Walker, an ironic name for someone who has become famous for his "get out and drive" ethos. I am of course talking about Magnus Walker, for those of who you don't have an Internet connection; he's quickly become the number one folk hero in classic Porsche circles. What started out as a guy building old air-cooled 911s for the fun of it has turned into the Urban Outlaw brand, which apparently exists to build old air-cooled 911s for the fun of it.
I show up at Magnus's headquarters early Thursday morning in the gentrified arts district of Los Angeles. Nearly 70 Porsches, from an early 356 to the latest Cayman GT4 are lined up long-nose to whale-tail outside the street that Walker's Urban Outlaw Shop resides. The impressive display wakes me up, great considering I'm running on a poor night's sleep prior to waking up early without caffeine – and I'm not a morning person.
The reason for this massive stock of Stuttgart supremacy is the Magnus Walker MOMO Road to Rennsport Rally, an invitation-only rally that takes participants (Porsche enthusiast friends of Walker, MOMO, and others involved) from Walker's base in Los Angeles to Laguna Seca in Monterey for the fifth running of Porsche's Rennsport Reunion.
Walker, a famous modifier of Porsche 911s, wanted the rally to celebrate the mutual fifty-year anniversary that the 911 and MOMO share. In addition, the special occasion is a celebration of Walker's new signature MOMO steering wheel; the first non-racer to achieve one.
The collaboration began when Henrique Cisneros, racer-owner of MOMO, met Walker earlier this year during the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend. Walker, a lifelong fan of MOMO, was able to share his passion for the brand with Cisneros, and offered the suggestion of making a wheel that was new but not out of place when installed in a classic car. Cisneros was excited about the prospect, and began to work with Walker to make the wheel a reality.
The result is a wheel that features the iconic Prototipo model's style, combined with a thicker, Jackie Stewart edition grip, and Walker's trademark hand-distressed leather. The limited-edition wheel (total of 400 units, 200 with a black spoke, 200 with a silver spoke) looks and feels worn in, and emulates wheels in cars with a long history of use and sun-bleached abuse.
It's a step forward for MOMO, who are adapting to a changing market that includes a rapidly growing interest in vintage cars.
"It's not like the old days where Jackie Stewart was like a god, and everybody knew about him," says Cisneros. "Today it's a lot more niche. For example, fans of drifting, while they may know motorsport, won't necessarily follow many other racers that are out there."
Walker's reputation for his road car customization also fits into the MOMO philosophy of giving enthusiasts something special for the road, not just racing.
With the debut of the wheel coming at Rennsport, and with friends attending the Porsche event nevertheless, a rally was decided as a logistically perfect fit.
"We're all going to Rennsport anyway," says Walker, with ever-longer dreadlocks and beard. "Why drive individually when you can get (a large amount of) Porsches."
Participants have come from all over the country, in everything from well-maintained stock examples to heavily modified beasts. Legendary names such as Snodgrass (the late Brumos founder's son in this case) and Follmer (George's nephew) are also in attendance in their personal Porsches.
After a brief driver's meeting and socializing over coffee and donuts, the drivers and companions climb into their cars to start the most expensive game of musical chairs I'll ever witness. Walker needs to be at the front of the field, but his trademark "277" 1971 911 is parked near the back. Cisneros also needs to find a way to the front, and squeezes the 700-horsepower Liberty Walk 997 Turbo S he was driving through narrow gaps. Half an hour later, the field takes off across 6th Street Bridge, to many bewildered passersby.
I'm paired up to ride with Dave Bouzaglou, founder of legendary Porsche shop TRE Motorsport and promoter/organizer of the event, who is driving a friend's 1972 911T with a 2.9L transplant engine that produced a total of 290hp. It's Dave that created the route for that day, one that stresses "the road less taken" over the quickest route, so I know we won't have to worry about getting lost. As such, I begin to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Our first leg of the rally is to drive 80 miles north to Willow Springs Raceway, a late substitution for the previously planned Buttonwillow Raceway. While initially slow to start on the 5 Freeway in morning rush-hour traffic, we get off and onto Highway 2, through the Angeles forest, and it's pure driving bliss. Dave powers the 911 through the Magnus's regular stomping grounds, past dramatic barren rock formations and tall pines. Though warm outside and lacking air conditioning in the all-black Porsche, the ride is cool enough to tolerate. From CA-2 we take Angeles Crest Highway up to our exit in Palmdale for the track. Once at Big Willow, participants run numerous hot laps. Appreciatively, most are mindful of the casual nature of the event.
From Willow Springs, the longer, five-hour stage to the finish gets underway. We take Tehachapi Willow Springs Road with its hilly roads winding us past hundreds of windmills producing clean energy in exchange for our dirty exhaust.
