The Future of “Reimagined”

Singer and Eagle have once again redefined what to expect from the best re-engineered classics

What should we call a classic car that has been restored and re-engineered way beyond its original quality and specification, to become essentially an all-new car? And how can that car be described without raising eyebrows in the legal departments of major car manufacturers?

We’re not talking merely “tuned” or “modified” here. We’re talking “Reimagined,” to steal the term that Singer Vehicle Design coined for its work on air-cooled Porsches. This is how Singer describes it: “The delicacy of the ’63 original, the race-bred chic of the ’70s, the solidity of the ’80s, and the sophistication of the ’90s are reimagined in a singular jewel-like car.”

Singer’s Reimagined 911s use carbon-fiber panels to give the 1990s 964 a 1970s look. This is the “Miami” commission. Photo: Singer Vehicle Design

In practice, Singer’s Reimagined 911s offer supercar performance and exemplary build quality for an eye-watering but justifiable half a million dollars-plus each. And there’s a waiting list. The company bases its conversions on early 964-era 911s, because 30,000 964s were made over the production run. The earlier models are stronger, smaller, lighter, and built to a higher standard than other models, and they do without the complicated electronics of later models. Plus, the rear suspension is still the trailing arm set-up that helps define the feel of a classic Porsche.

And from that point just about every part is replaced either by bits from a later model or something custom-made by Singer to a much higher quality than the original. Every panel except the doors is replaced with subtly restyled carbon-fiber equivalents, and the mechanical parts are entirely reworked, with the choice of one of three 964-based engines from 300 hp to 390 hp.

The last Singer I drove was a 4.0-liter, 390 hp Targa, capable of a 3.3 second 0-60 mph time and a 176 mph top speed. Singer founder Rob Dickinson pointed out that he didn’t think the original distinctive Targa “hoop” was good enough, so he commissioned replacements made in nickel-plated carbon fiber. At the end of it all I wrote, “It’s a car that makes me feel like a racer, a hero, and an excited child, all at once.” I’d never have written that about a stock 964.

Other companies do similar work: In the Porsche world alone there’s Emory Motorsports, Workshop 5001, Paul Stephens, RPM Technik, and many, many more. Outside of Porsches, many such companies have been around much longer than Singer’s eleven years.

Eagle’s latest creation, the Lightweight GT, takes the best of the Series 1 E-type and adds luxury and quality. Photo: Eagle E-types

Think of the UK’s renowned Eagle E-types, which changed the landscape for classic Jaguars. Founded more than 30 years ago, Eagle started by ironing out those little E-type faults – the brakes, the cooling – and progressed to fully re-engineered E-types and even subtly restyled, alloy-bodied reinterpretations, such as the Speedster, the Spyder GT, the Low Drag GT (Eagle’s take on the original Low Drag Coupé) and the new Lightweight GT for similar money to a Singer.

In 2011, the Speedster was described by Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson as “the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” and the GT Lightweight is already receiving rave reviews. All are based on Series 1 E-types, but with carefully tweaked curves to the new aluminum panels. Eagle’s all-aluminum recreation of the original iron block six-cylinder XK unit (running either triple SU carburetors or throttle bodies) has mapped ignition and produces between 310 hp and 380 hp. The transmission is an aluminum-case, five-speed gearbox conversion, matched with an alloy-case Power Lock differential, and of course suspension and brakes are all new.

The aluminum-bodied Lightweight GT is Eagle’s take on the classic Lightweight E-type – but faster, lighter, stronger, and safer. Photo: Eagle E-types

After driving one in 2018, I wrote that “The Speedster here is the best E-type we’ve ever driven, bar none; a light, simple, analogue sports car that turns rocket ship when pushed hard. At the risk of sounding a bit over-excited…we love it!”

In Germany, Kienle takes classic Mercedes and re-engineers them to the highest standards, with modern luxuries. And back in the UK again, Alfaholics now produces 105-series Giulias in all-new carbon-fiber bodyshells, while Redux builds the most astonishing BMW E30s, far beyond mere restorations. Meanwhile in the USA, fully re-engineered classic muscle cars abound, using brand-new, out-of-the-crate V8s with fuel injection and full engine management, and Icon 4×4 creates the finest Toyota FJs and Ford Broncos you could possibly imagine (or reimagine).

Redux is now creating re-engineered BMW E30s to extremely high standards. Photo: Redux

All these cars are faster, better handling, safer, more comfortable, and much better built than the originals. But of course they’re not original, and in almost every case the re-engineering is so comprehensive that a return to originality would not be possible. And when originality is sacrificed, there will always be detractors. That’s just personal taste, and there’s no right or wrong to it, particularly when you consider the sheer numbers that so many of these cars exist in: As already pointed out, a Singer is based around a 964 rather than, say, a pre-73 or a 930 Turbo. Eagle would be unlikely to convert a very early flat-floor E-type, and Alfaholics wouldn’t mess with an original GTA.

The other fear is of decreasing values and desirability. Will a re-engineered classic become unfashionable? Perhaps it will for a while, but look farther back into history and think of the most desirable versions of particular models. A 911? Surely a Ruf is up there with the best. A Mercedes SL? Brabus or AMG. A Mustang? Of course a Shelby is the Holy Grail. BMW? Alpina. And so it goes on. We’ve been so busy chin-scratching over the new breed of “reimagined” classics that we’re in danger of forgetting the old masters that have been at it for decades.

It’s rare for Eagles, Singers, and the like to come up for sale, but when they do, they achieve strong prices, a chance to buy something special without having to wait for a new build. Once again, look farther back and you will see that, say, a Ruf 911 BTR, BTR 3.8, or BTR 2 can command twice the price of an equivalent example of the model it was based on (an SC, 964, or 993, respectively).

Hagerty, the classic-car insurance company that monitors prices worldwide, has also noticed an interesting trend since the overall collector-car market started to level off during 2019: modified classics, recreations, and replicas are creeping up in price, against the general trend. Hagerty’s conclusion? That once again, classic cars are being bought for pleasure rather than investment.

The Outlaw-style Porsche 365s built by Emory Motorsports are entirely reengineered by the California-based company. Photo: Emory Motorsports

All this bodes well for the future of the best re-engineered, “reimagined” creations. With major suppliers getting in on the act, producing – for example – modern throttle bodies that look like original carburetors, tire companies working with the car builder to develop the perfect specifications (witness Michelin and Singer working together on the latter’s new DLS), and the quality of aftermarket upgrade parts improving all the time, there’s no longer any excuse for shoddy, mismatched components.

More than ever before, buyers want the very best from their classics. No oil leaks, no misfires, no annoying little glitches. No rust. And these cars offer the very best of that.

Singer remakes all the interior fittings, even the switches. The column stalks are available in different shapes to suit personal tastes. Photo: Singer Vehicle Design

The engine in Singer’s “Florida” commission is a 964-based, 390 hp, 4-liter, air-cooled flat-six. Photo: Singer Vehicle Design