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This Restored 89 Porsche 911 Could be Yours

Dan Neil dips his toe in the world of hyper-restored cars from Singer Vehicle Design and finds the ‘Hollywood Commission’ of the Porsche 911 a drastic improvement in almost every way

By Dan Neil
Fri, Jun 16, 2023 10:34amGrey Clock 5 min

OUR TEST CAR cannot be bought for love or money. This 1991 Porsche 911 reimagined by Singer Vehicle Design—called the “Hollywood Commission,” in Bahama Yellow—is one of only 450 examples that the Torrance, Calif.-based fantasy factory will build, all of which are spoken for, with average costs in the high six figures, not including the donor car. Which is a pity. I was this close.

Some might ask why even bother driving Mr. Hollywood here, since Singer’s “Classic Study” cars are basically unobtainable. People ask silly questions, don’t they? For Porsche fanatics, such a car lives at the end of an impossible, aspirational rainbow, right next to their pot of FU gold. Imagine, a fully modern, daily driveable vintage 911, with a flat-six engine rapping and wailing at over 7,000 revs, meshed with the perfect five-speed (or six) stick shifter—a car with all the charisma of the classic design but twice the performance, rebuilt to standards of precision that make those schlubs back in Stuttgart look like cave dwellers.

I suppose one could consider this a preview of coming attractions. Singer is now taking orders for its Turbo Study, based on turbocharged versions of the same car, known as the 964 series. The Turbo Study starts at $1.2 million, before options and personalisation. If you call in the next 15 minutes, yours could be rushed to you by 2027, says the company.

Singer is building an even more bat-guano crazy, nth-degree restomod: the Dynamics and Lightweighting Study. Developed with F1 technology house WAE, the DLS gets the full Singer treatment, including a motorsports-tuned rebuild of the naturally aspirated flat-six engine. Prices start just shy of $2 million. Only 75 will be built. At last count, more than 50 commissions had been completed.

Founded in 2009 by musician Rob Dickinson, Singer started humbly, and relatably, as one guy getting in way over his head restoring an old car. But he had game. “Pretty soon, people were asking Rob to do another, and another,” said Mazen Fawaz, Singer’s chief executive. This was fortuitous inasmuch as Dickinson had once trained as an industrial designer.

WHEELS OF FORTUNE Founded in 2009 by musician and industrial designer Rob Dickinson (formerly the frontman of Catherine Wheel), Singer has built just over 300 of its ‘Classic Study’ cars, based on the naturally aspirated cars, with some commissions exceeding $1.5 million. Singer will limit production to 450 copies and is no longer accepting commissions. PHOTO: SINGER VEHICLE DESIGN

Dickinson is by no means the first to slam and tune a 911, but it’s fair to say no one has ever gone quite so far, at such a high level of precision, with such impeccable taste and with so little regard for propriety.

It only takes a couple blocks in the “Hollywood Commission” to tell that it’s a drastically better car than the donor ever could be. For one thing, it borrows from its technical near future, using the steering rack and brake package of the 993-chassis GT3, with ABS and rotors the size of Saxon shield bosses. The motorsports-evolved front end is one reason the test car corners with the smartness of a modern track car instead of gently obsolescing junk.

In back, under the engine cover—watch that you don’t klonk yourself on the big spoiler—you will find a beautiful ceramic-finish plenum, also nicked from the 996-series GT3, wrapped in braided stainless steel. When they see it, dudes make a face like pirates opening a treasure chest.

Before my visit, I winced at the word “reimagined,” but it kind of works as a last option. You can’t call what Singer does restoration because so much of the donor gets binned, starting with the steel fenders, which get swapped out for luridly flared, flawlessly finished carbon-fiber hips. In our car, the doors and monocoque frame remained in the original German steel.

It’s not re-manufacturing, either, since what’s left is not returned to original. Every widget has been breathed upon, updated or mutated for motorsports.

Nor might you call it tuned. What Singer does is more invasive than that. While the suspension layout (upper wishbone and lower A arms in front, and trailing arm in the rear) is faithful in principle, the geometry is radically different. The front and rear track are much broader, wheels are wider, the ride height lower, the stance vastly slinkier.

