Singer doesn’t do restoration jobs. The company isn’t about returning a car to factory-spec or showroom condition. Singer is about so much more than that.
‘Restored. Reimagined. Reborn’ – the company’s modus operandi pretty much nails the proposition. This is about taking an icon from the past and rebooting it for the modern world. Money-no-object stuff. No stone left unturned.
The Porsche 911 was an obvious choice for Singer, but the way in which the team approach each project is anything but straightforward. If you have the funds, Singer will build you a remastered 911.
We’re unlikely to be in a position to approach Singer with a brief, but that didn’t stop us from day-dreaming about the cars we’d like to see rebooted. We’re not saying these cars are iconic, but we would like to see them resurrected for a new generation.
Just think what could be achieved without the restrictions imposed by the marketing and finance departments and when you have the time to reevaluate every tiny detail of a car’s design and structure.
This would be like listening to your favourites tracks on vinyl, complete with the soothing warmth of the crackles, but using the very latest in headphones or speaker technology. So, without further ado, crackles or waffles, here are our top five Singers. Not ‘alf.
Saab 99 Turbo
It would be easy to roll out the tried-and-tested Saab stereotypes, slipping a few references to polo-neck jumpers and geography teachers into the copy. But Saab, and in particular the 99 Turbo, deserves more than that.
Without a turbocharger, the Saab 99 was destined to slip quietly into retirement with little fanfare – a staid and sturdy family car built in true Swedish tradition. But the Turbo changed everything, not just for Saab, but for the industry as a whole.
Launched at the back end of 1977, initial reviews were so gushing, Saab bosses were afraid of repeating them to avoid accusations of excessive bragging. How very Scandinavian. “We will remember it long after many of the elegant exotica have faded from our minds,” said Autocar in 1978, seemingly with one eye on this very feature forty years into the future.
The 99 offers a purity that is lacking in the 900, a testament to Sixten Sason’s pencil sketches and small wooden model of the mid-sixties. The Turbo did little to alter the clean and elegant lines, with a spoiler, spotlights and a TURBO badges the only visible clues to its potency.
Then, of course, you have the ‘Inca turbo-vane’ alloy wheels, designed to mimic the shape of turbocharger blades and unique to the 99 Turbo. How would Singer reimagine the ‘Inca’ wheel? It would be good to find out.
This would be a case of smoothing the edges and refining the details. The headlight wipers would be retained, as would the ducktail spoiler, but there’s room for improvement on the inside. For some reason, a set of carpets and door cards inspired by the Lava Orange option in the XC40 holds strong appeal, although the sinful nature of mixing Saab and Volvo designs has been noted.
If nothing else, it would be good to give Singer a call with a request to “make mine a 99”.
Mazda Eunos Cosmo
Mazda’s quest for world domination by playing ‘monkey tennis’ with new cars wasn’t without success. It left us with the legacy of the Eunos Cosmo, one of the most charismatic, elegant and forward-thinking vehicles of the 1990s.
Imagine, for a moment, that you were in the market for a luxury coupe in 1990. Faced with the option of the pensionable Jaguar XJ-S or the futuristic Eunos Cosmo, there was only going to be one winner (leaving aside the fact that the Mazda wasn’t officially offered in the UK).
Nearly three decades later – yes, you really are getting old – the Eunos Cosmo remains fresh and current. It has stood the test of time better than just about any other new car of the era, regardless of price or badge. Even without the Singer touch, the detailing is otherworldly, including the mirror-plate paintwork, an electroluminescent display, a thin line of elm wood running through the dashboard and the perfectly tailored leather.
Obviously, the 300hp triple-rotor Wankel engine is the beating heart of the Cosmo, but the car’s refinement and character could lend itself to an electric installation. Whatever, some folk would pay good money for a remastered Eunos Cosmo.
What’s cooler than a Range Rover, more versatile than a modern crossover and in danger of extinction? Answer: the Matra-Simca Rancho.
Like the Cosmo, the Rancho was way ahead of its time, offering the styling and practicality of an SUV, without the required off-road ability. A crossover before the crossover was even a thing.
Just imagine what a Singer-Simca Rancho would be like. Rust-proofed for future generations, powered by a modern and efficient engine, and blessed with the four-wheel-drive system it deserves.
Lancia Fulvia HF
Lancia teased us with a Fulvia concept in 2003. It was the most exciting thing to happen to the Mk2 Fiat Punto platform since… well, ever.
It didn’t matter that the 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine lacked fizz because the Fulvia concept weighed just 990kg, which gave it a decent turn of pace. That was the theory, anyway.
Sadly, despite reports that it might make production, the born-again Fulvia never made it beyond the concept stage, leaving Lancia to endure a slow and painful death surrounded by rebadged Chryslers and complete mediocrity.
It could have been great. The little three-box design was pert and elegant, while the interior was close to perfection. Small coupes might have been a dying breed in 2003 – the Ford Puma was approaching the end of its life – but the Fulvia concept could have been another retro-inspired cash cow for FCA.
FCA’s loss could be Singer’s gain, with the company free to weave some magic with the brilliant Fulvia HF of the 60s and 70s. This thing had it all – supreme good looks, keen dynamics and a rallying pedigree for good measure.
How could Singer improve on near-perfection? We’d like to find out, but we remain conflicted by the fact that an original must be sacrificed to satisfy one man’s flight of fancy. We have similar reservations about the reimagined Lancia Delta Integrale.
Maybe Fiat should do the right thing and get on with producing a limited-run Fulvia based on the 2003 concept – a delightful sister car for the Abarth 124 Spider. Perfezione.
This will prove to a controversial choice, not to mention a little surprising, but there’s a sense of unfinished business associated with the Gordon-Keeble GK1. Controversial, because just 100 were built, with 90 of them surviving today.
They were assembled near Southampton in a building famous for the production of the Supermarine Spitfire aircraft. Giorgetto Giugiaro penned the elegant lines, Bertone built the bodies and Chevrolet provided the V8 power. It had the makings of a fantastic GT car, but when production commenced in 1964 – four years after its launch at the Geneva Motor Show – the company struggled with financial difficulties and was liquidated in 1965.
The GK1 is ripe for a Singer overhaul – the Gordon-Keeble name is drenched in ‘cool Britannia’ majesty, making it perfect for the overseas market, while there’s plenty of room for improvement in terms of the build.
Exchanging the glass-fibre body for an aluminium shell would be a natural progression, as would a complete overhaul of the suspension, electrics, heating and ventilation. On the inside, replacing the vinyl with leather would be another improvement.
When the company was wound up, it had orders for a further 200 cars. Time to give the customers what they wanted?
And, what of the cars that didn’t make the cut? Imagine a Rover SD1 without the backdrop of industrial action, poor workmanship and donkey jackets. Or a Citroen AX GT for a new generation. Maybe even a Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3.
The list goes on. As does the inevitable day-dreaming that goes with it.
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