Magnus Walker, the Porsche hunter, talks at TEDxUCLA tabout his life journey…the story, hopes and dreams.
Magnus Walker – Porsche collector
Hello! My name is Magnus Walker and I was born in 1967, in Sheffield, England.
I left school at 15 and I came to America at the age of 19.
Well, eight weeks ago, I didn’t know what a TED talk was and to be honest I’m not quite sure why I’m here today. But I do appreciate the opportunity to be with you guys and share my story, my journey, my hopes, and my dreams.
You know, having left school at 15, for me I didn’t really have any future.
Well, I came to America 28 years ago and that represents the land of opportunity for me. And in those past 28 years, I’ve been able to build three things: a successful clothing company, a film location business and also a restored raced driven and collected quite a lot of classic Porsches. Porsche is a passion for me and I’ll talk about that in detail in a little bit.
But all three of those things share one common bond. I had no education in them. I didn’t really think I was going to end up in that particular field. I didn’t really know where I was going. But all three of those things have a common thread, common bond. And that common bond for me really was freedom — freedom to do whatever I wanted to do, on a dream sort of to be able to, I suppose, live my life to the fullest and do whatever I wanted to do.
Journey – 1977
So coming to America really was a journey. And I’ll start my journey in 1977.
1977 in England was sort of a special year. We had this Punk Rock thing going on and we also had this Royal Jubilee thing going on. But for me it was a start of a very memorable moment.
My father took me to the London Earls Court Motor Show in 1977. Back then I fell in love with this car – it was a white martini Porsche.
Now any kid growing up anywhere in the world in the late 70’s, early 80’s, chances are you probably had a choice of three cars on your wall: Porsche Turbo, Ferrari Boxer or Lamborghini Countach.
For some reason I chose Porsche. I even wrote a letter to Porsche when I was 10 years old, and essentially said to them, I want to design for Porsche. And they wrote back to me and said, well, call is running a little bit older which I thought was pretty funny and they sent me a sales brochure and thirty-five years later, they’d end up writing me a letter back but I’ll get to that story a little bit later on.
So I am this young kid growing up in Sheffield. Sheffield a grim northern steel town as shown by this picture right here. There wasn’t necessarily many Porsches on the road. So I filed that dream away. I had the poster on the wall, and I was watching Motorsports as kid also in 1977. England had James Hunt, he was a Formula One world champion. And we also had Barry Sheene; he was a two wheel motor GP champion back then.
So even though I didn’t grow up with any sort of fancy cars, my father was a salesman. I grew up in a working-class background. I did have this dream early on and somehow this dream involved Porsche.
I also back then was a pretty competitive middle-distance cross country runner, sort of a solo sport guy and I used to love getting out there and running. I became quite competitive. I joined this club called [The Ellen Show Harriers] and this guy called Sebastian Coe set quite a few world records, ran at the ‘80 and ‘84 Olympic Games and he was sort of inspirational to me.
Heavy metal music
Around that same time, I also fell in love with something called heavy metal music. Growing up in Sheffield, there were a lot of rock bands. It may have been sort of a slightly depressed, grim, northern city but there was a lot of music and a lot of fun.
So fell in love with Porsche, doing some middle distance cross country running, fell in love with heavy metal music. And I decided by the end of the fifth year, I would leave school. I left school in 1982, basically with  levels and no real future.
By that time, I’d also figured out I could go drink in a pub. So for some reason that was great for going to clubs and having fun but wasn’t so good for being a middle-distance cross country runner and an athlete. So that sort of faded away. But there was little thing that stuck with me was the passion and sort of the drive and I think to this day, those memorable moments earlier on are still with me. I’m still running around. I’m still chasing around. I’m still running after my goal.
So I bummed around on the dole for a little bit doing our jobs and stuff like that. And I started to hear this comment quite a lot. Cut your hair and get a real job. Well, I was on the dole, working construction living at home, no car, taking the bus places, and for a year or two, that was okay.
By the time I turned 17 that I decided okay, I’m not going to cut my hair but maybe I should think about getting a job.
So I actually took a year longer in leisure and recreation study course sports management at a college. And I heard about this thing called Camp America. Well, what was camp America? I didn’t know but found that Camp America — same kids to work on a summer camp in the United States of America. Growing up as a kid of course I watched a lot of American TV. Most of the shows I love centered around action and cars, Starsky and Hutch, Dukes of Hazzard, CHiPs. So I had this American Dream. It involved Evel Knievel. And a long story short, I took this leap of faith and I applied to Camp America. It was a little bit of a strange feeling and I’ve had these strange feelings in the past and somehow when my gut tells me to do something, generally it’s a good thing. Hence go on your gut feeling.
So by pure luck I supposed I was accepted into Camp America. Got on a flight to New York, took a Trailways bus from New York. That’s the bus I took to Detroit. Detroit was great. It was sort of similar to Sheffield, former industrial city also happened to be the sort of automotive hub of the United States. But I wasn’t in Detroit. I was 30 minutes north on a summer camp working with in a city underprivileged kids that happened to be from Detroit.
And that was a big culture shock for me, because you know I’m this heavy metal guy from Sheffield, North of England. I’m sort of in the middle of nowhere. I had to adapt pretty quickly.