The start of a customer’s journey with the globally recognised luxury brand Singer Vehicle Design begins with each client providing a donor car – a fully road legal 1989-1994 Porsche 911 (964 chassis) Coupe or Targa for the basis of restoration and varying degrees of modification.
Imogen Howarth is an integral part of this process; she has been with Singer for more than four years and is now the Director of Specifications within Singer’s UK headquarters in Bristol. Having a keen interest in fashion and design, which is not common in someone with an engineering background, has given Imogen an eye for aesthetic details. Imogen works with the client from the very start to create a bespoke restoration and is still as excited by the final products created as she was on day one.
“Working directly with the client is brilliant and means that the process and the result is very personal. When you work on a product from concept through to completion it’s really rewarding to see the end result and the reaction of the client,” Imogen told Driven Women Magazine.
Singer Vehicle Design has earned a global reputation for meticulously researched and blended colours which they feel complement the classic curves of the machines they restore and typically recall some of the vivid hues pioneered in the 1960s and 70s. The finished vehicle comes with a bespoke interior that is reminiscent of the 1960s and 70s, the golden age of early car décor. Huge attention to detail is paid to present an interior rich in ambiance and finished with exquisite details.
“This interior treatment can be personalised in a number of different ways through the selection of certain optional materials and fittings. These items can alter the character of the interior towards a luxury or sporting intent or indeed any combination of the two,” said Imogen.
Growing up in the South Wales countryside Imogen loved science, maths and anything to do with design from a young age. She studied a combined Masters in Engineering with Product Design at The University of Liverpool and completed summer internships for a number of Engineering firms in between each year of study.
The first internship was with a Ministry of Defence contractor, working on renewable fuelled all-terrain vehicles. The second was with Jaguar Land Rover in the advanced engineering (research) division and this further ignited Imogen’s passion for all things automotive.
During her third summer, Imogen was on exchange in Hong Kong, which inspired an interest in technology businesses in the Pearl River Delta. A few months after completing her Masters degree Imogen returned and worked at a start up in Shenzen before starting a graduate scheme at Aston Martin Lagonda back in the United Kingdom. From there Imogen moved to Dyson and worked on its electric vehicle before starting at Singer Vehicle Design.
“I have always loved what Singer stands for and the incredible products they create, so when an opportunity came up to work on its interiors I jumped at the chance! It’s a wonderful role for me because it allows me to utilise both my creativity and engineering knowledge, whilst interacting with the end user to ensure we create a product perfectly suited to their individual lifestyle,” continued Imogen.
The creativity and flexibility are what Imogen loves most about her role as Singer’s Director of Specifications. Singer restores cars to client specification, which means that each one is totally unique to a specific individual.
“We distil their vision and personality into the cars and it’s really special to be a part of that. It also means every project is different so we are constantly learning, evolving and trying new things. No two cars have yet been alike. Sometimes I’ll come up with lots of ideas to get the ball rolling but the aim is always to get to a point where we are executing their vision in the best way possible,” Imogen explained.
Imogen is also involved with the 75 pre-sold vehicles resulting from Singer’s Dynamics and Lightweighting Study (DLS), which is all about the pursuit of the ultimate air-cooled Porsche 911. The project utilises the best materials and modern science available to take the performance of an automotive icon to entirely new levels through a ground up restoration. Simultaneously, Singer’s meticulous attention to detail and flair for design is showcased throughout, the result of which is spectacular according to Imogen – a project that included a technical partnership with renowned Williams Advanced Engineering of Formula One fame.
For Imogen, her career highlights so far have involved seeing the products she has worked on go to market and the response from consumers, the part she always finds really exciting. Imogen also loves the innovation and the early product development phase where ideas are being thrown around and there’s a lot of buzz and excitement around something new. But Imogen admits she has faced plenty of challenges in her career so far.
“The industry itself suffers from a severe gender imbalance which as a woman I have found incredibly challenging. From day one I have had to defy stereotypes, clearly demonstrate my capability and fight to be heard and taken seriously. It’s hard work but it’s critical that STEM careers move in a more balanced direction in the future and every individual challenging the convention makes a difference,” said Imogen.
Imogen believes there are loads of amazing opportunities in the automotive industry, and engineering more generally, and she hopes that more women and young girls will look at these fields with a different perspective in the future. These are sectors full of exciting and innovative careers where they can really make a difference.
Despite some challenges, Imogen Howarth has achieved many amazing highlights in her relatively short career to date. Having the opportunity to blend her interests in fashion and design with her engineering knowledge and expertise, Imogen has been a part of the restoration and modification of some of the most spectacular and coveted cars on the planet. Most recently, Singer was awarded the ‘Best International Specialist’ within the Porsche category by the UK’s 9WerksRadio. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Imogen and Singer Vehicle Design.
Photographs by Singer Vehicle Design.