Opinion: It’s time to stop the retro backdates
Earlier this week I had to the opportunity to nose around the premises of a well-respected Porsche 911 specialist. Amongst the immaculate metal in the pristine showroom and a few lightly modified track cars in the main workshop, there was one neinelfer that caught my eye.
Covered in vast swathes of blue cellophane to protect the freshly sprayed, classically hued paint, the car (sans interior, windows, and doors) sat tucked away in a separate room around the back, hidden from the prying eyes of the general public.
The proportions immediately suggested this was a Porsche 964 Carrera of some ilk, yet on closer inspection, a pair of classic, chromed horn grills coupled with a long-nose hood (along with a set of the ubiquitous Fuchs-style wheels) started alarm bells ringing.
It was a retro backdate project and, where 12 months ago I’d be intrigued by this pre-impact bumper pastiche, I now had to physically prevent myself from rolling my eyes at yet another 911 (specifically a 964) converted into a piece of bespoke automotive jewellery.
You see, over the past year or two the fashion for backdating a 3.2 Carrera or a 964 has become big business as Porsche 911 enthusiasts search for exclusivity of the highest order – and what’s more exclusive than a car built to your own exacting specification?
PS AutoArt (one of the originators of this bespoke style) and Singer (arguably the masters of the art) have been a huge driving factor behind this trend, expertly mixing classic visuals and driving experience, with modern usability and comfort, all wrapped up in a superbly tailored, unique package.
When I put it like that, it sounds like a pretty appealing concept, and it certainly proved that way when I was offered the chance to drive PS AutoArt’s latest car in issue 116. The vision of proprietor, Paul Stephens and the Monaco-based customer had been expertly realised.
However, for every car with the quality of Singer or PS AutoArt, there have been numerous imitators (many of which are trying to emulate the style of these 911s without reaching similar insane budgets).
While I’m not saying the retro backdate I saw this week looked cheap (because it didn’t) but it certainly didn’t have quite the same insane level of detail (and subsequently costs) as a Porsche 911 restored and reimagined by Rob Dickinson’s crew in sunny California, something that was pointed out to me on the day.
Yet, the problem is, even if this retro backdate costs a quarter of the $500,000 that a Singer modified 911 costs, it will still be judged against the quality and the look of the latter because Singer is the undoubted gold standard on this side of the Porsche 911 world.
Therefore, everything other retro backdate simply pales in comparison to the extent that it has just become another fad within 911 culture. There are simply too many retro backdate projects floating around, and soon enough they will all lose the exclusivity that made them an inviting proposition in the first place.
It doesn’t matter if “it’s not a Singer” because it will still be judged as that in the eyes of many. It’s a car that strives for a look popularised by Rob and his team but is attempted to be realised on the fraction of a budget and, I’m afraid to say, it just can’t be done.
If people want bespoke Porsche 911s built for them, think of another avenue you can take to make it unique. Creating faux pre-impact bumper cars has already been done (and done well) so I urge people to carve out a new niche.
That way, the modifying scene will continue to move forward, breaking new boundaries and forcing everyone to up their standard of craftsmanship in order to keep up. Innovation is key and is something I want to see more of.