What's With all the Reimagined Air-Cooled Porsche 911s?

Porsche will sell you the current state of the art 911 from just under €120,000, yet there are those buyers who would spend many times more on a reimagined classic 911.
911 Targa Reimagined by Stinger 16 photos
Photo: Stinger Vehicle Design
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Even though the latest 911, the 992, launched last year, is by many accounts the best 911 ever made, there are still those who would much rather have an old air-cooled 911 from the 1970s. And this is where a select few specialists come in - they understand the specific needs of this type of collector and their creations add modernity and supreme workmanship without ruining the classic 911 character.

These reimagined 911s offer a raw and unfiltered driving experience; they challenge the driver with their lack of modern safety amenities, such as traction and stability control, or even antilock brakes in some cases. One of the main points of attraction for this type of Porsche is the engine note provided by the air-cooled power plant slung out the back.

Porsche purists argue that there is nothing better than the soundtrack provided by an air-cooled six-pot. And they’re willing to pay more than you’d pay for some modern supercars to experience it in a clean, tidy and well thought out package.

Proof that this concept is highly popular is the success of Singer Vehicle Design, a shop that specializes in making exquisite reinterpretations of late 1980s 911s that can fetch upward of $500,000. If you are not familiar with the outfit and think it’s way too much money for what is essentially a decades-old 911 that’s been stripped and rebuilt (to a higher standard), then you probably haven’t seen just how much work goes into making a Singer.

It’s essentially a new car built by cherry-picking the very best components from later 911s and adapting them to work on the 1989 to 1994 Porsche 911 Coupe or Targa. The car’s monocoque is blasted back to the bare metal and many of the body panels are replaced.

The chassis is strengthened, the car’s aero is improved and steering system (sourced from a later 993, said to be “one of the finest in existence”), and brakes (also from the 993 or with optional bespoke carbon-ceramic rotors) are fitted. The suspension features KW coil-overs, but it can be upgraded to use Ohlins adjustable dampers.

Those who order a Stinger have several engine options to choose between: a 3.8-liter with 300 horsepower, the same unit uprated to 350 horsepower (this one comes with individual throttle bodies and it sounds even better) or a 4-liter 390 horsepower that promises to push the 911 from naught to 60 mph (96 km/h) in just 3.3 seconds and to 100 mph (160 km/h) in 8.2 seconds.

We couldn’t end this part about Singer if we didn’t talk about the interiors they create. Sure, they retain the style and feel of an old 911 from that period, but they are built to a much higher level of quality. Stinger interiors are true works of art that also happen to be functional.

Another garage whose creations have a similar philosophy is Workshop 5001. The cars that roll out of this Los Angeles-based shop are equally impressive, just in a different way. Whereas Stinger tries to impose a certain style on pretty much any car it makes, these guys try to keep each vehicle true to its original formula.

For instance, whereas Stinger fits pretty much all its projects with widened rear fenders, Workshop 5001 doesn’t necessarily do that, unless the car had them to begin with. They don’t even put flashy looking wheels on their cars, resorting to a very polished yet understated look - purists will immediately spot it as something special, but to the untrained eye it looks like a nicely painted but original 1970s 911.

The thing is, even though a Singer Porsche looks flashier than one made by Workshop 5001, it’s the latter that charges more for its cars. There is one particular project that’s known as the million-dollar 911, because that’s how much the guy who commissioned it paid for it. Sure, it might sound like a ludicrous amount to pay for an old Porsche, but given how much attention to detail went into making it, it’s worth every cent for the right affluent aficionado.

Another famous Porsche builder (although technically he's more of a collector) is Magnus Walker, known for his punk rock style and rebellious attitude. He’s been featured on Jay Leno’s Grage and Fifth Gear, but there are dozens of videos out there detailing his exploits.

Porschephiles unanimously agree that he gives a very unique touch to his builds, one that few Porsche customizers can match. In fact, Walker was so popular at one point that he was even featured in a documentary endorsed by Porsche, called “ Urban Outlaw - Rebel Porsche Customizer, “ proof that even the company that built the cars is on board with his ways.

As is the case with these 911 builds by some of the most famous 911 builders, Walker’s creations aren’t cheap either. When his old 1972 911 went to auction in March of 2019, it fetched $275,000.

And these are just a few - the most famous - examples of people and shops who specialize in making the original air-cooled 911 even better. The reason why they’re fetching such high prices has to do with the fact that there is a market for improved, reengineered and uprated 911 that retain the period feel. This probably couldn’t have been done with any other car (or it couldn’t have been done as successfully), proof that the cult following of early 911s is thriving.
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