Well-coiffed gents, stylishly clad women, and tiny lobster rolls set the scene at last week’s meticulously appointed grand opening of Porsche Centre Oakville. Among the crowd, however, one individual acted as a counter-balance to the evening's affairs. He responded to sartorial elegance with boots and plaid, to hairsprayed manes with dreadlocks, and to fragrant aftershave with facial hair far exceeding all rabbinical standards. In person he truly defines the term "Urban Outlaw", but I'll refer to him as Magnus Walker.
During the early part of the evening I had the chance to sit down with Magnus and discuss all things Porsche while in the presence of the 1971 #277 911. There were a few specific things I wanted to learn about his recent rise to online fame but to my surprise I came to an interesting conclusion about what a character like Magnus Walker represents within the bigger picture.
Does Magnus Have A Master Plan?
Uttering the words 'master plan' in a room full of very powerful German figures could have created an uncomfortable aura but I had to know if there was one behind Urban Outlaw. Walker explains that before his viral success he was essentially leading the same life that the Porsche community has now witnessed. At his warehouse in Los Angeles he had been working on early generation 911's when he was approached by Tamir Mascovici, Toronto resident and filmmaker, who wanted to create an edgy and short documentary for his reel. After a brief email conversation Tamir flew down to LA, purely on a leap of faith, and began shooting. We all know what happened after the release and Magnus stresses that even to this day he has not solicited a single request to any publication [We can attest to the fact that we've always been the one to approach Magnus]. To answer my first question, there was no master plan, and quite clearly, there still isn't. I was beginning to discover the type of person Magnus Walker is.
Is Overexposure A Concern?
His answers begin to bleed into the other questions I had prepared for the interview. I ask whether he is concerned about overexposure as it seems the outlaw image works best with a smaller following. Magnus declares that he simply does not give it a lot of thought.
"I used to get people coming up to me all the time saying 'Aren't you Rob Zombie?', now people come up to me and go 'Aren't you that Porsche guy?'"
He has, in fact, always been that atypical Porsche collector and not someone concerned about things like image, brand, niche marketing, or any other corporate lingo. It really is all about the cars. Passion is a term that should be reserved for people like Walker, and perhaps anyone else who has owned 40 911's over a 23 year period.
Glancing above Magnus's vintage baseball cap I notice a caterer setting up champagne glasses for the coming festivities. We get into a discussion about the connection between artists and cars as our voices become slightly drowned out by sound technicians obsessively searching for the perfect volume for the evening. This is when an idea dawns upon me. I sit speaking with a dreaded, bearded artist, in a rather contrived environment, about how rules and regulations have somewhat sapped the artistic vision in the car market. We continue, reflecting on early Turbos and conclude that technological regulations have robbed newer Turbos of their former coolness. That cool factor is attributable to the challenge of the drive says Walker, explaining how driving is an end in itself, a raw connection between man and machine. It strikes me that events like this do little to exemplify the philosophies, ideals, and principles of such a character.
The latter portion of the evening does little to change the above notion. We hear from executives who shower us with corporate bravado, speaking of plans for market dominance, diminishing trade barriers, and proliferation of green technology. While this is supremely important from a business perspective it isn't of much interest to our inner drivers, and it certainly does not involve any of the aforementioned coolness. I recall points made by Magnus about the open road, freedom, and the challenge of driving and note that such points are glaringly absent in this presentation. It strikes me that at times companies and customers alike can forget that driving is the very factor that unites us. Walker starkly contrasts the words of the presentations, operating purely out of love for the brand. Business jargon, while necessary in the boardroom, is the antithesis of what we love about Porsche and the joy of driving.
He's Good For Us As Enthusiasts And For The Brand
Magnus Walker's words speak volumes about the foundation upon which our enthusiasm is built. He is a reminder of why we love Porsche to begin with and for these reasons I was truly grateful to have had this opportunity. While grand opening events like this provide a chance to hear from the leaders of the industry, they require a character like Walker as a contrasting figure. It is through personalities like him that we can truly connect with that inner automotive affection that drives us. I do, however, appreciate the lobster rolls.
FULL TRANSCRIPT OF MICHAEL'S INTERVIEW IS BELOW
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Michael Stone: Most of our readers are already familiar with you so you don't need any introduction. My first question is, did you had any type of master plan behind Urban Outlaw, or was there one at all? If so, how has it affected your brand?
