The Singer 911: All You Ever Wanted to Know - CHRIS HARRIS ON CARS

Uploaded by drive on 16.01.2013


CHRIS HARRIS: I've wanted to drive a Singer 911 from the
moment I first saw the car several years ago.
And finally the chance has arrived.
This is a machine rooted in passion, obsession, and
Each Singer is born in this shed somewhere in LA.
We're going to spend some time with the man behind the car,
Rob Dickinson, and then we're going to drive it on some
Californian twisties, and then we'll take it to a circuit and
let it move around a little more.
And by the end of the show, I sincerely hope that you will
feel you've seen what goes into making one of these
gorgeous machines.
ROB DICKINSON: If you come in here, this is what the car was
going to look like.
I started to think, why can't--
you've got this wonderful interchangeability of parts in
the air-cooled era.
Why can't you try and create--
I know you wouldn't want to use the word "market," but
suggest to the world that maybe there could be a
possible ultimate 911.
So cherry pick from all of these wonderful parts.
Let's take the best engine, shove it in the best chassis,
put the best brakes on it, best, best, best, best, best.
Develop it properly, so it doesn't feel like a
Frankenstein car.
And then present it to the world, to a bunch of guys that
maybe have never driven a proper, sorted
air-cooled car before.
And then it snowballed, and the wheels became available.
And we thought, ah, bigger wheels, bigger brakes.
And as you can imagine, the slippery slope started.
But this is a car that we'd still like to investigate.
A simpler car, a less exotic car, a less extravagant car.
Still beautifully executed and beautifully done.
Maybe sold in a modular way.
So we sell a body kit, and we sell a wheel and brake package
and a suspension package.
All nicely boxed so people get stuff that's
been properly developed.
They screw it on and it works.
A lot of these guys are at the mercy of some of these Porsche
shops by having stuff screwed on that hasn't necessarily
been developed to work as a team, and all
that kind of stuff.
We think that maybe we can use the big, fancy car as a
trickle down thing.
So maybe we can offer something to guys like me who
can't afford what we do.
Kind of grassroots guys who love these things but maybe
appreciate what we've done with this crazy car, but it's
obviously maybe not something that they can afford.
And do something that I can afford and they can afford.
CHRIS HARRIS: That's me.
ROB DICKINSON: And that's maybe plan B for next year.
Give you some idea of--
CHRIS HARRIS: You've got to see this Mac.
Come look at his Mac.
This is a [BLEEP]
war zone.
ROB DICKINSON: Sorry about that.
So these are the early days.
These are the early days, clay modeling.
We wanted to sketch one side of the car in here.
So this is the '88 3.2 Carrera that became the orange car.
So this is our early--
we'd just got the 17-inch wheels, [INAUDIBLE]
CHRIS HARRIS: It was all just hand clay sculpted.
ROB DICKINSON: Hand clay sculpted.
So anyway, so we sketched the car in here.
And then we took it to the
prototyping facility in Irvine--
Aria Group--
who then digitized one side.
And then we clayed the other side of the car.
Just see, it's starting to make a lot of sense.
That took us a year.
A year of [BLEEP]
Going, I'm going to [BLEEP]
this car up.
Everyone is going to laugh at me if I don't get this right.
Total stressing.
The first set of molds for the first two cars were
lifted off the clay.
And then when we realized that we were going to move to the
964 chassis, we had to redo everything.
But this company spent a whole month and a ton of our money
to get the 964.
Because we had to retool for the 964
because of the wheelbase.
CHRIS HARRIS: Did you have to do everything again?
ROB DICKINSON: The wheelbase was different.
I've got photographs of that if you want to see
CHRIS HARRIS: That's just nuts.
ROB DICKINSON: The idea was just to clean
it up a little bit.
Take some of the jowls out of it, and just give it a little
bit of a nip and tuck.
CHRIS HARRIS: And that ended up taking two years and
hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When we first came up with this idea to do this Singer
thing, it was going to have these.
It was going to be a 15-inch wheeled car.
CHRIS HARRIS: But you could do it.
That's what we did.
And then these wheels came along, and we started to
think, wow, bigger wheels means bigger brakes.

