Few would gasp at a hot-rodded Porsche 911. But examples from model years 1964 through 1973 have skyrocketed in price, leading to increasing pressure by collectors to keep them as original as possible.
Enter, of course, one irreverent Angeleno, downtown's Magnus Walker, who has taken his blowtorch to dozens of these precious old 911s and given them heavy-metal makeovers that include lowering, curvaceous fender flares, loud racing stripes and even louder exhaust systems. Inside you'll find vintage fashion pieces repurposed as door handles and other accessories.
Auto snobs have opened their minds and wallets. Walker has become a cause célèbre at some of the auto world's topmost blue-blood events, including the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, where last summer he sold a custom 1972 911T for $302,000 at an adjacent auction. He's owned about 50 or so similar cars, transforming nearly half of them with his rock & roll renovations.
Porsche itself, which has taken pains to polish its history, has invited Walker to become a sort of iconoclast spokesman. He appears - with his natty, dread-style hair, grease-monkey jeans and unkempt beard - in an upcoming Porsche commercial.
Walker has been on the cover of Road & Track and twice has been a guest on the YouTube series Jay Leno's Garage. He's collaborated with Nike, he's in preliminary negotiations to do a TED Talk, and he's speaking to Discovery about hosting a show.
Not bad for a poor boy from Sheffield, England, who at age 10 wrote a letter to the Porsche factory, expressing his interest in designing cars. Walker came to L.A. in 1989 with $200 in his pocket and saw success peddling used Levi's on the Venice boardwalk before parlaying that into his Serious brand clothing empire 25 years ago. "Now guys send me glove-box lids to sign," he says.
Walker's cars are so tooth-achingly sublime (quintessential car guy Leno said of the 911T, "It's like driving an orchestra") that he keeps a list of begging collectors on file for those rare times he decides to sell. A 1968 silver 911 went to a British rock star last year, Walker says.
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"There are people who have bigger, better cars, but no one has cars like this," he says. "People can relate to them. They're not perfect."
Walker does not do made-to-order. They're all essentially made for him. "Selling them is the worst part," he says, standing in his circa-1902 downtown Los Angeles Arts District warehouse-loft, which is filled with more than a dozen German beauties.
He and wife Karen also made a bundle renting out their warehouse-loft for film shoots (The Whole Ten Yards among them). So this whole Porsche thing was really just a money-burning hobby (including "getting tickets on Mulholland," he says). But then the 2012 Walker mini-doc Urban Outlaw resulted in so many calls and emails, he says, that he finally had to upgrade to a smartphone. Now his Porsche passion is a full-time career, and Walker says he needs an agent.