Magnus Walker: No no, there is still no master plan. I tell the story of Urban Outlaw, it's the familiar story of how we got approached by Toronto resident Tamir Mascovici, who was a Porsche fan and also a commercial film director who just wanted to create an edgy, short documentary for his reel. So we had a couple of phone conversations and an online handshake and he flew down to LA about 18 months ago on his frequent flyer miles on a leap of faith project.
MS: So it just kind of came together over night.
MW: Yeah, over night. We had no idea, we hadn't planned it, we didn't solicit it, and then once that came out it, of course, opened the door up to a lot more exposure. But even up to this day we've never solicited a single article or a single request for a show like Top Gear or Fifth Gear. I think my story is, I think there are three ingredients to it. One is, obviously it's the 50th Anniversary of the 911, everyone is talking about Porsche, you would have to be under a rock not to have heard about Porsche this year. But I think the interesting angle from a journalistic point of view is I'm obviously not your typical Porsche looking guy so it's an interesting take on a familiar story. Then when you factor in the cars that I've built, the cars themselves are pretty unique and pretty cool. So I think it's a combination of those three things plus I've got all the time in the world to talk to people and do interviews and go for drives and make videos. So I think that's why we have been able to get a lot of coverage all unsolicited.
MS: You're kind of just doing your thing, then the video happened...
MW: Yeah, we're basically just along for the ride. There's no master plan, we don't know where the road's taking us. We're up in Oakville for this dealership opening. I met Francesco a year ago when they happened to host an event for Porsche in conjunction with the LA Auto Show and just in passing he said 'Hey I'm opening up a dealership I would love to have you come up.' I didn't know anything about it and then, you know, almost a year later we're here. So stuff like that, there's no PR marketing company behind it, I'm just passionate about Porsche, I love being around Porsche and that's pretty much it.
MS: Very cool. You actually kind of touched on my second question because you mentioned exposure. What I'm wondering is for someone like yourself, with the rebel image, the outlaw image, you've gotten a lot of exposure lately. I think what you're doing works well in a niche market, so do you worry at all about being over exposed in a way that can damage that rebel brand a bit?
MW: Well I never really formed a rebel brand, I've looked like this a long time...
MS: Sorry, maybe I should say image rather than brand.
MW: I mean, I've never really thought about it. I used to get people coming up to me thinking I was Rob Zombie and now people come up to me and go 'Aren't you the Porsche guy?' You know, so I've never really thought about the image and the marketing end of things. I'm literally doing my thing, I'm in my own little bubble in a sense, I just don't over think it. What's happening now is it's going beyond the Porsche world and it's going to a bigger, wider, hot rod, what I like to call sports, import, tuner, fast and furious type guys who were never really Porsche guys but who are now following what I'm doing and they're getting interested in Porsche. So it's expanding beyond the Porsche market, it's also expanding into a lifestyle story because, you know, my background is fashion. I'm a collector, I'm a designer, I'm a builder. So it's just evolving into a wider market I guess but I don't really over think it or worry about it too much.
MS: When I was watching Urban Outlaw one part stuck in my mind when you said you wrote to Porsche as a kid and you said maybe one day I could be a designer for you guys. Looking back from where you are now, do you wish you would have maybe taken that route or are you happy with where you are right now? How do you see that split in the road from where you are now?
MW: Well writing a letter as a 10 year old to Porsche was a pipe dream and as a kid, you know, anything is possible. But then I became a teenager, sex, drugs, rock 'n roll, I got sidetracked. But buying my first Porsche almost 23 years ago was a real sense of achievement for me, you know it was a sense of accomplishment. And now, 35 years after I wrote that letter it's sort of come full circle. I got another letter back from Porsche, I finally visited Porsche in Stuttgart and toured the factory in Weissach, that was sort of enough. I mean I have the freedom to build whatever I want to build because I work for myself. In a bigger, more structured corporate world I don't know if that freedom would have been there so I've never second guessed anything I've ever done. I'm happy where I am with the freedom I have building my own stuff at my own pace and with my own style.
