There has always been something special about the Porsche 911. It has truly classic good looks that go beyond its Teutonic ancestry. Originally a concept car known as the 901 it was a huge step up from the VW-based 356 coupe. Ferrari would insist that it “owned” the rights to the second zero so Porsche relented and replaced it with the numeral 1.
By 1964 the 911 was available for purchase and was an immediate hit. Who could resist those curves. Who could turn away from the sound of the air-cooled pancake six cylinder engine. Those early customers were also introduced to the special handling phenomenon of trailing throttle oversteer.
Over the next decade Porsche overcame lubrication issues, enhanced carburetion by switching from Solexs to Webers, and stretched the wheelbase enough to make the car a bit less sensitive to snap oversteer.
I have had to endure an unfulfilled desire for this car for decades. Oh yes, I have driven many examples of the 911, but I have never been an owner. Driving them has usually been a giddy experience whether it be the four cylinder 912, the 911T, or the later versions with their whale tails and substantially wide rear track. Never have I had the pleasure of going out to my own garage and seeing a 911 of my own there.
I rued the day when Porsche was compelled to change over from the air-cooled engines to water pumpers. While performance increased and its engineering continued to advance the pleasure of driving, there was something special about the sound of the air-cooled cylinders as the pistons pumped through their four cycles un-muffled by a water-jacket.
The car’s classic good looks were retained over several decades even as Porsche attempted to move to front-engined cars with the 944 and 928. When ever Porsche tried to show how its technology could be encapsulated in something other than the 911-style body it would dominate with it in motorsports, yet fail in the marketplace. It wasn’t until the Boxster that it was able to change the power train layout and not see sales plummet. All the while the 911 was there, steadfastly carrying the brand despite its drawbacks.
Ruf has made its own version of the 911 and does it so completely that its cars are considered to be manufactured separate from Porsche, even though every visual cue says Porsche 911.
Now there is another twist to the legacy of the 911. An American company, Singer Vehicle Design, has produced the 2010 Singer 911 prototype. It is a beautiful piece of automotive reengineering work that is after my own heart. Singer takes a 1980’s 911 and strips it down to the bare shell and then builds it up from there employing modern chassis and drive train engineering without sacrificing the soul of the 911. In fact it does a fantastic job of enhancing the 911 to a level that we all thought Porsche had brought it to the marketplace with, but never really had.
Singer cleans and media blasts the monocoque body strengthening the chassis with seam/stitch welding and inserting a central stiffening structure integrated into the car’s backbone. Much of the bodywork is replaced with custom carbon fiber parts including the roof, as long as you don’t order a sunroof. The doors remain steel and are fitted with side impact safety beams from later model 911’s complementing the integrated roll hoop that is padded and upholstered in leather.
Aerodynamics are enhanced with a specially designed front lip and a speed sensitive rear unit that rises into position at sixty miles per hour. The engines are air-cooled and based on the 993 series cars from 1995 as sold in the US. These are available in power ranges of 300 HP, 360 HP, and 425 HP. The 300HP cars come with a five speed while the higher output cars get the six speed Getrag G50 from the 993. Singer re-engineered the shift linkage, a weak spot in these rear-engined cars, producing what they describe as “an oiled, rifle bolt tactility”.
Electrics and electronics are all updated to modern levels so that Hella bi-xenon headlamps light the road and fully support the Bluetooth, satellite radio, iPod, and GPS navigation. The interior is period correct, but carries over none of the penalties of that era.
Performance of the 2400 pound car should be satisfying to any buyer with the 425 HP car going from zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds and achieving a top speed of over 170 miles per hour.
Look over the photos and try not to drool.