On a recent weekday evening, a few dozen clients and prospects of Singer Vehicle Design LLC showed up at a warehouse near Toronto to see the company’s latest vintage Porsche 911 restoration projects.
Several attendees pulled up in new Porsche 911 GT3s; there was a Rolls-Royce, a few BMW M cars, an Audi RS6 wagon, a McLaren, and a handful of classic 911s. The two cars everyone came to see, however, were worth more than everything in the parking lot combined.
Sitting on a white plinth in a warehouse belonging to Pfaff Automotive Partners – the dealership group that represents Singer in Canada – was a US$2.7-million metallic-gold machine called the “Porsche 911 reimagined by Singer, Dynamics and Lightweighting Study (DLS) Turbo.” Next to it, on its own plinth, is a baby-blue US$835,000 “Porsche 911 reimagined by Singer, Turbo Study.”
The cars’ convoluted names are a byproduct of the fact Singer is not a car manufacturer, nor does it sell cars; it is a California-based independent restoration and modification (restomod) shop, a point that company spokesperson Deb Pollack stresses. Singer is not endorsed by or affiliated with Porsche.
Despite the awkward naming conventions and shocking prices, Singer’s business is booming. If you commission a “restomodded” 911 today, you’ll likely be waiting until 2027 to take delivery. They’re booked solid for three years.
What began as a small restoration shop in 2009 – founded by Rob Dickinson, a vintage Porsche diehard and former front man of U.K. shoegaze band Catherine Wheel – is now a company with close to 300 workers in the United States and another 200 in England. The firm has so far “reimagined” (to use Singer’s word) more than 300 old Porsche 911s.
The company is tapping into a rich vein of longing among driving enthusiasts who want to experience a time before water-cooled engines (let alone EVs) and before heavy, digitally assisted sports cars became the norm.
Faisal Huda, a retired Toronto-area businessman, is on his second 911 reimagined by Singer. His is a non-Turbo DLS that cost him roughly $3-million, or 10 times more than a new top-of-the-line Porsche.
Huda says his reimagined old Porsche feels more alive than new cars. “You get all those little quirks and characteristics and nuances of the old air-cooled 911, and you’ve got it in a very modern, updated presentation,” he says.
During the four years it took to complete the modifications on his car, he formed friendships with the employees at Singer. It’s a community, he says. After finally getting to drive the finished product, he decided its $3-million price was good value.
A brand new 911 feels clinical in comparison, he says. “It’s almost too perfect. You’re that much more removed from the experience of hurtling down the road,” Huda adds. He likens his restomod to a home-cooked meal made with love, while a new 911 is like dining at Michelin-starred restaurant.
But there’s little left of a customer’s old Type 964 Porsche 911 – manufactured from 1989 to 1994 – after Singer goes to work on it.
The carbon-fibre bodywork and Henry Moore-esque wing developed for the DLS Turbo is inspired by the Porsche 934/5 endurance racer that won the SCCA Trans Am series in 1977. The car’s seats are custom made, as are the pedals and the six-speed gear shift with its exposed mechanical linkage. Swinging the carbon-fibre door shut, it closes with a satisfying clack. The fuel filler, relocated to the middle of the hood, opens with a counter-clockwise twist and pops up with a motion so precise and sturdy it could be the crown on a Rolex Submariner.
For the engine, Singer strips the original Porsche flat-six engine down to the block, ups the displacement to 3.8 litres and adds twin turbochargers to produce 700 horsepower at an ear-splitting 9,000 revolutions per minute.
For clients willing to pay seven figures for Singer’s services, the combination of a raw, lightweight, analog sports car with modern reliability and supercar-level performance is worth the lofty price and long waiting list. It’s telling that Singer gives its clients the option to specify wind-up windows in their multimillion-dollar restorations.
Tapping into a similar vein as Singer, Gordon Murray Automotive – a U.K. upstart offering ultralight supercars with manual gearboxes and naturally aspirated V12 engines – has no trouble selling its limited-production runs. All 100 examples of the £1.37-million ($2.3-million) T.33 sold out in just over a week following the car’s unveiling last summer.
The two businesses are very different – Gordon Murray is a manufacturer only making brand new cars – but both prove there’s a lot of money to be made by tapping into this longing for pure, lightweight, high-design sports cars. Canadian owners have so far commissioned about 30 of the 911s restomodded by Singer, a spokesperson for Pfaff said.
Jason Low, a 25-year-old car enthusiast who splits his time between Toronto and California, was at the Toronto event to see the new Turbo Studies up close. He and his family had a string of modern 911s, but sold them and purchased older Type 993 and 964 models. “Restomods are a great way of having an old new car,” says Low, who works in construction finance.
Mainstream car companies – including Porsche – are rapidly working to electrify their vehicles. “The only way to preserve the combustion engine is to take apart an old car and put it back together, keeping the [vehicle identification number] and keeping the heart and soul,” Low says.
Singer has already taken about 250 orders for its US$835,000 Turbo Study restomod service, which was unveiled last summer.
That’s more than US$200-million in orders for something that, in the case of the Turbo Study, few customers have even seen in person, Pollack says.
Among the company’s clients are former F1 champion Jenson Button and Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti. To keep up with booming demand, Singer recently expanded to a new, 115,000-square-foot facility in Torrance, Calif., and is doubling the size of its U.K. operations.
Pollack confirmed that Singer has no plans to offer any EV restoration or retrofit services. No big surprise there.