This Restored 89 Porsche 911 Could be Yours
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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.

Hallelujah.

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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The Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index reveals investments of passion are paying strong dividends, in some areas at least

By Bronwyn Allen
Tue, Apr 9, 2024 4 min

Art was the investment of passion that gained the most in value in 2023, according to Knight Frank’s Luxury Investment Index (KFLII). This is the second consecutive year that art has risen the most among the 10 popular investments tracked by the index, up 11 percent in 2023 and 29 percent in 2022. Art was followed by 8 percent growth in jewellery, 5 percent growth in watches, 4 percent growth in coins and 2 percent growth in coloured diamonds last year.

The weakest performers were rare whisky bottles, which lost nine percent of their value, classic cars down six percent and designer handbags down four percent. Luxury collectables are typically held by ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) who have a net worth of US$30 million or more. Knight Frank research shows 20 percent of UHNWI investment asset portfolios are allocated to collectables.

In 2023, the KFLII fell for only the second time, with prices down 1 percent on average.

Despite record-breaking individual sales in 2023, a surge in financial market returns contributed to a shift in allocations impacting on luxury asset value,” the report said. “… our assessment reveals a need for an ever more discerning approach from investors, with significant volatility by sub-market.

Sebastian Duthy of AMR said the 2023 art auction year began with notable sales including a record price for a Bronzino piece. But confidence waned as the year went on.

“It was telling that in May, Sotheby’s inserted one of its top Old Master lots – a Rubens’ portrait – into a 20th Century Modern evening sale. But by then, it was clear that the confidence among sellers, set by the previous year’s record-busting figures, was ebbing away. In the same month, modern and contemporary works from the collection of the late financier Gerald Fineberg sold well below pre-auction estimates.”

The value of ultra contemporary or red-chip’ art contracted the most in 2023.

“Works by a growing group of artists born after 1980 have been heavily promoted by mega galleries and auction houses in recent years. With freshly painted works in excess of £100,000 almost doubling in 2022, it was little surprise that this sector was one of the biggest casualties last year. There is a risk there are now simply too many fresh paint artists with none really standing out.”

In the jewellery market, Mr Duthy noted that demand was strongest for coloured gemstones of exceptional quality, iconic signed period jewels, single-owner collections, and items with historic provenance in 2023. In the watches market, Mr Duthy said collectors chased the most iconic and rare timepieces.

A Rolex John Player Special broke the model record when it sold for £2 million at Sotheby’s in May, double the price for a similar example sold at Phillips in 2021,” he said.

Although whisky was the worst-performing collectable in 2023, it has delivered the highest return on investment among the 10 items tracked by the index over the past decade, up 280 percent. Andy Simpson of Simpson Reserved, said 2023 was a challenging year but the best of the best bottles gained 20 percent in value. In my opinion some bottles that lost significant value in 2023 will return through the next two years as they are simply so scarce and, right now at least, so undervalued, Mr Simpson said.

Whisky was the worst performing collectable in 2023 but it had highest return on investment over a 10-year period. Image: Shutterstock

Classic car expert Dietrich Hatlapa said the 6 percent fall in collectable vehicle values in 2023 followed a 22 percent surge in 2022. The strong performance of other investment classes such as equities may have dampened collectors’ appetites it’s a very small market so it only takes a minor change in portfolio allocations to have an effect, and there has also probably been a degree of profit taking. However, we have seen some marques like BMW (up 9 percent in value) and Lamborghini (up 18 percent), which appeal to a younger breed of collector, buck the trend in 2023.”

Mr Duthy said a dip in the share price of the top luxury handbag brands last Autumn appeared to spook investors. Last autumn it was possible to pick up an Hermès white Niloticus Himalaya Birkin in good condition for under £50,000. The recent slide reflects a general correction at the upper end that’s been underway for some time rather than changing attitudes to the harvesting of exotic skins.

According to Knight Frank’s Attitudes Survey, the top five investments of passion among Australian UHNWIs are classic cars, art and wine. Fine wine values gained just 1 percent in 2023 as the market continued its correction, said Nick Martin of Wine Owners. “It’s been a hell of a long run, so I’m not that surprised. Some wines from very small producers that had enjoyed the most exuberant growth have seen the biggest drops. It had got a bit silly, £50 bottles had shot up to £200 or £300.”

Favourite investments of passion: Australia vs Global

1. Classic cars (61 percent of Australian UHNWIs vs 38 percent of global UHNWIs)
2. Art (58 percent vs 48 percent)
3. Wine (48 percent vs 35 percent)
4. Watches (42 percent vs 42 percent)
5. Jewellery (18 percent vs 28 percent)

Best returns among investments of passion (10 years)

1. Whisky 280 percent
2. Wine 146 percent
3. Watches 138 percent
4. Art 105 percent
5. Cars 82 percent

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