Once in Tehachapi, we make our first fuel stop. "She's a thirsty bitch," says Dave of the 911. The resulting stop leaves us behind the pack, with only one fellow rally companion in his Carrera 2.7 RS.
From Tehachapi, we jump on the 58-west which unites our Porsches with semi-trucks while cutting through barren, rocky hillsides. Further on the 58, we pass through small agricultural towns like Buttonwillow, the self-proclaimed "Heart of California's Agriculture", where the colors brown and green dominate the landscape of dilapidated residences and fruit trees. From Buttonwillow we take a right onto Corn Camp Road, and past cotton fields.
"Check out this sweet little road," says Dave excitedly, as he makes a left.
If we had blinked, we would have missed it. Main Drain Road follows the snaking agricultural drain of several large agricultural fields. The narrow two-lane road is completely flat and featureless, however it's a great mix of sweeping and tight turns. A steep drop into the ditch on either side is ready to punish any mistakes. As we pass a large tractor, the operator gives us a wave of appreciation. It's on a lengthy straight we reach redacted-ed. mph. After Main Drain Rd, we take a left onto Lerdo Highway, past the farm that gives us Halos-brand mandarins, and then a right onto 33 North, where we catch up to three more of our group.
Riding in the Porsche doing probably no more than the posted speed limit-ed mph on the 33 is akin to riding a speedboat. The road rises up and down and up and down until we reach another checkpoint – Blackwell's Corner near Lost Hills, most famous for being the site of James Dean's final stop before perishing in his 550 Spyder on the 46. Despite the speed all totally legal-ed at times, I'm not worried of suffering a similar fate.
At Blackwell's, around 2:30pm, we gather with most of the rest of the gang; the gas station suddenly a makeshift Porsche concourse. Travellers passing through the station walk around the parked cars, taking pictures and talking to participants. Most of the pack takes off soon after our arrival, leaving us, a skeleton crew of four behind. After fifteen minutes, we're back on the 33 again.
"Supposedly, the CHP has received complaints about Porsches going fast on 33," says Dave. "I guess our fame precedes us." Moments later we catch a victim – a GT3 is parked on the shoulder with two CHP cars behind him.
While making our way through traffic, a passed GMC Sierra, of all cars, decides they want to recreate a USA vs Germany war and proceed to speed up and drive back around us. Thankfully, Dave is wise enough not to take the bait.
The 33 is a never-ending straight with the road ahead only making itself visible in the heat waves a half-mile at a time. At last we catch the group of fifteen Porsches that had left soon after we arrived at Blackwell's. They're doing about 60mph, right around the speed limit.
Dave chuckles, "They probably got scared!" in reference to the CHP nabbing one unlucky driver. "It's like a penance."
From the 33 we get onto the 198 West, a real enthusiast road with dips and cambered corners, and then north onto Highway 25. The 25 is a beautiful drive through forested hills, before we turn onto Bitterwater Road towards King City. Unfortunately, in the month since Dave last drove the route, construction has begun and the road is covered in loose gravel that ricochets and pelts the undercarriages of our cars. It's slow going at 30mph for a good stretch until it clears up shortly before we get into town.
King City is a pleasant, small town, where pedestrians stop in their tracks to look at the Porsches going by. Two young brothers gawk as we roll by, their mouths agape in love at first sight, reminding me of my brother and I as children.
One last refill of the gas tank, and we're off to the 101 and our destination. While on the heavily patrolled highway, going a more modest speed, I have time to reflect on the comfort of the vehicle. Surprisingly, this 43-year-old car has been a rather comfortable ride. The seats haven't made the lumbar portion of my back cry out (nor my rump much for that matter), and there's ample legroom for my tall frame. The car has also been fantastic around the corners, and has supported me enough to only grab the side of the door on particularly tight corners to prevent ending up in Dave's lap. Best of all, Dave has never made me nervous, despite the confession he only got three hours of sleep the night before, and he's appreciative of his relaxed passenger.
When we pull into Laguna Seca's infield at just past six in the evening, I'm sad the trip is over. The once shiny exterior of the 911 is now matte-bug-splatter-black, but I'm proud of how well the little guy performed. Despite my numerous trips to Monterey in the past, I've been on so many new roads that will no doubt be a part of my trips in the future. Many others have beat us to the track as a result of our stop in King City for gas, but it also means I'm able to witness the fine spirit and everlasting smiles all participants appear to possess as we walk to our reception of music, drinks, and obsessive car chats.
Overall, it's a successful first rally for Walker and MOMO, now the beginning of a tradition, and one that has made Cisneros anxious for another.
"We're going to make an annual one focused around some big motorsport event that we're narrowing down," says Cisneros. "We'll think of something different every year, and keep making this fun and interesting for everyone."