MS: Great. You're kind of leading into my next questions with your answers. The next thing I wanted to talk about was, in your interview with Jay Leno when you went to the Garage, I guess the first time you had been there, you touched on the benefits of artists working with cars. Do you think this link between artists and cars has been lost in recent years and with newer automobiles and do you think this connection is only present in the aftermarket?
MW: I think that connection is still there I think the difference between the aftermarket and what I would call the global corporate market is obviously, you know, the way I'm designing cars, what I'm building on, which are 40 year old cars, it's a different era of performance, a different era of safety I think in the corporate world of working for big, mega companies today, there's probably a lot of stuff that gets left on the drawing room floor because there are safety standards. Certain things need to get streamlined in order to meet modern safety standards. To answer your question, in my arena there is definitely a connection between design and art whether it's clothing, buildings, or cars. How that ties into the corporate world, I'm sure that's still there but it's on a different level of refinement and maybe slightly compromised.
MS: It's a bit less one man, one vision now, it has to go through a team.
MW: Right, well I think there are guidelines that people have to fit in to. Obviously safety standards were not the same 40 years ago.
MS: You talk a lot about what's cool in Urban Outlaw so the question I had was, what is it that makes something cool? Is it just the vintage aspect, as you love vintage clothing and stuff that's more old and worn? Or is there something intrinsically cool about an older 911? Was it cool when it was new?
MW: Well I think it's a style thing and style to me is an individual thing it's and individual expression of what it is you're sort of about and what it is you're passionate about. Porsches have obviously been cool for 60 years. My area of, I suppose, favourability is late 60's, early 70's. Currently I'm on a bit of a Turbo fever. The Turbo was such an iconic Porsche, which was super cool when it came out and then it became somewhat uncool in a sense in the 80's and early 90's with the whole Miami Vice aspect to what that car represented. Ultimately that car has always been cool. So I think any Porsche is cool, I think vintage is really cool. Coolness and style is a personal expression, what one guy finds cool or stylish another person may not find it that way but it's always evolving.
MS: My own opinion is part of what was cool about those older Turbos is that if you didn't know what you were doing they might kill you, whereas now they've kind of diluted it and sterilized it a bit with driver aids, traction control…
MW: Right, well behind the wheel of an old Porsche I always say it's freedom, you can go wherever you want but also it's a challenge. I always talk about the challenge of driving these early cars, the heel-toe down shift, just trying to balance and get the most out of the car is a rewarding experience. I don't have to drive, I live 200 yards from where I work so I walk to work. So for me driving is freedom, I drive purely 90% of the time for pleasure, I'm not stuck in traffic commuting to work. So for me it's an adventure every time I get behind the wheel so that's part of the challenge and the thrill and the adventure. To me that sums up everything driving represents, not just driving a Porsche, it's driving any vintage car. My brand of choice is obviously Porsche, so for me it's freedom, excitement, and adventure, and stimulation.
MS: Awesome, okay last question. What do you have planned for the future? Are there plans for expansion in the works? What can we expect to see from you?
MW: Well like I always say, we're not the two year, five year business plan type of people. I'm working on a '67 SR inspired hot rod car that I started several years ago, that will be the next car I finish up. I'm expanding my collection into early Turbos. I'm chasing down some newer 911's, GT3's, 964's...
MS: So we'll see some post '73 stuff pretty soon...
MW: Yeah a couple of things, I'm expanding beyond my '64 through '73, I'm trying to experience everything that Porsche has to offer, 944's, 924's, 914's, newer 996's, 993's, stuff like that. And I'm going to continue building what I like to call my sport purpose, streetable, track-inspired, early hot rod cars and continue to try and strive to make the next one better than the one that came before. That's basically what's on my agenda
MS: Great, it looks like we have a lot to look forward to. Maybe even an Urban Outlaw 2!
MW: Yeah! There's more videos coming out. I shot four videos in the past 3 months and three of them are still to come out. I shot one on one of my favourite cars, which is a very early '65 911 that was delivered to Brumos so we shot a little piece for Brumos. I shot a little desert outlaw video out in the California Desert at El Mirage Lake. There's more videos to come so if you like watching my 5-15 minute videos there's another four more of those in the pipeline. To me it's an expression of style making those videos. It's a combination of everything I love about Porsche, driving, talking about it, the passion, and the people, and the stories, so there will be more videos to come.
MS: Awesome, I really look forward to it. Thanks so much for answering some of my questions.