NOSE JOB While the front of the Porsche 911 reimagined by Singer ‘Hollywood Commission’ looks familiar, many details depart from being period-correct. The carbon-fiber hood is slightly longer, extending to meet the slightly reprofiled bumper, also painted carbon fiber. PHOTO: SINGER VEHICLE DESIGN

The componentry is state-of-tomorrow hot-rodding, including fully adjustable Öhlins suspensions, heavy-duty bushings, forged aluminum links and bars and heim-joint adjustable cross-strut brace up front. Note: All of this can be ordered, a la carte or prix fixe, according to the client’s wishes, la-tee-dah.

The traditional 40%/60% front/rear weight balance remains intact, but the handling is unrecognizable. Oversteer, schmoversteer. Hunkered over fat Michelins, the car’s grip on the street is unshakeable.

Glory be, listen to that engine. Typically, the donor’s flat-six gets bored and stroked to 4.0 litres displacement, around 390 hp. It then gets a motorsports makeover from top to bottom, with lightened valvetrain, titanium conrods and forged pistons, forged crankshaft, lightweight flywheel—the proverbial works, if your proverbs include bratty Shanghai billionaires.

At full song, over 5,000 rpm or so, the free-breathing six snarls and snare drums, on and off throttle, with a titanium-piped resonance that is thrilling, tromboning, outrageous. In the driver’s footwell: three small pedals, perfectly positioned for heel-and-toe footwork.
In contast to all the high-tech hot-rodding, the 964’s steel frame needs little to no additional bracing, I was told. Singer will seam-weld a car’s monocoque if asked, but it’s considered unnecessary. For one thing, the car emerging from the process weighs 150-200kg less than it did going in.

Which brings us to my takeaway: Among all the wonders of Singer’s fabrication, the haute-couture upholsteries and the horological obsession with precision, the most astonishing bit of kit remains the 911’s monocoque structure, a design that dates back almost unchanged to Ferry Porsche’s original in 1963. Of all the liberties taken it’s practically the only thing that remains sacrosanct.


1991 Porsche 911 reimagined by Singer ‘Hollywood Commission’

Price: $1.5 million

Powertrain: Naturally aspirated 4.0-litre DOHC flat-six engine; six-speed manual gearbox; rear-drive with mechanically limited-slip rear differential

Power/torque: 390 hp at 7,200 rpm/432 Nm at 5,900 rpm

Curb weight: 1,242 pounds

0-100 km/h: 3.3 seconds

Corrections & Amplifications
The price of the Porsche 911 reimagined by Singer ‘Hollywood Commission’ test car is $1 million, including the cost of the donor car, and its front/rear weight balance is 40%/60%. A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to the $1 million figure as the “base price” and stated that the front/rear weight balance is 60%/40%. (Corrected on June 9.) The Dynamics and Lightweighting Study model of the Porsche 911 reimagined by Singer includes a naturally aspirated engine. A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that it has a turbocharged engine. (Corrected on June 12.)


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GENOA, Italy—Renato Zanelli crossed the finish line with a rusty iron hanging from his neck while pulling 140 pounds of trash on an improvised sled fashioned from a slab of plastic waste.

Zanelli, a retired IT specialist, flashed a tired smile, but he suspected his garbage haul wouldn’t be enough to defend his title as world champion of plogging—a sport that combines running with trash collecting.

A rival had just finished the race with a chair around his neck and dragging three tires, a television and four sacks of trash. Another crossed the line with muscles bulging, towing a large refrigerator. But the strongest challenger was Manuel Jesus Ortega Garcia, a Spanish plumber who arrived at the finish pulling a fridge, a dishwasher, a propane gas tank, a fire extinguisher and a host of other odds and ends.

“The competition is intense this year,” said Zanelli. Now 71, he used his fitness and knack for finding trash to compete against athletes half his age. “I’m here to help the environment, but I also want to win.”

Italy, a land of beauty, is also a land of uncollected trash. The country struggles with chronic littering, inefficient garbage collection in many cities, and illegal dumping in the countryside of everything from washing machines to construction waste. Rome has become an emblem of Italy’s inability to fix its trash problem.

So it was fitting that at the recent World Plogging Championship more than 70 athletes from 16 countries tested their talents in this northern Italian city. During the six hours of the race, contestants collect points by racking up miles and vertical distance, and by carrying as much trash across the finish line as they can. Trash gets scored based on its weight and environmental impact. Batteries and electronic equipment earn the most points.