Opens up a few possibilities.
We knew these tires were cool, but, as you say, compromised.
We wanted to use the 270/45 on a 9-inch rim, which I think
you probably put this tire on your 9 inch on the
back of your car.

So, anyway, I had some special 10-inch wheels made up.
So this is a 10 by 15 Fuchs, cut and welded here for the
purposes of the prototyping that we were going to do.
And I just wanted that perfect kind of stretch.
CHRIS HARRIS: That is perfect, isn't it.
ROB DICKINSON: Didn't look like it was too chubby.
Didn't look like it was a ricer,
kind of overly stretched.
But I tell you what, Chris, the guy that does these
wheels, Harvey Weidman, is--
he does these wheels and everyone calls them works of
art, and they are.
In my view, the wheels maketh the car.
The wheels and the tires maketh any car.
You can have the [BLEEP]
car in the world, you put the right wheel and tire
combination on it, suddenly it goes, oh, I fancy that.
You know that.
CHRIS HARRIS: And, obviously, their relationship to the body
work as well.
CHRIS HARRIS: Without wanting to bring it down to a base
level, they just look right, don't they?
I mean, the car has to look planted and confident.
There's a confidence to the car, I think, which people
immediately pick up on.
I don't think there's--
it's difficult for people to quantify and put their finger
on it sometimes, but there's a confidence.
We didn't want to create an overly aggressive,
macho-looking 911.
911's, to me, have always had a friendly face and a
businesslike rear.
And we wanted to retain that.
We wanted the car to not scare girls and for it to be not
just a male, red-blooded thing, but to be beautiful.
If ever a car authentically and truthfully betrayed its
underpinnings, it's the Porsche 911.
It's shaped--
it's got no engine at the front, so
it's got no high bonnet.
It's got round headlights, because they're the most
functional and efficient.
An engine at the back, and the body shape
suggests that it has.
It's got enough space for four people, at a pinch, inside.
It is the car.
It is the only car you could potentially have to have in
your collection.
And the whole deal with the Singer was to try and create a
wonderful compromise where we pulled in all these fabulous
things from the air-cooled era to make one car that you
could-- if you only had to have one car in your garage,
and maybe you'd like to take it to the track occasionally.
Maybe you'd like to put your kids in the back occasionally.
Maybe you'd like to commute to in it occasionally.
Maybe, the wonderful duality that is the 911, we could turn
the volume up a little bit and make it as sexy, as desirable,
as efficient, and as fast as possible.
And that's what the car's about, really.
CHRIS HARRIS: I can't say any more than that.
It's a very, very, erudite description of what is, in
layman's terms, just a plain horny car.
Lovely, lovely, lovely.
Now look, I could have talked to Rob about the gestation of
this car for hours.
And it's clear that Rob could have reciprocated the favor
because it basically involved discussing
every cool car in existence.
But there comes a point when reality beats theory, and I
just wanted to drive the car itself.
I really wanted to drive the car itself.
The Singer on the road.
Well, first of all, we've got quite a firm ride on this car.
It's solidly mounted at the back side, no
bushings or rose jointed--
quite busy.
But the [INAUDIBLE] isn't too bad.
It's got all that sound deadening in it.
direct and power assisted, but this lovely little prototypal
wheel just wriggles around.
If you're someone that's bemoaning the lack of
hydraulic assisted steering in a 911, don't come and drive
one of these, because it's just going to make you feel
even more angry about electric steering.
Noise, well, yeah, it's all there.
This engine is lovely.
Nice road car engine as well.
This car's got quite short gearing.
So, first, second, third, nice and short.
Gives you load of punch out of slower turns.
Gearshift Itself is exceptional.
They've taken the standard 964 shifter, taken as much rubber
out of it as possible, made it really
direct, and it's lovely.
CHRIS HARRIS: On a windy, little, mountain road in
California, in uncharacteristically bad
weather, it has to be said, [INAUDIBLE]
lots of traction.
Lots of traction.
It feels very 911 at the front, but nicely so.

