 6000rpm. The final 1000rpm or so are where the real magic lies, the induction howl from the other side of the bulkhead filling the cabin before the next grabbed shift, the click-clack sound of the gear mechanism and pedals filling the momentary pause in engine noise before the perfectly matched ratios drop you right back into the sweet spot of the power band. There are many things to be intimidated by, not least the responsibility that comes with custody of another man’s near-priceless Porsche. But I can’t stop grinning. The next couple of days are going to be epic…

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