A mobile app ensures runners stay within the race’s permitted area, approximately 12 square miles. Athletes have to pass through checkpoints in the rugged, hilly park. They are issued gloves and four plastic bags to fill with garbage, and are also allowed to carry up to three bulky finds, such as tires or TVs.

Genoa, a gritty industrial port city in the country’s mountainous northwest, has a trash problem that gets worse the further one gets away from its relatively clean historic core. The park that hosted the plogging championship has long been plagued by garbage big and small.

“It’s ironic to have the World Plogging Championship in a country that’s not always as clean as it could be. But maybe it will help bring awareness and things will improve,” said Francesco Carcioffo, chief executive of Acea Pinerolese Industriale, an energy and recycling company that’s been involved in sponsoring and organizing the race since its first edition in 2021. All three world championships so far have been held in Italy.

Events that combine running and trash-collecting go back to at least 2010. The sport gained traction about seven years ago when a Swede, Erik Ahlström, coined the name plogging, a mashup of plocka upp, Swedish for “pick up,” and jogging.

“If you don’t have a catchy name you might as well not exist,” said Roberto Cavallo, an Italian environmental consultant and longtime plogger, who is on the world championship organizing committee together with Ahlström.

Saturday’s event brought together a mix of wiry trail runners and environmental activists, some of whom looked less like elite athletes.

“We like plogging because it makes us feel a little less guilty about the way things are going with the environment,” said Elena Canuto, 29, as she warmed up before the start. She came in first in the women’s ranking two years ago. “This year I’m taking it a bit easier because I’m three months pregnant.”

Around two-thirds of the contestants were Italians. The rest came from other European countries, as well as Japan, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Algeria, Ghana and Senegal.

“I hope to win so people in Senegal get enthusiastic about plogging,” said Issa Ba, a 30-year-old Senegalese-born factory worker who has lived in Italy for eight years.

“Three, two, one, go,” Cavallo shouted over a loudspeaker, and the athletes sprinted off in different directions. Some stopped 20 yards from the starting line to collect their first trash. Others took off to be the first to exploit richer pickings on wooded hilltops, where batteries and home appliances lay waiting.

As the hours went by, the athletes crisscrossed trails and roads, their bags became heavier. They tagged their bulky items and left them at roadsides for later collection. Contestants gathered at refreshment points, discussing what they had found as they fueled up on cookies and juice. Some contestants had brought their own reusable cups.

With 30 minutes left in the race, athletes were gathering so much trash that the organisers decided to tweak the rules: in addition to their four plastic bags, contestants could carry six bulky objects over the finish line rather than three.

“I know it’s like changing the rules halfway through a game of Monopoly, but I know I can rely on your comprehension,” Cavallo announced over the PA as the athletes braced for their final push to the finish line.

The rule change meant some contestants could almost double the weight of their trash, but others smelled a rat.

“That’s fantastic that people found so much stuff, but it’s not really fair to change the rules at the last minute,” said Paul Waye, a Dutch plogging evangelist who had passed up on some bulky trash because of the three-item rule.

Senegal will have to wait at least a year to have a plogging champion. Two hours after the end of Saturday’s race, Ba still hadn’t arrived at the finish line.

“My phone ran out of battery and I got lost,” Ba said later at the awards ceremony. “I’ll be back next year, but with a better phone.”

The race went better for Canuto. She used an abandoned shopping cart to wheel in her loot. It included a baby stroller, which the mother-to-be took as a good omen. Her total haul weighed a relatively modest 100 pounds, but was heavy on electronic equipment, which was enough for her to score her second triumph.

“I don’t know if I’ll be back next year to defend my title. The baby will be six or seven months old,” she said.

In the men’s ranking, Ortega, the Spanish plumber, brought in 310 pounds of waste, racked up more than 16 miles and climbed 7,300 feet to run away with the title.

Zanelli, the defending champion, didn’t make it onto the podium. He said he would take solace from the nearly new Neapolitan coffee maker he found during the first championship two years ago. “I’ll always have my victory and the coffee maker, which I polished and now display in my home,” he said.

Contestants collected more than 6,600 pounds of trash. The haul included fridges, bikes, dozens of tires, baby seats, mattresses, lead pipes, stoves, chairs, TVs, 1980s-era boomboxes with cassettes still inside, motorcycle helmets, electric fans, traffic cones, air rifles, a toilet and a soccer goal.

“This park hasn’t been this clean since the 15 century,” said Genoa’s ambassador for sport, Roberto Giordano.


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