Oh, yes.
Oh, yes.
Do you know what?
There's a sense of occasion sitting in it, which kind of
makes you overlook some of the stuff.
Knowing what we know about the underpinnings, there's so much
you can do with the dampers and the springs anyway, you
could get this car to handle, I think, pretty much the way
you want it to.
And it's really not far off the way it is now.
They haven't even started doing the full
testing on this car yet.

The engine's lovely, just lovely.
There's some nice scenery around here.

Oh, I know I crap on about it, but older 911's are such
lovely cars, and they make amazing bases for these kind
of exercises.
What a car.
What a car.
You could live with this every single day.
It's lovely.
The cabin.
I want to tell you about this cabin.
You need to sit in it with me to feel the quality,
to smell the hide.
It's just utterly, utterly beautiful.
And people look at it.
They really, really look at it.

As a road car, it's a nice balance of fun, excitement,
but competence.
Special mention for the sound deadening, as well.
This is much, much quieter than I ever got my
green 911 to be.
Although it's quite booming in the exhaust area.
Again, I think a bit more on the exhaust.
It's just a really nice place to be.
But is it a bit better on a more open race track?
I suppose we have to go and find out, don't we?
Now hold that thought for a second.
Before we get ragged on the circuit, you need to witness
the crazy level of detail invested in each Singer.
Maz here is the fountain of all knowledge about what's
happened to the car, and why they did what,
and everything else.
And we discussed earlier that he was a tits, rather than an
ass man, so we're going to start at the front of the car.
This doesn't look right to me.
-It's not.
CHRIS HARRIS: I know the inside of 911.
This has been played with.
-Well, to begin with, we use the long hood.
So the latch for the 964 is about here.
So we cut that piece out and we buy the latch
from the early car.
However, we have to accommodate for lots and lots
and lots of cooling down below.
So we've built this box.
Actually, the fabrication starts about there.
And we remap the ABS unit where it belongs and try to
make it look like it was born that way.
CHRIS HARRIS: So we've got lots of cooling going under
here which is beautiful-- we did some cut away
so you can see that--
but, little fan units.
The build quality is very much motorsport.
It just looks like a racing car to me.
It looks like a beautifully built racing car.
Which is apt because these light units are from a--
Hella has an LMP unit that they supply to everybody.
CHRIS HARRIS: And it's because it will go up and down for
-You got it.
-And it's pretty.
And it's the right size.
CHRIS HARRIS: It's utterly beautiful.
And how much is one of those?
-Probably $400 or $500.
CHRIS HARRIS: Do you need the fuel filler cap that big?

No, no, no, no.
A lot of what we do is governed by how it looks.
But underneath there it's fully functional.
CHRIS HARRIS: That's just beautiful.
So, top mounts, Ohlins?
-The top mounts, these are kind of a prototype piece.
There's a company on the East Coast that are
building them with them.
They're sealed.
So again, what we did was we went to a lot of race car
guys, the sort of best in class race car parts.
But they don't make street car stuff, so we have to ask them
to adjust what they're doing for what we do, which is build
a road car.
People think they want a bunch of motorsport bits on, but
once you go down the road and things are clanking and
clacking, it gets old very, very quick.
CHRIS HARRIS: I've been there, done that.
Now, 17-inch rims give you the chance to have big brakes.
So this is the classic 993 Turbo brake setup, is it?
-You've got it.
The idea was that it would bolt up, no
problem, kind of no BS.
It would just work.
And we took a look at--
we worked with Brembo for a bit to look at an actual
motorsport caliper and rotor.
And it was just sort of exactly what we were trying to
avoid was a car that just wouldn't work well, or
wouldn't feel right or have some compromise to it.
What was nice is Porsche did a lot of the work.
And we tried to take the best stuff that they did and stick
it on here.
We knew it would work.
We knew it would fit.
It's pretty easy to ruin a great car.
We had to leave the OEM world for things like modern
damping, though, which is--
CHRIS HARRIS: Been down that route.
That's a beautiful looking Ohlins three-way, which is
just stunning.
But outside of that, there's so much bespoke bracketing and
bits and bobs to hold new body panels on.
It's all completely different.
These are all ours.
We either make them here or we have them made.
And everything's new.
There's nothing re-used.
There's nothing old.
And, of course, there's a lot of electrical stuff.
Everything matters, every bit.

