Inside the Mind of Porsche Fanatic Magnus Walker

Photograph Courtesy Magnus Walker

Story by Dan Scanlan • Photography as Credited

The left arm hangs out of the new metallic brown Porsche 911’s window as it passes, a red-patterned shirt hiding an inked sleeve with tattoos of an American eagle, a screaming Thrush muffler bird logo, and flames flowing from under the driver’s black chronograph.

Then Magnus Walker unfolds his lanky frame from the Carrera, wearing a bowler hat with an Urban Outlaw sticker stuck in the hatband. Under it drapes, long, dreadlocked hair, one braided strand hanging down to his left knee. He’s definitely a standout here at the Ponte Vedra Auto Show on Northeast Florida’s coast.

Walker, who bought the first of now dozens of Porsche 911s in 1992 as a 25-year-old ex-pat Brit living in Los Angeles, went straight to a low-slung 1972 model parked in the grass nearby. It’s one of his creations, the STRII as he calls it, built the way he wanted it. And it’s not the bearded man’s first dance with the rear-engined sports coupe from Stuttgart: Walker has more than 40, some “sports purpose” streetable track-type 911s he’s remade himself.

Walker, his voice soft with a lilt of England still in it, said there is really no method to what he builds. It’s just his personal interpretation of his favorite Porsches of the mid-’60s to early ’70s. They are all a bit subtle, products of a personal challenge to keep building things that he personally wants to build and cars he wants to drive with a goal of “pleasing myself.”

I guess the method is that the current car I am building, of course, has to surpass the car I built before. It is sort of like a band putting out their first album. The follow-up album is slightly daunting because you sort of want it to be better than the one before,” he says. “For me, the STR sort of set my benchmark as high as it has ever been personally for a car that I had built. It just came out very well and the timing was perfect. It got a lot of notoriety. So the follow-up car is a short-wheelbase car with a narrow body.”


Photograph Courtesy Magnus Walker

Walker grew up in Sheffield, a north-central borough in England. He admits his passion for Porsches began during a visit as a 10-year-old to the Earl’s Court Motor Show in London. Before him lay a white 1978 Porsche 911 Turbo 3.3 Martini, with its red and blue side stripe not unlike the car he had on a bedroom poster.

He wrote a letter to Porsche, saying he wanted to be one of its designers. They apparently responded: Call us when you get older.

Wanderlust hit Walker hard as a teen, and he headed west to America in 1986 at age 19. He hung out on the East Coast for a while as a camp counselor, then headed westward again–by bus and for good. His new life was in Los Angeles, where he started selling customized second-hand clothing in Venice in 1989. That first 911 was bought for $12,000 when he was 25.

His California clothing line took off, and when he married wife Karen in 1994, they began a fashion label called Serious Clothing. The expanding apparel business allowed Walker to fulfill his love of cars; a collection soon grew. But memories of Earl’s Court crystalized his desires, and he became a Porsche Club member in 2001.

Now the bearded one owns one of each of the long-hood 911s from 1964 to 1973. He’s done track days in them, raced them, even trained other owners in the ways of the rear-engine car. 

Finally, Magnus began building his visions of what the best 911 should be. He calls them “sports purpose”– streetable track type cars, or “outlaws.”

Filmmaker Tamir Moscovici did a 32-minute film about Magnus’s obsession; it’s called “Urban Outlaw,” and shows Walker in many of his stock and personally fiddled 911s. The latter carry his signature design marks, like turn signals that flow into the body, gentle lowering, louvered rear deck lids, drilled door handles, minor-to-luscious flares, and attention to detail. Many of his cars have twin sets of round R-model taillights cleanly grafted into the smoothed-out rounded rear corners. And oh, yes, there’s that great air-cooled wail from an enhanced exhaust system.

Why a 911?

