Our Newest Project: 1954 Singer Hot Rod

1954 Singer garage find

Yellow is my least favorite color, but for some reason we keep buying cars in the obnoxious hue. Our latest yellow acquisition is this 1954 Singer 4AD. There were only about 3,500 of these built, but for whatever reason I have already found two in my neck of the woods. The first one evaded me, but this one was meant to be. The seller inherited it from his father who had gotten it from his father. So, it had been in the family for a while. The grandfather was the one who built it into the little hot rod you see here, but the grandson has other interests besides old cars. They are headed to Alaska to work on a fishing boat and the proceeds from the sale will help them get there. They might be the wiser one here, but I bet Josh and I will end up having a lot more fun!

baja buggy seats

Singer built some high end race cars before the war, but by the time our SM roadster came along they were trying to compete with MG’s mass produced sports cars. They obviously didn’t sell as many cars as Morris Garages did, but their little roadster was actually faster and lighter than the TD. That can be attributed to a slightly larger engine and the use of aluminum in the body construction. To further differentiate themselves they also threw a seat in the back and marketed it as a family sports car. Well, real gear heads must not have wanted to bring the wife and kids along. The company was eventually absorbed into the Rootes group and then all but disappeared. So, seeing one today is a rare event indeed.

b18 engine

Especially one like this. The original 1500cc engine has been replaced by a Volvo B18. This isn’t just any old Volvo engine either! When we lifted the panel on the side of hood, we were surprised to find dual Weber carbs, custom headers, and an iPd valve cover. Someone knew what they were doing when they put this machine together. According to the seller, the engine hadn’t run in about 7 years so Josh and I went to work preparing everything for start up. There was oil in the crankcase so we pulled out the plugs and spun the engine for a few seconds to get the oil flowing. Then we topped off the rest of the fluids, added some new fuel, and hooked up a battery.

ready for a test drive

With a few stabs of the throttle that old girl fired right up! These Volvo lumps could be my favorite engine to resuscitate because they were so robust that they’re usually a breeze to get them coughing again. After rolling the car out of the garage and into the street, we tested the brakes, clutch, and emergency brake before jumping inside for a test drive around the block. We each took a turn and then let the owner give it one final blast before handing over the keys. They were grateful for the opportunity and shared some memories of summers past. They estimated that their grandfather built the car back in the sixties or seventies so it had been around for a while and the farewell had to be bittersweet for the whole family.

nerf bars

It needs some major sorting, but Josh and I quickly learned that this little roadster has some serious power! Even with the plugs fouled up and only running on 3 cylinders, that souped up 1.8 liter will easily chirp the tires on every launch. It also helps that the aluminum over ash body construction and lack of creature comforts keeps the weight extremely low. I have a feeling that after a quick tuneup and a fresh tank of gas, we are going to have a little hot rod on our hands. We aren’t exactly sure what we are going to do with this one as the Barn Finds fleet has quickly outgrown our garage space but, honestly, yellow is really starting to grow on me…


  1. Jeff Lavery Staff

    This may be my favorite car out of everything you have bought.

    Holy hell, I’m grinning all the way over here in lil Rhody. You did well, and I don’t even know what you paid for it. It was worth it.


  2. pbryantr

    From a yellow redblock-powered car to another yellow redblock-powered car. Good on you!

  3. Dave Wright

    You will have a steep learning curve, I have done nut and bolt restorations on 2 of these cars. Did you look at the brakes? They are hydraulic drums in the front and mechanical in the rear. They did not handle well with the orignal engine, I can only imagine what an extra 100 HP and several hundred pounds on the front end will do. Mine had the orignal over head cam engine, it is very small and light. Made something like 35-40 Hp. How are your carpentry skills? I have never seen one that didn’t require significant wood panal replacement. I bought my first one from a junk yard in Elko, it was on the top of a 30 foot pile of scrap cars. I thought at first it was a Morgan……..these post war Singers had no connection to the wonderful pre war lemans winning brethren. The orignal over head cam engine was interesting for its time……..but it is not a Morgan or MG.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Well, if you look closely, those aren’t Singer rims. The drums are hydraulic in the front and rear. I’m guessing that a 544 or 122 donated the whole drivetrain. Ours seems to handle and stop quite well actually!