This is for a turn signal.
CHRIS HARRIS: It's absolute, high quality, motorsport
connector, isn't it?
-It's as good as it gets.
So what we haven't said is that this is based on a 964.
That's quite well known.
But, again, completely new.
I mean it's a re-dipped shell, isn't it?
Everything's been completely made to look new.
-The shell's been taken down to metal and then given this
E-coat, which is an anti-corrosion coat, before
the carbon panels are bonded to the car.
We adjust the dash.
There's no air bag, but we filled a bunch of holes and
made a few adjustments here and there.
This, of course, accepts that big milled aluminum dash panel
that attaches in front of here.
And, if you noticed, we could get a new one of these old OEM
220's and stick it behind the dash.
And we've adjusted the way the buttons work.
This is the OEM HVAC unit, but it's been refaced and painted.
We tried to make it look a little old school without
losing any functionality, which is always a balance.
And certainly, electronically, everything has to
be replaced in here.
This is a bespoke harness, front to rear.
CHRIS HARRIS: How much does the harness cost?
-A mere $30,000.
CHRIS HARRIS: This carpet is actually--
this is 356 carpet, isn't it?
It just looks perfect.
Coarse, hard wearing, but again,
somehow feels luxurious.
I don't know how you make some thing that looks like it's got
Labrador hair sticking out of it feel
luxurious, but it does.
-Underneath the carpet is the sound deadening.
We hired a gentleman who spends his time quieting
private planes.
So he deals with problems that no car manufacturer has ever
approached in terms of sound and weight.
So it's covered in multiple layers.
It doesn't look very scientific, but it's actually
how they do it in planes.
There's a strategy in the layering and
the types of materials.
And he spent a lot of time in the car with microphones and
another kinds of measurement machines, and this is the
package we have right now.
CHRIS HARRIS: Engine bay, come on.
Business end.
Motor by Cosworth?
CHRIS HARRIS: How many liters?
CHRIS HARRIS: And we're saying 350 horsepower,
but I drove it yesterday.
Feels like it might have a bit more than that to me, unless
they're lying about the weight at 1,200 kilograms.
A thing of beauty, again.
GT3 crank in this one?
-GT3 crank, individual throttle bodies, coil on plug,
so there's a gaping hole where distributors would be.
CHRIS HARRIS: Piston and rod to your
design, or just the piston?
-Cosworth specified all the outsourced stuff, so they had
Carrillo make us a rod, a very special, lightweight rod
that's still going to work for--
it's still going to be a 100,000-mile motor.
And a piston--
they really spec'd the whole thing.
We hand them a case, a few other bits and bobs, and some
heads, and everything else comes in from other suppliers.
And then they tolerance them, and put it together, and stick
it on the dyno for a day, and ship it over here.
CHRIS HARRIS: Now what I suspect we can't see on this
car is one of the most important in the whole story.
You're switching to this new bespoke panel widths and panel
shapes for the front of your fenders.
And they're made from carbon.
CHRIS HARRIS: So can you show us where the carbon begins and
where it ends?
-Well, this car has a carbon roof.
So effectively, the stock window frame is still here,
but we've cut out very close to the lines there.
It has a carbon roof bonded on that comes down to about here.
Then the panel, which is a little tough to see, but
everything on this side of the chassis-- so the outside the
window frame-- is completely composite, starting here, all
the way down and through the front of the car.
So before this is put on, it's just an odd kind of skeleton
of the inside of the window, which is metal.
So from here forward, of course, the hood, the bumper.
We've got steel up here.
Of course, this doesn't change.
-But yeah.
And it's tremendously strong and its tremendously light.
CHRIS HARRIS: And the molds, obviously all yours.
CHRIS HARRIS: As you've probably now realized, the
lengths they've gone to to get to the stage where it's all
repeatable, that's the impressive thing.
You've reached the stage now where you can see.
Look at the quality of this product.
And it's all repeatable.
It's just that you've got to write the check to buy all the
expensive bits.
-And we went through several stages of tooling.
It didn't happen the first time.
We really had to try, and try, and try.
As much as you try to engineer it, it doesn't matter until
you stick it on the car and make sure it fits.
Then you have go back and retool, readjust
until you get it right.
Now it's right.
CHRIS HARRIS: How many thousand dollars?
-Depends on the spec.
As low as high threes, mid- to high three's,
but as high as 500.
It depends on--
CHRIS HARRIS: As low as high $300,000?
-Yeah, it's--
CHRIS HARRIS: You do understand the dictionary
definition of the word low, don't you?