At one time the Walker car collection included a 1965 Shelby GT350R, a 1967 E-Type Jaguar, a Super Bee, a 1973 Lotus Europa Twin Cam, a 1979 Ferrari 308GTB, and “three or four other Porsches,” Magnus recalled. He said the Lotus was nimble, but “underpowered and nobody saw it.” The Shelby Mustang was “sort of good in a straight line but didn’t go around corners.”

The E-Type “was a great cruiser,” while the Super Bee was “spectacular” in a straight line, and the 308 “just sort of paled in comparison” to the Porsche.


Photograph Courtesy Magnus Walker

“We liked variety and that collection at the time covered European sports cars and American muscle cars. All those cars were sort of good at one or two things. But the Porsche was good at almost everything,” he said. “Why Porsche? Why 911? Just durable, versatile, reliable, practical and a boatload of fun to drive. I couldn’t actually say that about every one of those other cars. They might have excelled at one or two things.”

The 911 offered an excellent soundtrack, as well as top-notch driving position, visibility and performance. But Walker wanted a bit more from his 911s, so he began the subtle modification of a few. 

Reuniting With an Old Friend

The one he checks out at the Ponte Vedra show is a bit famous, and no longer his. Called the “STRII,” the former magazine cover car sold for $302,500 to the Bob Ingram collection in Durham, North Carolina. Parked on the grass near the Brumos Porsche tent, it’s got neat touches artfully done, like five vent holes in the slim passenger-side bumper, drilled door handles, classic old-style taillights frenched into the bodywork, and some lovely vents in a V-shape on the rear decklid.

Walker says he remakes the cars as “an artistic interpretation,” something that dates back to his clothing design days and the life that has evolved in LA.

“The buildings that we have owned and renovated, and the Porsches that I have designed and built and restored, all have that common thread of following your own gut feeling and going your own way,” he says. “Porsche did such a great job with the 911 to begin with that I was not looking to improve that. I just wanted to add my own individual tweaks to what is obviously instantly recognizable as a 911. But it’s the little details that sort of separate it from the other cars. Some of it is subtle, some are maybe not quite as subtle.”

He described it as “my own twist on sort of a classic shape” and said he worked to make it appear like the car might have left that factory that way in the late ’60s or early ’70s.

“I am not trying to make it look too modern, but obviously just interpreting my vision of the R and STR into one car.”


Photograh Courtesy Magnus Walker

So what’s STRII got?

A 3.2-liter SOHC air-cooled, flat-six engine with Bosch mechanical fuel injection that gives about 275 horsepower, hooked to a five-speed manual gearbox and a limited-slip diff. 

There are turn signals smoothed into the front fenders, and a center-hood gas tank filler with a drilled cap. There are some gorgeous gold Group 4 wheels wrapped with Hoosier slicks, Walker’s handmade leather door pull straps, and a meaty wooden gearshift ball knob. And there’s an earlier 911 screw-in rear-view mirror, another trademark of his builds.

Walker says there is a method to his madness when he modifies his 911s, and it stems from his “British bulldog tenacious spirit of never giving up” as well as America teaching him about “freedom and anything is possible.”

“And I never listened to people who said no,” he adds. “The great thing about coming to America is that it is the land of opportunity. I think that if I had stayed in England, this never would have happened because it is not quite as free there. So how do I do it? I have a loving, supportive wife; I put 12 to 14 hours a day in; and I never give up. I find a way.”

He said he didn’t give up when he tried to find a 1964 Porsche 911, one of only 68 made; he found one.

“So I still ask a lot of questions and I take a lot of risks. I have got along on a lot of ‘leap of faith gut feelings,’ and I always say ‘determination, motivation and passing make up for a lot,’” Walker says. “I left school at 15 with not a lot of education, but I have always followed my gut. I’ve never asked other people’s opinions on ‘Do you think I should do this?’ I have always known it either feels right or it doesn’t and that keeps me motivated.”

He says the way he redoes his 911s is a personal thing, which prompts the question: What is style?

 “Style is bit like design; it is an individual thing,” he says, reminding us that he builds the 911s for himself and usually not for sale.

