Street Racing Through LA With Magnus Walker, The World’s Most Notorious Porsche Collector

The stories behind Magnus Walker and Daniel Malikyar’s new photo series are almost better than the images themselves. Almost.

February 19, 2021 10:30 am
Magnus Walker Porsche 277 in the LA River
Magnus Walker, left, in his 277, a highly modified Porsche 911.
Daniel Malikyar via Santo Gallery

“Yesterday I drove a $4 million Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport, which was really impressive,” says Magnus Walker, “but it’s a car that is way out of my league.” 

From looking at his Instagram, you wouldn’t believe any car is out of Magnus Walker’s league. One day he’s cruising around in a six-figure Ferrari in Los Angeles, another he’s testing the chops of the new Ford Bronco in the middle of nowhere. You see, Walker has become one of the most recognizable Porsche collectors and customizers in the world — known as much for his signature “Outlaw” builds as his signature dreadlocks and Gandalf beard — and with that repute comes the opportunity to drive all manner of rarefied automobiles, if not own them. Despite that access, there’s still plenty left on his vehicular bucket list, and that’s where Daniel Malikyar comes in.

Together, the two collaborated on a new photography series in which they set out to “[capture] the fine art of urban racing” in L.A. The images, which are available for purchase through Santo Gallery in limited-edition prints starting February 19, sit at the intersection of old-school hot rods in car magazines and new-school car porn on Instagram feeds. That dichotomy comes straight from the creators: Walker is a 53-year-old gearhead and British expat, while Malikyar is a 26-year-old Afghan-American virtuoso, the co-founder of Santo with a portfolio of gripping photography and film work that belies his years. 

It’s a collaboration that may not make sense on paper, but the first time they worked together, something clicked. Malikyar was shooting a project for Fujifilm about subcultures in L.A. To capture the automotive scene, he tapped Walker and brought him and a Porsche to Lower Grand Avenue downtown, which Malikyar explains is a “super, super famous spot that everybody shoots in a very similar way.” He mentioned it’s in The Dark Knight. An older person might have said The Terminator

The main shot involved a drone following Walker on the lower street, flying up through an opening to the upper level, then bombing back down. “We did it at three in the morning, no permits, dancing around when security was coming in and out checking the location,” Malikyar tells InsideHook. “The shot actually ended up going viral on Reddit. It was the number-one clip for a week.” The rest of the Fujifilm spot is certainly dynamic, but it wasn’t mindblowing. The drone shot was, and still is, and the two knew they had to work together again. 

“I’ve shot over the past, I don’t know, seven, eight, nine years with a lot of great photographers, but we’ve always done similar types of stuff for the most part,” Walker says. When he worked with Malikyar, he realized that the young gun “was clued into doing things from a different perspective.”

For the new series, which was shot this January, the duo photographed eight cars from Walker’s distinctive Porsche collection in five different locations. All the images showcase Malikyar’s new perspective on automotive photography, as well some of the scrappy DIY nature that played heavily into the first shoot — like, say, a lack of permits for working in the Los Angeles River. 

“The goal here was to be inspired by the iconic car chase scene in Grease, but to do it with two of my early Porsches, one of them being car 277,” says Walker.

The 277 is the car with which he is most associated, a 1971 911 T which he has highly modified and raced countless times, and which has even been featured by Porsche itself — after the marque decided to give in and accept so-called Porsche Outlaws, highly modified cars that previously ruffled the feathers of purists. But the problem wasn’t getting onto the concrete culvert so much as it was racing along the incline. 

Magnus Walker Porsche race LA River
Danny Zuko has nothing on this.
Daniel Malikyar via Santo Gallery

“The L.A. River, getting those cars up, I still don’t even know how Magnus was able to do it as seamlessly as he did — getting these low 911s up on this 40-degree concrete bank,” says Malikyar. “That [bank], if you stand on it, you’ve got vertigo. The fact that we got the cars up there, we’re driving on them, I’m hanging out of the truck. I think it was actually more difficult to get our [Ford] F-250 camera-car truck up on the side bank than it was to get the 911s up there just because of the way that Magnus wedged them up [there].” 

The other photos, while not shot in locations as iconic and potentially hazardous, came with their own set of challenges. When shooting three 911 Turbos (two from 1975, one from 1976, known internally and to Porsche fans as the 930 model) in Elysian Park, they arrived early to beat the jogging and hiking crowd only to find it wasn’t open — then fog rolled in out of nowhere. Despite the traffic that eventually started, they were able to get the cars up to speed across the road and nail the shot, which turned out to be one of Walker’s favorites, what he called “an Apocalypse Now type of shot.” 

For car people, or simply anyone who feels more attached to their daily driver for the escape it’s brought during the pandemic, this sounds like a dream: racing around California, all the way out to the dry lakebed of El Mirage, in a variety of one-of-one Porsche 911s. But when you’re Magnus Walker, an automotive iconoclast with a documentary that’s been viewed over a million times on YouTube (that’d be Urban Outlaw), you run into problems when you’re trying to keep a low profile. 

When the team was scouting a location outside The Broad museum in Los Angeles, Malikyar says they ran into a police officer who was actually a fan of Walker. So when they came back later to shoot, at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday, and Walker turned his 1995 993 art car to evade a cop coming up behind him, Malikyar was both worried it would be the same officer, and he’d shut them down despite the kinship.

Magnus Walker's Porsche Turbos in Elysian Park
Daniel Malikyar via Santo Gallery
Magnus Walker driving a Porsche in Los Angeles
Daniel Malikyar via Santo Gallery

“Each [image] brought their own challenge but we just rolled with the punches and enjoyed it and improvised as needed,” he says. “I think it just made the story behind each image that much more special, that it wasn’t just a seamless drive-up-and-get-it.”

When asked if they’re going to team up again in the future, Malikyar says they’re waiting to see how these photos are received. Will they go viral like the Lower Grand drone shot? Will the lore around Magnus grow even further now that he’s got the Grease racetrack under his belt? 

He certainly hopes so. While these images all feature his Porsche 911s, he owns plenty of other cars, from Jaguar E-Types to an AMC Hornet, and has a new show with Hagerty called The Next Big Thing where he tries to identify desirable collector cars before regular drivers get priced out. The series is a great way to expand his horizons beyond his automaker of choice, he says, and hopefully there are more new avenues to come.

“I’ve always driven non-Porsches, I’ve always owned non-Porsches,” says Walker, “but over the past 10 years I’ve been pigeonholed as this Porsche guy.”

To be fair, if you’re going to be pigeonholed as anything, you could do worse than being “the Porsche guy.”

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