Last week, we brought you part one of our Porsche 911 reimagined by Singer Vehicle Design feature. This is the second and final installment, consisting of a track evaluation at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and an instrumented test. Read our on-track impressions below, and check out our spec box at the bottom of this article. - Ed.
To date, no other publication has been allowed to test a Singer-modified 911. Our scales showed 2743 pounds, about as much as a Scion FR-S. Skid-pad grip is 0.93g, and 60 mph passes in 3.3 seconds. That is a shocking 362 pounds less than, 2.1 seconds quicker than, and 0.08 g over the 247-hp 964 Carrera 2 we tested in 1990. The new Corvette Z06 hits 60 in the same time but weighs 793 pounds more. Given that MacNeil's car retains A/C, a stereo, power steering, four seats, and a hushed interior, this is impressive.
MacNeil asked that one of his Tudor series drivers, 31-year-old Leh Keen, set a lap time at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. We weren't going to tell him no. Singer's crew delivered pallets of tires (Nitto NT01 and Hoosier R7 race rubber) and began obsessing over dampers and ride height. Fun fact: Each Öhlins shock offers 40 clicks of adjustment. Fun fact part two: They did not mess with them much.
After a morning's testing, Keen popped a 1:35.5. That's 7.5 seconds off the fastest lap in Laguna's last 911 GT3 Cup race, but 0.75 second quicker than we've seen a Ferrari 458 Italia lap with a pro driver at the wheel.
"It did it over and over again," Keen said, parked on pit road.
"A lot of street cars, they just go away into oversteer. You can drive this like a race car—give a little more, it gives you a little more." He then left in a dump-clutch launch, the engine all gruffaWHONGA, and went to drift down the Corkscrew for photographer Evan Klein. The noise made my kidneys itch.
Nothing feels like an old 911 at Laguna.
The track is wide and fast, but the landscape makes it seem narrow, so you can do silly things in safety and retain a sensation of speed. And old 911s just prompt silly things. I climbed in after Keen's lapping. It took me a few minutes to put the couture visuals and tired Hoosiers out of my mind. (Truth is, I liked the Michelin PS2s better and wish I'd tried them on the track—it would've been slower, but there was more jazz when the car lost grip.)
But the speed didn't matter. MacNeil's car was loose when I wanted, tidy and predictable when I didn't. You could bend it into a corner on the brakes like any 911, cleanly pinning the nose, chasing tenths like a science experiment. The car was always there, always forgiving, almost free of roll yet compliant enough to stay perpetually calm. The engine, removed from the constraints of speed limits, was so gut-wrenchingly addictive, it felt wrong. Wicked response, gargling on the overrun. Third gear would occasionally smoke the tires in a straight line. The whole car seemed weightless.
Just after Rainey curve, Laguna's downhill, off-camber left, I was reminded of the old line about 911s: They do exactly what you ask, even if that's the wrong thing. Moments later, I turned in early for Turn 11 on purpose. I felt sheepish but knew I wouldn't have another chance, so I lifted, waited for the rear to jack, and whacked my foot back into the throttle. The 911 wound its tail toward the curb in a happy little smear of a slide, and I flung the lever into third gear.
My body felt warm and gooey, like melted caramel. It was time to stop. I did a cool-down lap, parked in the sunlight, and sat there inhaling the interior. Which is when I saw Dickinson walking over, clapping and grinning like a shot fox.
"We just want people to drive the damn things," he said.
A few weeks after Laguna, a friend asked me if Dickinson's cars were "worth it." If a Singerized 911 is a sort of Porsche tribute band, he said, would I prefer one over the older, more expensive stuff it salutes?
At the risk of being crass, it depends on how you like to park your money. The average Singer customer spends well north of the $390,000 starting price to have their car restored. If you can afford that, you can probably swing an investment-grade vintage 911—a 934, maybe a 2.7 Carrera RS. That experience would be arguably more pure, because those cars are singular and historic. They built the legend, and no one's making any more.
Personally, though, if I owned those things, I'd want to drive them. In an age when classic-car values can discourage actual use, that's no small thing.
The car on these pages is special but ultimately reproducible. If you kill a 2.7 RS in an accident, history dies. Porsche 964s fall off trees by comparison; murder one of Dickinson's, he'll make you another, with soul like the RS but far more comfort. It's the ultimate kind of luxury product—an ordinary object allowed to become the most impractically great form of itself. It's also a simplification, and simplified things are inherently satisfying.
Paradoxically, all of this comes from a guy who eschews complex answers. Like brass-plated aluminum lug nuts, which our test car has. When I noted their yellowish glint during photography, Dickinson almost looked embarrassed.
"Yeah. They look too precious off the car, but once they're on . . ." He shrugged. "They just pop, you know?"
You don't expect to like someone who makes precious wheel lugs. But he's just a guy in love with the idea of a car. And when you drive the thing, you go right along with him.
Special thanks to David MacNeil.