“With Serious Clothing, we were always known for setting the trends, not following the trends. To a certain degree, I have done that with my Porsche builds,” he explains. “I don’t look to emulate exactly what the Porsche factory did. I am not replicating or cloning the car exactly. I am putting my own style on it. Style is personal interpretation. Style is not necessarily something that can be taught. People can follow a style, but setting a trend is a little bit different and that only comes out of representing your own personal tastes and expressing that in a stylish way.”

Keeping It Fun

Walker spent part of the weekend in Ponte Vedra playing with his old 911 and a few of the cars from the Brumos Collection. He showed everyone a smartphone video of one of the drives, the wail of a 911 overheard all weekend long as others watched it in his hand. He hung out at an autograph session with multi-time endurance champion Hurley Haywood, even wearing temporary Brumos tattoos on his hands as the two posed for photos, fingers raised in devil’s horns gestures. 


Photography Credit: Dan Scanlan

As the STRII was parked on the clubhouse lawn for ceremonies, he plucked an ice-cold Heineken off its port bow and got down in the grass for some photos. This L.A. car guy says he’s just loving life: “don’t overcomplicate it, don’t over-think it.”


Photography Credit: Dan Scanlan

“I take opportunities that come my way and I say yes 95 percent of the time, so I often say that I am on this journey on the open road and I am not sure where it’s going, but I am trying to live life to the fullest and trying to do things my way, my style and my own pace. I am not really too concerned what other people think about that. I just like to do things that make me happy and like to express my individual style in my own way, which is sort of building these sport purpose streetable track Porsches.”

If you want to see how Walker applies some of his signature touches, as well as check out his latest project cars, go to www.magnuswalker911.com. The “Urban Outlaw” film can be viewed at  urbanoutlaw.tv.


Photograph Courtesy Magnus Walker

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Comments
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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/6/20 9:37 a.m.

And a sort of related story. File this as well under driving your Porsche everywhere: Mark Pribanic and his 356. When we caught up with him, the odometer showed 280,000 miles. And he's covered many miles since. 

DjGreggieP
DjGreggieP Reader
3/6/20 10:45 a.m.

I have the 277 Hot-Wheels hanging on my wall. He is a man I would love to meet someday, I think I need to take a long long road trip someday soon when my car is ready for the road again.

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia Dork
3/6/20 12:21 p.m.

I talked with Magnus Saturday  at the Porsche show , I have known him forever but just in passing ,  we would see each other at shows etc 

interesting guy  , works hard and deserves  the credit !

_
_ Dork
3/6/20 3:33 p.m.

I really wanna buy him a haircut. Cool guy, just needs a haircut. And a shampoo. 

fatallightning
fatallightning Reader
3/6/20 3:56 p.m.

A++ dude all aroound, always been gracious and down to conversate. Also sang a Sisters of Mercy song with me, so I know he's good people.

 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/6/20 10:56 p.m.

In reply to fatallightning :

Rock the f' on. 

loosecannon
loosecannon SuperDork
3/7/20 5:13 a.m.

I'm sorry, I can't get past the hair. 

AnthonyGS
AnthonyGS Dork
3/9/20 1:34 p.m.

Love the cars.  I wish I'd have gotten into air cooled 911s when they were affordable too.

parker
parker Reader
3/9/20 2:38 p.m.
AnthonyGS said:

Love the cars.  I wish I'd have gotten into air cooled 911s when they were affordable too.

I wish I hadn't sold mine while they were still affordable

 

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
3/9/20 4:22 p.m.
loosecannon said:

I'm sorry, I can't get past the hair. 

That's unfortunate. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/9/20 5:00 p.m.
Appleseed said:
loosecannon said:

I'm sorry, I can't get past the hair. 

That's unfortunate. 

Yup.

pimpm3
pimpm3 UltraDork
3/9/20 6:22 p.m.

