Photos by Darin Kamnetz
As any card carrying One Percenter knows, last week Porsche opened up a new Minneapolis dealership just off General Mills Boulevard in Golden Valley. Porsche invited an Instagram-famous 911 collector, Magnus Walker, to be the guest of honor at Porsche rally that would make a 50-mile loop out past Lake Minnetonka and back. Walker is an unnaturally tall 48-year-old Brit who wears his white guy dreds under a filthy trucker hat and is known by people who watch Porsche vimeos as “The Urban Outlaw.” Somehow he got rich enough selling repurposed denim on Venice Beach to own a fleet of 911s, all of which he’s customized himself. The car that got him on Jay Leno’s Garage is a 1972 911 known to Porsche geeks as “the 277,” a car that Walker managed to make look simultaneously kickass and tasteful. He would be driving the 277 in the rally.
Porsche Minneapolis invited Mpls.St.Paul to cover this glorious event, and due to some miraculous clerical error, they loaned me a 911 Carrera S convertible. To drive. I immediately texted my college buddy Amar—the biggest Top Gear fan I know—to brag about the assignment. Amar texted back: “I’m going with you.”
When I was a third grader, I worshipped at the altar of Porsche. My friend Matt Whitehill covered his walls with posters that were endemic to a certain pre-pubescent '80s psychographic. I swear he had the one with a mansion bathed in a California sunset while a dream car garage is thrust into the foreground—a garage packed with a Porsche 911 and a Ferrari Testarossa and a Mercedes SL. The slogan JUSTIFICATION FOR HIGHER EDUCATION is emblazoned on the top of the poster in an action movie font. Real James Spader '80s rich kid villain shit, but this was before you realized you were supposed to root against guys like that. Alas, here we were, about to get our grubby fingers on a Porsche. Amar texted me: “We get to do rich guy stuff!!”
The morning of the rally was slightly overcast and unseasonably chilly. But there were enough incredible cars in the lot and in the building to keep everybody amped. Magnus and the 277 car was there! There was a 918! There were two brand new GT3’s, a purple one and an orange one! There was a vintage 356 roadster! There were a bunch of Porsche enthusiasts who actually said stuff to each other like, “No, I don’t really work anymore, I just drive cars.”
There was even a Singer! As Magnus was giving the Star Tribune’s Vineeta Sakwar a ride around the parking lot in the 277, Amar and I got close enough to breathe on the Singer. If we were at the MIA a security guard would’ve interrupted us: you know, “excuse me, sir, feet behind the tape, please.” A Singer is a true aficionado’s 911—there are only around 16 of them in existence. They are hand constructed by the former lead singer of Catherine Wheel in his garage in California. The Singer looks like it should be on a poster in Matt Whitehill’s bedroom—it is a throwback to the lines of the vintage air cooled 911, but it incorporates modern race car tech, like carbon fiber body construction. Each one costs $500,000. There was a rumor going around that the guy this one was built for, Scott Blattner, owns a mining company in St. Cloud and that this was one of two Singers that belonged to him. By the end of the day, I discovered that was hogwash: Blattner owns a wind power company and he owns FOUR Singers. Four. And he was driving a $1.2 million Porsche 918 in the rally. Jesus. Blattner Energy collected $1.3 billion in revenue in 2012. One more rumor for the road: one guy told me Blattner’s garage has a security system that can only be opened with his hand print, and that if some schmuck tries to gain access without the handprint, the system sucks all the oxygen out of the air.
The event was actually a bigger deal than Porsche Minneapolis expected. There were about twice as many cars and drivers there as they had hoped for. And at 9:45 a.m., as everybody was milling around, admiring each other’s Porsches, the sound of screeching tires raised the hair on our necks and it was followed by a sickening crash. MAGNUS HAD CRASHED THE 277 WITH VINEETA SAWKAR IN IT.
This story has already made local and national news. Walker took a hot corner coming around the frontage road, swerved to avoid smashing a vintage Mercedes SL300, and crashed his driver's side door into a tractor trailer parked in front of the dealership. Sawkar was okay, but obviously salty about it afterwards: “I don’t know why he was driving as fast as he was on that frontage road.” Uh, don’t mean to be as flip as my country club golf shirt collar, Vineeta, but . . . maybe because he’s famous for driving super fast Porsches? The startribune.com footage is incredible, but it might be worth lamenting that we’ll probably never get those 26 seconds of Sawkar’s interior camcorder tape. That tape should be the Porsche masochist’s Zapruder in my opinion. Exquisitely sick. For his part, Walker trotted out his best stiff upper lip, but he was obviously devastated after crashing his baby. When the rally was over, he was slumped in his chair at Cōv, nursing a beer after 45 minutes of signing posters and fending off well wishers. “It’s the first time I’ve ever crashed any car,” he whimpered. He thought his tires—Hoosier slicks—weren’t warm enough maybe. He probably shouldn’t have taken that corner that hot with a middle aged startribune.com reporter riding shotgun. He was embarrassed. He asked me if we could downplay the crash in the story. I told him I would do the best I could. He said he would console himself with OPP. He meant, “Other people’s Porsche’s.” I nodded. I think I knew what he was talking about.
The rally started out a little bit somber. Eddie Rediske, the Porsche dealership’s GM, gave a short speech under the grey skies. Everybody looked down as if they were deep in prayer, or at least thinking, “I know the 277 is mangled, and that really sucks, and Vineeta is bruised and probably freaked, but she seems unbroken, so can I still be excited about driving out to Lake Minnetonka with 70 other Porsches?”
In the end we soldiered on without the Urban Outlaw. He had to turn back his O.P.P. and deal with the Golden Valley PD. The sky actually did lighten up eventually, slightly outpacing the mood, though with that 277 crunch still ringing in our ears, nobody really risked going much over 75 mph during the entire rally. It would’ve been a breach of decorum at that point, really. Although it doesn’t really take much more than 5 seconds and a flick of your big toe to get one of those things to 75 mph. I know because I had a job to do. And I did it.
In fact, I did it for over two days in that 911. It really is a life-affirming piece of German engineering. The power and the orientation of that power is classically disorienting, with this rumble that comes from behind you, where the famous flat six engine is situated. A rumble that Amar compared to “a bear gargling wrenches” somewhere near Watertown. The purists say that a convertible isn’t the way to truly experience a 911, but I disagree. In fact, I believe it’s still a pure enough driving experience to get a man to re-think his priorities. Maybe even to rededicate himself to the ones that he used to look up to, back when they were stuck to his wall.