It was shown at the Sundance film festival and exposed Walker’s previously private yet extensive collection of impeccably restored and outrageously modified Porsche 911s to the world.
An appearance on Jay Leno’s Garage further piqued the curiosity of many and put him firmly in the sights of Porsche.
Fast forward a little over three years, and he is now well-known as the unofficial face of Porsche. And what a face it is, framed by a bushranger’s beard and an impressive set of dreadlocks, some of which hang to his knees. That distinctive look, and his newfound fame, has opened the door to numerous exciting opportunities, including collaborations with Momo, Pirelli and Hot Wheels.
His obsession with Porsche began at a young age, after dropping out of school he went on to run multiple businesses across very different industries, collecting and modifying cars along the way in his clearly identifiable eccentric style.
His story is fascinating, his knack for being in the right place at the right time is enviable, and his attitude to success is refreshing. He was invited by Porsche to attend the Porsche Rennsport Australia Motor Racing Festival, where we found out more about the man known as the ‘Urban Outlaw’.
What originally drew you to the Porsche brand and its cars?
How much time to we have to talk about that?
My Porsche story starts like every boy or girl’s story. As a young kid at 10 years old, I had a poster on my wall and, to me, it was like a dream scenario. I’ve realised, having travelled all over, that it’s a pretty common story.
Dreams begin at an early age and I just never gave up on the dream to own a Porsche and be part of the environment of Porsche. For me it’s not just the cars, it’s the people, and that’s what’s truly great.
When you customise a car, do you go in with a plan?
The car determines how the build goes. I have a few cars that are original and they stay that way, but the majority of my cars are, what I call, ‘streetable’, sport purpose, track-inspired ‘outlaw’ cars. What I really like to do is to add my personality to the builds and just tweak them slightly. Ultimately, for me, the great thing about Porsche is that the cars are interchangeable.
The first 30 years of Porsche production, you could basically take a ’64 911 that had a 2.0-litre motor and, if you were crazy enough to do it, you could put a 3.6, 3.8 or a 4.0-litre motor in it.
That’s what is great about Porsche, they were affordable and they’re still affordable, reliable, driveable and interchangeable. So the short answer to your question is: the car determines how it gets customised. I don’t really have a pre-set plan until I find a car. But, once I do, the path becomes really clear in my head as to which way it goes.
Tell me about the outlaw movement and what it means to you?
The outlaw movement really began with the 356 back in the 1950s. I’m not quite cool enough to have owned a 356 yet – my era really was all about the 911s from the ’60s and ’70s.
My interpretation really is pretty simple: it’s taking my favourite era – the late ’60s and mid ’70s – and adapting performance and style elements of that era into a streetable, trackable race car that has been modified from a performance point-of-view and an aesthetic point-of-view essentially to reflect my personality.
To me, that’s what I call the outlaw build – slightly different, but instantly recognisable as a 911.
Hot wheels are releasing a series of your designs, tell us about that.
I was fortunate enough to team up with Hot Wheels last year when they approached me to do a series of cars for them. Apparently, to have an outside person design more than one car, is something they’ve never done – and Hot Wheels has been around for a long time. They’re celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2018.
It started off with two 356s, ironically, which was a new model they were rolling out. We recently released the 2016 line of five cars that I’ve designed: two 356s, a 935, a 964 and a 997 GT3 RS.
For me it was a real honour to team up with Mattel. They are the world’s biggest toy manufacturer of custom cars and everyone has a Hot Wheels story. It doesn’t matter if you’re three years old or eighty years old, there are fanatical followers and is has a real cult following.
No-one ever has just one; people buy multiples and customise them. People like to customise – even with Hot Wheels cars, they will create their own interpretation. I’m actually working on some toys for them for 2017 as well, and a couple of them are non-Porsches.
These opportunities happen organically. Obviously I’m a Porsche guy and I am a car enthusiast. It doesn’t really matter what you drive – Porsche is my religion, it’s my drug of choice – and I think the common bond between all car guys is the thrill of the chase, the build and ultimately the drive which is what unites everyone together.
I’ve heard people talk about Porsche being a language, doesn’t matter if you speak English, German or ‘Australian’, we all relate to the cars. It’s spectacular to be here at Rennsport with Porsche Australia for the second Rennsport reunion and just an honour to team up with Hot Wheels to do a series of toys. The 2016 line will be out starting from July this year through to October.
Are they replicas of your own cars?
The cars that I’m designing for Hot Wheels are not necessarily replicas of my own personal cars. Hot Wheels is releasing a certain series of model. For example, they did a 964 as a new casting and it’s the first time they’ve done a 964 model.