Just beautiful.
Just beautiful.

And now, you probably think it would be a crime to take this
piece of four-wheeled OCD onto a racetrack.
But that's not a notion I've ever felt any sympathy for so,
this is the track bit now.
But here's the thing.
It's not actually very easy to jump into a Singer
and just drive it.
Not because the car's obstructive but because you're
constantly distracted by the details, the sheer beauty of
the shapes, the dish of the wheels, the gorgeous seats,
the, well, just everything really.
It oozes levels of undiluted want.
Dangerous levels of the stuff.
But eventually, you have to just wring its neck.
CHRIS HARRIS: Of course, the Singer 911 is not designed to
be a track car, but the guys wanted to have some track
And It's got just that.
They're claiming 350 horsepower from this Cosworth
designed and developed and built engine.
Well, to me, it feels every bit as strong as that, maybe
even stronger.
The car weighs 1,200 kilograms, but it hasn't had
much development, even though it's got these three-way
adjustable Ohlins dampers.
So at the moment, it's a very sharp car.
Really drives like a classic 911.
You've got to stop it in a straight line.
If you back off, it wants to rotate.
So you've got to keep your footing.
And then, it's glorious.
Listen to it.

We just back off, though--
CHRIS HARRIS: It's so beautiful to look at, and the
driving experience matches the beauty.
And that's why it's one of the more special cars that I'll
drive this year.
It's just gorgeous.
You can argue that it needs a set of [INAUDIBLE] tires, and
the brake balance [INAUDIBLE]
And there's many things you could say about it as a track
car, but it's not designed to be a track car.
If you bought this thing and you were brave enough to go
and do a track day in something so gorgeous, you
wouldn't be disappointed.
I actually quite like the edginess of it.
But there's a few things they can do to
iron the chassis out.
But look at me, it's not as if I'm not
enjoying myself, is it.

CHRIS HARRIS: The engine is just lovely, lovely, lovely.
It responds and breathes the top end like a water cooled
engine, like a GT3 engine.
But it's got a GT3 crank in it.
CHRIS HARRIS: Look where I am.
I'm in the middle of a desert, on a beautiful, sparse
racetrack, with a car that is making a noise like that.
There's worse days, Monkey.
There's worse days.
Standard Michelin sport tires, they do a
perfectly good job here.
They're getting a bit ragged on the shoulders.
Other than that, just a sensational motor car.
Proper old-fashioned, floor hinged pedal box.
It's just the classic 911 experience with more
performance, more beauty, and some creature comforts, and
some skids.
CHRIS HARRIS: Fantastic motor car.

Oh, yes.
The Singer shouldn't have, and doesn't need, great track
performance, but out of the box, it's not far away from
having it already.
It's a special thing.

Could you really spend half a million dollars on a
reimagined 911?
If I had the folding, you know what, I could.
In many ways, this is my perfect car-- small, fast
enough, challenging, exciting, beautiful, and altered in a
way that concentrates the bits of old 911's that I love, and
yet updates the bits that I would happily discard.
What more can I say than, what a spectacular
way to start 2013.