RE: Singer Vehicle Design | PH Meets (Part II)

RE: Singer Vehicle Design | PH Meets (Part II)

Saturday 10th August

Singer Vehicle Design | PH Meets (Part II)

Rob Dickinson explains how Hans Mezger and Norbert Singer contributed to their DLS masterpiece



Singer Vehicle Design will celebrate its tenth anniversary at Monterey Car Week in California this month, where it'll once again display its Dynamics and Lightweighting Study show car at Monterey, a little over a year after it was first unveiled at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

When I sat down with company founder Rob Dickinson and managing director Maz Fawaz at Goodwood this year, they told me the first customer cars will be delivered before 2019 is out. The pair also spoke at length about how difficult it was to make the numbers add up, even though the $1.8m asking price looks enormous and 75 cars are being sold. But the part of the conversation that stayed with me didn't concern delivery dates or profit margins, rather the input of a couple of German fellows who know a thing or two about Porsches.

Reducing Hans Mezger and Norbert Singer's careers to a single sentence is a bit like explaining the big bang theory in a tweet. Which bits do you leave out? The latter arguably deserves more credit for Porsche's record 19 victories at Le Mans than any other individual. The former, meanwhile, led the design and development of the 917's flat-12 engine, as well as the flat-six that first powered the 911 GT1 to Le Mans victory in 1998 and would later be found in the rear of the first two generations of 911 GT3 and GT3 RS.


"It was my idea to contact those guys," says Rob. "I thought we couldn't do something like this [the Dynamics and Lightweighting Study] and not let the two dudes who had most to do with the air-cooled 911 know what we were up to. It seemed perverse not to. Through a lot of hard work we got through to them and they took us seriously. Yes, there was a sense it'd be good for us if we could say these guys had put their flinty eye over our car. But also, they're not going to be around forever and we wanted them to be included." And why not?

Dickinson's company is named after all, at least in part, in tribute to the legendary Porsche engineer.

Initially, the Singer Vehicle Design team visited the pair near Stuttgart for preliminary meetings. Later on, they flew Singer and Mezger to the UK and took them to Williams Advanced Engineering, Singer Vehicle Design's technical partner on the project. "They met Frank for the first time in 25 years, we proved there were some adults in the room and after that I think they felt this was a proper endeavour," comments Rob.


There are many ways in which the Dynamics and Lightweighting Study breaks new ground for air-cooled 911s. It has a custom double-wishbone front suspension arrangement, for instance, rather than simple struts. And following substantial reconfiguration, its ducktail spoiler actually produces meaningful downforce, rather than the modest amount it did in period. Perhaps most ambitiously, though, the car's engine, which is still air-cooled, features four-valve heads. That's a first for a 911. Mezger and his engineering colleagues considered the four-valve head concept several decades ago, but abandoned the project when they realised how expensive and time consuming it would be.

"They had spent a lot of time on it but never actually tried to build one," says Maz. "We'd heard a rumour it couldn't actually be done. Hans turned up to our first meeting with a leather folder full of drawings." Mezger, it turned out, was somewhat incredulous. "Yes, we tried this," says Rob in a staged German accent, mimicking the engine guru. "We abandoned it, it's stupid. Why do you want to do this?"

If you're very close to something or someone iconic, you can't possibly understand the extent to which that thing or person is idolised. To you, it's just normal. There must be a law that describes exactly that. I think of it like this: Adrian Newey's son probably doesn't look up to his old man like he's some sort of deity, the way a lot of us would. That's just his dad. So it is with Hans Mezger and Norbert Singer, who have been far too close to the 911 throughout their careers to see why it is so revered. Rob believes so, at least. "What's interesting about these two guys," he says, "is that they're absolutely non-plussed about why anybody would want to dick around with a 911 like this. That's laying it on a bit thick but there was a sense of, 'Why are you doing this? Go and do something more interesting than messing around with this ancient car.'"


"Hans seemed kind of stressed by the idea," adds Maz. "It definitely brought some stress into his life. Not Norbert: he was quite entertained by the whole thing." As a case in point, Mezger didn't see why Singer Vehicle Design wouldn't simply run water through the car's engine: after all, it'd solve all their problems. But the engine would no longer be air-cooled and for Rob and Maz, both of them hopeless early 911 evangelists, that was non-negotiable. Whereas engineers tend not to romanticise these things, enthusiasts cannot help themselves.

So what input did the two old timers actually have? "They gave us some important shortcuts at the beginning of the project," says Maz. "They told us exactly what problems we would have. And they were right about everything. What Norbert had to say about aerodynamics was really evident in our computational fluid dynamics. Most of the airflow at the back of an old 911 goes over the top of the ducktail spoiler, exactly like Norbert said." Using modern techniques and present-day understanding - which, of course, weren't available to Porsche five decades ago - Singer Vehicle Design and Williams were able to get the ducktail working.

For Rob, however, it wasn't Norbert Singer's input that was invaluable, but his seal of approval. "When Norbert saw the finished car," remembers Rob, almost misty-eyed, "he said to me, 'Well, it's perfect.' I kid you not, he said it was perfect. I picked myself up off the floor, then Norbert walked over to the car, took a few photographs of the engine, of the spoiler, and said, 'I'll see you again.' It was one of the best moments of my life."


