Think Porsche in motorsport and you will likely think Le Mans.
It’s a natural connection, forged by the manufacturer’s success at the prestigious French endurance race with an unmatched 19 overall victories since 1970. However, if you think 911 in motorsport, you should think rallying.
The announcement of the Singer Vehicle Design All-Terrain Competition Study (ACS) earlier this month has had the majority of the motoring world salivating at the idea of an off-road 911. This is Singer’s first competition study, and was created in conjunction with Tuthill Porsche in the UK, a renowned Porsche rally workshop.
It was a fitting decision by the California-based company, seeing that the very first competition Porsche 911s debuted on the Monte Carlo Rally in 1965, just two years after the car made its first public appearance in Frankfurt in 1963. The car finished fifth overall that year with Herbert Linge and Peter Falk.
In 1967, a factory-backed 911 claimed the European Rally Championship in the hands of Vic Eflord, with Pauli Toivonen (the late Henri’s father) matching that feat the following year. In 1968, Porsche took the first of three successive 1-2 finishes at the Monte, with Elford (’68) and Björn Waldegård (’69 and ’70).
In the years following this dominance, Porsche’s attention increasingly focused on their Le Mans program and their rallying efforts took a back seat.
It was an understandable decision by the Stuttgart company whose, lest we forget, sole purpose is to sell cars.
Rallying during this time was often considered the poor cousin of circuit-based motorsport by corporate types, and with Porsche’s primary export market being North America, a region where rallying was even less popular, you might also understand why they made this decision.
This was in spite of the 911 being quite a good rally car. In 1978, the 911 was once again victor on the Monte Carlo, this time with privateer pairing Jean-Pierre Nicolas and Vincent Laverne at the helm.
In the same year, a factory-entered 911 SC finished just behind Nicolas (driving a Peugeot 504) on the gruelling Safari Rally in Kenya.
By the mid-’80s, Porsche were once again venturing back out onto the rally stages. In co-operation with Prodrive, they established the Rothmans Porsche Rally Team.
Henri Toivonen’s 911 SC/RS finished second overall in the 1984 European Rally championship, with René Metge taking overall victory at the Dakar Rally in a 953.
Following the 953’s success, there was high expectations for the 959 when it debuted in 1985 on the Dakar. Still using the 953’s naturally aspirated flat-six, none of the three cars entered finished. But in 1986, with the cars now turbocharged, they stormed to a 1-2 victory with René Metge and Jacky Ickx.
1986 was also the year that spawned the legend of the third car, which was only entered as a support vehicle but finished sixth overall.
In late ’86, the end of Group B – which the 959 had been specifically developed for – spelled the end of Porsche’s works involvement in rallying.
While there have been privateer entries in the time since, the arrival of the FIA’s R-GT class has seen a popular return of the 911 to world rally stages, and has been the most significant development in recent Porsche rallying history. In 2014, Richard Tuthill (of the above mentioned Tuthill Porsche who co-developed the Singer ACS) gave Porsche its first WRC finish since 1984.
This history should help explain then why the ACS is such an appropriate vehicle for Singer, and why it goes so far beyond being ‘just’ a lifted 911. There’s not just the historical significance behind the car, but there should be a level of expectation, too.
What’s different here is the extremes that Singer and Tuthill have gone to for this special commission.
As is tradition with Singer, the base is a 911 Type 964 – but the similarities with the original car pretty much end there. The bespoke bodywork is custom carbon fibre with clam-shell openings front and rear, and is clearly reminiscent of the 959.
Twin custom long-travel suspension dampers on all four corners with double wishbones, full body strengthening and reinforcement with underbody protection, FIA-specification safety devices and two full spares only scratch the surface of the ACS.
We won’t even go into each and every detail which you have to expect from Singer.
Then there’s the power and drivetrain, a 3.6-litre twin-turbocharged flat-six producing 450hp through a permanent AWD system with plated LSDs and a 5-speed sequential gearbox.
The combination of Singer’s meticulous care for details and Tuthill’s vast experience in creating rally-winning Porsches is almost on odd one. Truth be told, I’m not sure I would take any other company (or companies) seriously if they presented this car to the public.
It should be oxymoronic as it’s a borderline luxury race car, but instead I find myself having complete faith in both Singer and Tuthill that it works. Had anyone else brought this exact car to the world, I think most would have considered it as a bit of a cash-in against Porsche speculators.
While two have been ordered by the original customer who commissioned this car, Singer will kindly sell you one as well. However, while they won’t give a price, it’s expected that you would need to bring a considerable seven-figure sum to the table.
It’s this last part which tends to polarise opinions the most. It’s a huge sum of money, so will we get to see one being used in the wilds of Kenya or tackling the Baja? I certainly hope so, and the images above paint a compelling picture for any potential buyer. You absolutely need to check out Singer’s video, too.
The history of the 911 in rallying sets high expectations not just of the capabilities of this car (which I’m sure is up to the task) but of its potential owners as well. Here’s hoping…
Photography by Singer Vehicle Design