The 964 model I created is not based on a car I physically own, even though I do own a 964. It’s just my interpretation of my dream toy car and it was great to have the flexibility to do whatever I wanted to do with Hot Wheels.
Sounds like your design career is expanding.
Organically, things just happen. I’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with Momo, I did my own signature steering wheel that was released in the States at the fifth Rennsport reunion at Laguna Seca last September. I’m also doing stuff with Pirelli – two weeks ago in LA I had two of my cars on display with Pirelli at the Long Beach Grand Prix and I’ll be doing the SEMA Show and the LA Auto Show with them too. I’ve been fortunate enough to team up with some pretty major brands.
I think all car enthusiasts share a common bond and connection. For me this is a hobby, this is not a job. I’m not an independent specialty builder, I don’t build customer cars. I describe this as an out-of-control hobby for me and I think the connection really is passion. I’m a passionate enthusiast and it seems passion can take you a long way.
My story is pretty familiar. I left school at an early age and just never gave up on that dream. You asked me ‘why Porsche’, well that started as a 10-year-old and I’m more passionate about the brand now than I’ve ever been. And I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world with Porsche and drive what I call OPP: other people’s Porsches.
I’ve driven everything from 356s up to the current 918 and to me that’s what’s great about Porsche and the people. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like or what you sound like – it’s a great equaliser and brings everyone together from all genres of life. That’s truly the great thing about Porsche.
You’ve turned your passions into quite an aspirational and inspirational life. So, passion is the secret to success?
I think passion goes a long way. Two years ago I was involved with TED Talks, which is, essentially, almost a motivational thing. It was a real learning experience. I didn’t realise what an honour it was because my life has just been really simple: left school at 16, moved to America at 19, I go on gut feeling a lot of the time and I don’t tend to over-think stuff.
I think there are two schools of thought: there are people that are book-smart and people that are street-smart. My lifestyle is unscripted, there is no business plan, I just go with the flow and take opportunities and gambles when they present themselves.
I always go on gut feeling and to me that means, ‘if it feels right, I do it’. I’m a big believer that motivation, dedication, hard work and passion can take you a long way because passion is something that you can’t manufacture.
People say to me, ‘I don’t understand your relationship with Porsche’ and I don’t work for Porsche, but I think Porsche has realised that true enthusiasm is limitless and goes beyond boundaries. Passion is something that can’t be manufactured and sold, but it’s something that people relate to.
I think yet again that’s the common bond that brings everyone together. I’ve been able to do a lot of things I never thought possible by staying focused and not really over-thinking things, but really just following the dream. I keep going back to that dream as a 10-year-old, I never gave up on that dream and to me I ‘m living that dream right now.
It’s the first time I’ve ever been to Australia, it’s great to be invited and to have this opportunity to travel and experience a different culture through a shared passion.
I get a lot of emails from people that like the cars and that’s great, but the best ones are from people who share a similar passion, whether they want to be a rock star or brew bourbon or make honey, whatever it may be. My response is: stay motivated, stay focused and never give up on that dream – because anything is possible. I think that transcends anything. That can be related to car guys or anyone that has a dream, whether you want to be a hairdresser or design clothes or go to the moon.
Motivation and passion can go a long way. That’s worked for me and that’s kind of why I’m here really.
What’s next for your personal collection?
My collection has been pretty well documented. It started with having one from each year from ‘64 to ‘73, I’m mostly an air-cooled guy but my new passion is for collecting everything Porsche has offered in a sports car – front-engined, mid-engined and rear-engined. Porsche is the 911 but there’s more to Porsche than the 911.
Ultimately, my goal is to have one of everything so I’m starting to collect the front-engined, trans-axle, water-cooled cars – 924, 928, 924, 968, 944. I have a couple of 914s so that’s mid-engined, air-cooled. Next on the list will be mid-engined, water-cooled, which will be a Cayman. I drove my buddy’s Cayman GT4 which I think is the pinnacle of mid-engined, water-cooled Porsche. The Cayman GT4 is a spectacular car.
Then within the 911 range, I’m going chronologically. Currently I’m up to 964 and the next steps will be 993, 996, 997. But through being able to drive OPP (Other People’s Porsches) I’ve driven everything from the Gmund Coupe – they built 51 of those in 1948 – all the way up to the current hypercar, the 918.
My heart is early air-cooled, but ultimately it’s about variety because I want to experience everything that Porsche has to offer within the sports-car world. It’s about diversity and ultimately it’s about, for me, making the most of every moment. I like to make the most of every moment in life whether it’s behind the wheel of a Porsche with the engine in the front, the middle or the rear.
To me it’s all about the drive and ultimately Porsche is the best driving car out there.
That’s my Porsche story really.