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Author
Discussion

wab172uk

Original Poster:

1,354 posts

171 months

Saturday 10th August
quotequote all
Just Wow. Truly awesome cars. Would take one of these over the latest 4000bhp Hypercar

Gameface

9,417 posts

21 months

Saturday 10th August
quotequote all
Obviously a lovely thing but with their eye for detail and the cost of this model you'd think they'd blend those wheel arches in.

grumpy2068

2 posts

5 months

Saturday 10th August
quotequote all
having to wait for lottery win Just stunning

loveice

468 posts

191 months

Saturday 10th August
quotequote all
Gameface said:
Obviously a lovely thing but with their eye for detail and the cost of this model you'd think they'd blend those wheel arches in.
The regular Singers have blend-in wheel arches, in fact they are brand new pieces of carbon fibre wings.

For this model, Singer wants something looks more like the racing 911 of the 90s, hence, even though the wings are brand new carbon fibre ones, they decided to have separate arches for the look.

scottydoesntknow

80 posts

1 month

Saturday 10th August
quotequote all
They really are something else aren't they cloud9

Bright Halo

784 posts

179 months

Saturday 10th August
quotequote all
Absolutely gorgeous in concept and delivery
I still cannot understand the price tag though, my ignorance.

Escort3500

4,744 posts

89 months

Saturday 10th August
quotequote all
Gameface said:
Obviously a lovely thing but with their eye for detail and the cost of this model you'd think they'd blend those wheel arches in.
My first thought too on seeing the pics. They look tacky. Otherwise cloud9

je777

302 posts

48 months

Sunday 11th August
quotequote all
loveice said:
Gameface said:
Obviously a lovely thing but with their eye for detail and the cost of this model you'd think they'd blend those wheel arches in.
The regular Singers have blend-in wheel arches, in fact they are brand new pieces of carbon fibre wings.

For this model, Singer wants something looks more like the racing 911 of the 90s, hence, even though the wings are brand new carbon fibre ones, they decided to have separate arches for the look.
I'm absolutely with Gameface on this one, even if it is deliberate.
On the whole, I'd try to make it look as much like a regular singer as I could, probably - or, actually, I'd probably go for an rsr-type wing.
Although I'm sure Singer could create such a thing - at least I'm sure you can get them to blend the arches, at least.

PPPMAT

50 posts

174 months

Sunday 11th August
quotequote all
Automotive art - no wonder singer have been asked to turn their attention to other brands. Lottery win cars for sure

Gorbyrev

1,032 posts

98 months

Sunday 11th August
quotequote all
Great read and a cracking insight into what happens when a genuine enthusiast can find some way to make it all happen. At some point Monkey Harris will be lent the keys to one of these and joy will ensue for us all.

Gameface

9,417 posts

21 months

Sunday 11th August
quotequote all
He's already one their test drivers.

swisstoni

7,899 posts

223 months

Sunday 11th August
quotequote all
I love the cars and the people behind Singer seem to have their hearts in the right place.

But just really don’t like the fact that they got picked up by the ‘style’ fraternity and have become a fashion brand.

I suppose this is the inevitable path of ultra high-end stuff. Your stuff eventually falls into the hands of knobs.

Nevertheless I would love to see other marques idolised in the same way and seeing what the ultimate could be.

tommy1973s

244 posts

115 months

Sunday 11th August
quotequote all
No, the arches are proper - not much you can tell the lads about a/c 911 history; they are businessmen but also proper 911 anoraks and they really know their stuff and the history of the car is all its consumer and competition models and variants. Down-to-earth decent bunch too; wish them every success.

jorders500

15 posts

33 months

Sunday 11th August
quotequote all
Agree 100% with the first comment. Can’t be bothered to read about these ridiculously powerful new cars, especially the electric ones.

Oakman

163 posts

102 months

Monday 12th August
quotequote all
It also reads like Hans Mezger wasn’t that impressed.

This part 2 article is like the 1st, very thin on any real information.

Soundbite journalism.


SidewaysSi

5,505 posts

178 months

Monday 12th August
quotequote all
Gorbyrev said:
Great read and a cracking insight into what happens when a genuine enthusiast can find some way to make it all happen. At some point Monkey Harris will be lent the keys to one of these and joy will ensue for us all.
He was entitled the keys a few years ago. See YouTube.

Gameface

9,417 posts

21 months

Monday 12th August
quotequote all
Of the DLS?

WojaWabbit

864 posts

162 months

Monday 12th August
quotequote all
Harris, Marino Franchitti and Richard Tuthill are test drivers for the DLS project. The R&D on this car is more akin to a full-blown OEM programme. They have multiple test mules which are shipped around the world with a large team of engineers and the aforementioned pilots for extreme weather testing, on and off track and even off road on some occasions. That's where a fair chunk of the development budget is going.

I'm not sure I entirely believe the $500,000 door seals story but knowing what else has gone into this project I wouldn't put it past them. It really is something else.

Paracetamol

4,050 posts

188 months

Monday 12th August
quotequote all
WojaWabbit said:
I'm not sure I entirely believe the $500,000 door seals story but knowing what else has gone into this project I wouldn't put it past them. It really is something else.
Putting that into context- developing sheet metal/carbon fibre and door closures etc for the doors to correctly seal - plus the development to the actual doors would certainly swallow $500k. I got to see the door in detail and its a very modern closure and totally bespoke.

WojaWabbit

864 posts

162 months

Monday 12th August
quotequote all
Paracetamol said:
WojaWabbit said:
I'm not sure I entirely believe the $500,000 door seals story but knowing what else has gone into this project I wouldn't put it past them. It really is something else.
Putting that into context- developing sheet metal/carbon fibre and door closures etc for the doors to correctly seal - plus the development to the actual doors would certainly swallow $500k. I got to see the door in detail and its a very modern closure and totally bespoke.
Interesting. I read that they still used the original doors for strength & due to regional safety regs. That was maybe just for the Classic though. I guess the sort of customer who has $1.8m to throw around will expect bespoke doors!