Mark is actually my neighbor.  I used to drive past his house every day on the way to work.  (They are rebuilding the bridge into my neighborhood so I have to go a different route at the moment.)

He was on the ferry Saturday morning on the way to cars and coffee.

And a gratuitous shot of my air cooled 6 cylinder before I took the Porsche pictures.

Purple Frog
Purple Frog Reader
3/9/20 6:36 p.m.

Magnus.

I get it.  He is one of those fortunate ones that has been smart enough to use the technology available to express in terms understandable to those of us that also get it, the real joy of driving a lightweight sports car.  I applaud him for his presentation on all levels.

Funny thing about how he affected my life.  My mid-engine beetle was built for the installation of an air-cooled 911 six banger.  When the build started we had a air-cooled 6.  Back then folks were pulling them out of old cars and upgrading.  The air-cooled engines were reasonable units. Then, along comes Magnus.  He makes Air-cooled cool again.  Our engine became so frekin' valuable we couldn't in good sense put it in the build.

So now I'm stuck with a Raby built 2300 four banger... that causes the front wheels to not want to touch the pavement at 110 mph.  I can't imagine what the 6 banger would have been like.

Still, struggle to get past the hair when its in dreadlocks.

Hasbro
Hasbro SuperDork
3/9/20 9:07 p.m.

So now I'm stuck with a Raby built 2300 four banger...

I have absolutely no sympathy for you.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/9/20 9:21 p.m.

In reply to pimpm3 :

And I rode back with him Sunday evening. smiley

pimpm3
pimpm3 UltraDork
3/9/20 9:34 p.m.

Nice!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/9/20 9:46 p.m.

Somehow we got parked right behind Mark even though we didn't line up right behind him. Maybe the parking dude knew. 

Ransom
Ransom UltimaDork
3/10/20 10:28 a.m.
fatallightning said:

Also sang a Sisters of Mercy song with me, so I know he's good people.

You just made my day. That's awesome.

fsheff
fsheff New Reader
3/19/20 7:08 p.m.

Magnus Walker at McQueen Show, 2015  

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/20/20 9:43 a.m.

While cleaning up some stuff in my home office, I uncovered this. 

nderwater
nderwater UltimaDork
3/20/20 10:19 a.m.

It's a short list of car guys who have their own Hot Wheels. That's a great looking car too.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/20/20 11:17 a.m.

In reply to nderwater :

Several years ago, we were heading over to the Las Vegas Convention Center for SEMA. It was the day before, I think, so maybe we were going to get our badges. 

Anyway, I heard something with a "good" exhaust note heading our way.

It was Magnus in the 911.

The next day, it was on display on the show floor.

fatallightning
fatallightning Reader
3/20/20 10:25 p.m.
Ransom said:
fatallightning said:

Also sang a Sisters of Mercy song with me, so I know he's good people.

You just made my day. That's awesome.

Flynlow
Flynlow HalfDork
3/21/20 1:04 p.m.

Cool dude.  Personal story:  I worked with him at a booth in SEMA.  Prior to that, I sort of knew him, but had no opinion one way or another.  My respect for him went WAY up that day.  There were quite a few other "personalities" there, and many were pleasant on stage, and celebrity needy (aka rude) offstage.  They turned on the charm for their time commitment, then wanted out of there as quickly as possible.  Magnus showed up early, just to get the lay of the land so he knew the procedure.  Then, when we cut off the line (politely) about 10 minutes before his signing session was up, he walked out to the booth girl and ask what was going on.  She told him they needed to cut it there so he could be done on time, and he say he's happy to stay longer, these people waited to see him.  Even after he was done for the day and just wandering around, people would stop and ask for pictures, and he always had a smile and humored them.  I know I would get tired of being interrupted like that, but he shrugged it off like it was no big deal, for hours.  His wife is also a class act. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/21/20 1:18 p.m.

Very cool story. A few years ago, also at SEMA and right when he was becoming a name, he wandered by our booth--and just hung out for a while. 

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