Article by Brian Hannon.
On November 30, 2013, news quickly spread of a serious accident involving a red Porsche Carrera GT in Valencia, California, following a toy drive for charity. The story took a tragic turn when it was revealed that the crash had taken the lives of Fast and Furious franchise star Paul Walker and his friend and business partner, Roger Rodas. While details of the accident are still speculative at this point, the bottom line is that two families have lost loved ones, the automotive culture has lost one of its best representatives, and the world has lost someone who strived to help those affected by natural disasters.
Though Walker is best known as Brian O’Conner in the Fast and Furious movies, he was actually a legitimate car guy and wasn’t just playing a part. After filming The Skulls in 2000, he was asked what role he wanted to play next. He said, "I want to be either an undercover cop, or I want to race cars!” Universal Studios came to him with a news story about underground street racing in the L.A. area, and he practically jumped out of his shoes to take the role, as he had been a part of that scene growing up.
His love of cars actually started when he was a young boy, being influenced by his grandfather who raced cars. He recalled in an interview with Motor Trend that the first car he lusted after was a 1973 Porsche Carrera RS because it was the last year of the smooth bumpers before they changed to the accordion style in 1974. It’s certainly hard to argue with his taste.
As Paul’s celebrity status grew, he began buying and selling cars as a hobby, which would eventually grow into a business. Always Evolving motorsports was the genesis of his passion for cars and racing. They did everything from parts manufacturing and race preparation to selling exotic and rare vehicles. The shop would host regular open houses, where they would open the doors to enthusiasts to check out the collection and works in progress.
Walker also wasn’t someone who was just working behind the scenes in the industry. Through Always Evolving, he campaigned an E92 M3 in the Redline Time Attack series along with participating in the grueling 25 hours of Thunderhill endurance with Roger Rodas in an Always Evolving prepped Miata.
Certainly influenced by the cars from the movie, Paul was deeply fascinated by modern Japanese cars that were effectively forbidden in this country. He owned at least four R34 Nissan Skyline GT-Rs and had a 500-plus horsepower Nissan S15 Silvia lurking in the shop. Oddly enough, though, his favorite car in his collection was a 1974 BMW 2002 Touring. Much like the Skylines and Silvias, the Touring version was never sold in the U.S. and was a hatchback version of the extremely popular 2002. Adding a little spice to the pint-size performer was a full set of period-correct Alpina performance parts. We certainly understand the affinity he had for the car.
While the Fast and Furious movies tend to be a bit polarizing among hardcore enthusiasts for stretching some of the bounds of taste (think over-the-top vinyl robots on the doors) and reality (world’s longest runway in Fast and Furious 6), Walker tried his best to keep the movies as realistic as possible.
In an interview with Automobile in 2013, he was asked about the evolution of the franchise. He replied, "It’s bittersweet for me. I don’t think we’d be where we are if it weren’t for minds like Justin Lin [director] and dedication from people like Vin [Diesel, costar]. But, being a car guy, I always want things to be more authentic. When it comes to the driving, at this point we stretch what’s plausible, and I struggle with it. I feel like we owe a lot to the guys that are really into street racing, and it’s important to me to maintain integrity and credibility. They’re the bullshit police.” For the hardcore enthusiasts, it’s nice to know he was such an advocate for trying to do it the right way even in the face of having to meet the lofty expectations of box office sales.
Outside of Hollywood, Walker was dedicated to helping people affected by natural disasters. He formed Reach out Worldwide in 2010 following the massive earthquakes that devastated Haiti. He created the relief group because he "saw a gap between the availability of skilled resources and the requirement for such personnel in post-disaster situations.” The list of disaster events they have helped with is impressive: the recent tornadoes in Illinois, the Oklahoma City tornado, Typhoon Haiyan, the tornadoes in Alabama, the Chilean earthquake, the earthquake in Haiti, the typhoon that recently struck the Philippines, and the Indonesian tsunami.
Tragically, the charity event he left just before the crash was a toy drive at Always Evolving for Reach out Worldwide.
It’s not always easy to find A-list stars who keep their names out of the tabloids and still manage to enjoy their passions. In the end, no matter what you think of the Fast and Furious movies, Walker should be remembered for how he nurtured and grew the car culture through the Fast and Furious franchise along with using his fame to assist those who face a dire future. To say we lost a good one is truly an understatement.