  4. Horse Radish

    If I was the seller:
    I would have gone to the local lake and rent a boat to get that out of my system and KEEP the car.

    But You guys are the lucky winners….

  5. junkman Member

    Nice find I say drive it and tinker as she goes. Just remember to keep an eye well up the road in case the brakes aren’t what they should be. Have FUN.

  6. jlschmidt

    Here’s the yellow 1953 Singer from the Classic Car Collection in Kearney, Nebraska. That’s me in the annual Cruise Nite parade in downtown a couple years ago. Of the nearly 200 beautifully restored classic automobiles at the collection which I then managed, I chose this one to drive most often. Even with everything stock, it was a fun driver. Never had to worry about seeing another one at festivals or shows. Enjoy your new ride guys and drive it like you stole it!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Great looking car! Thanks for sharing.

    • kevin hogan

      hi I have just purchased a singer it has been coverted on back to look like a l manns I presume but drives great original engine ,I just hope I havnt paid to much cheers kevin Worcester

  7. That Guy

    Great find! I like the MG styling better, but these Singers are still cute little sports cars, and they have it all over the MG’s in the when-will-you-ever-see-another-one stakes. I look forward to future installments!

  8. JW454


    It only has to be yellow as long as you guys allow it to be. Have a ball with it. It looks like a fun ride.

  9. cory

    Wow, a spitfire an mgb and now this? You guys are definitely getting the lbc bug over there. Love the find. Nothing sounds better than side drafts

  10. Robert R. Member

    Well done!

  11. Vincent Habel

    I remember one of these sitting at a small service station when I was a teen. It was right hand drive. At first we thought it was a MG. it needed a lot of work.

  12. Bobsmyuncle

    I was genuinely confused how a Singer could end up a barn find…ohhh not THAT Singer.

  13. jim s

    i guess you will need to keep the brake drum puller. you can slowly return this to stock and put the motor in the volvo if you like. or keep it as the hotrod it is. either way is going to be a lot of fun. you now need to buy/build a bigger garage for the growing fleet. great find

  14. Shilo

    I love it. Color and all.

  15. Rob

    ~Only one ‘word’ comes to mind.. SPIFFY.. 【ツ】

  16. Clay Bryant

    I rode in one of these out in Seal Beach a couple years ago with an original engine.Ever rode in a Piper Cub J-3 taking off?Almost same sound.

  17. RickyM

    Great purchase guys. Hope you have an enormous amount of fun in it !

  18. Buzzy

    I’ve see a TD with B18 pretty tight fit. B-18’s rule. I’m a 50 year 544 owner.

  19. Jarl de Boer

    I drove and worked in my shop on several of these during the late 50s and early sixties. They were more fun and lighter to drive that T series MGs. For you historians, the MGs were SOHC as well but only up ’til 1935 (as my J-2 and PB) Looks like a great buy and a sympathetic modification! (PS, wanna buy a FIAT 124 roadster cheap?)

  20. rjc

    Great find guys!! I love yellow,
    I hope you have lots of fun with it.
    Look forward to updates.

  21. gunningbar

    Oh Yeah!
    Great find! Vintage..rare…triple the stock H P..British roadster….Oh Yeah!

  22. Keruth

    @Jarl de Boer, Where is the 124, and how cheap?
    I seem to recall a friend of my father having one of these, had to drive backwards to get it up Granger Hill (from Cuyahoga Valley Park, now)! LOL.
    Back when these were just cheap old cars and an acquired taste. ha ha
    Still have LBCs today, thanks Dad!.
    Yellow suites this very well! And I’d keep the Volvo running gear!

  23. Havenhearth

    Congratulations, Rocko! If you decide to seek a home for it –before or after you’ve had your fun– I know some Singer guys.

    Looks like a barrel full of monkeys. Enjoy!

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