Our celebrity obsession: The Paul Walker Collection at Barrett-Jackson

Sometimes, the star makes the car. Twenty-one cars that once belonged to actor Paul Walker are set to cross the block at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction in this week.

Paul Walker's R32 Skyline

The cars that reflected the Fast and Furious movies have come and gone—the Nissan R34 Skyline GT-R that he drove in the fourth movie sold in 2013 for over a million dollars, while Barrett-Jackson listed his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII from 2Fast 2Furious the following year and hammered the no-reserve sale at $46,200.00.

For fans, and pursuers of celebrity, these are some deep cuts from Walker’s life: they include obscure muscle like a 1963 Chevrolet Nova wagon, a Nissan R32 Skyline GT coupe that’s been stripped-out for track duty, eight BMWs (one a motorcycle), a couple of otherwise mundane pickup trucks, more motorcycles, a customized Nissan 370Z that turned up briefly in Fast Five, and a Ford Mustang Boss 302 with Ford Performance bits. How much would you bid on, say, a 1995 Ford Bronco Eddie Bauer Edition in classic Nineties two-tone? What if we told you that Walker cruised around his neighborhood in Santa Barbara in it, the classic SoCal surfer dude that he is?

Paul Walker apparently used to cruise around Santa Barbara in this Bronco.

Walker is an icon, who needs no introduction or credentials. He was a lifelong enthusiast: there are stories and forum posts across Southern California that show how Walker would turn up at car meets, saying hi to fans and checking out their rides, without the celebrity stigma attached to his role in one of the biggest action movie franchises of all time. By doing so, he endeared himself to the greater car community. And with his passing, the attention granted to his life’s work should reflect in the values of the cars he touched.

Since time immemorial there has been a fixation with celebrity provenance in the things they owned, as if the object at hand might be imbued with some of the essence that made said celebrity so compelling, rubbing off some blessed energy upon its purchaser, or perhaps maybe Judy Garland might come back to reclaim her ruby red slippers (currently in the Smithsonian), or Marilyn Monroe the dress she wore to sing Happy Birthday to JFK (sold for $1.2 million in 1999). Provenance can involve some pretty obscure celebrities: witness John F. Kennedy Jr’s Saab 900 or Pope Benedict’s 1999 Volkswagen Golf, which was purchased as a used car by a German college student and then sold for over $200,000.

The Paul Newman Rolex Daytona

This past year, the vintage Rolex watch that Marlon Brando wore during his filming of Apocalypse Now sold at auction for nearly $2 million; a vintage Rolex 1675 GMT-Master is already expensive, hovering at around $20-45,000, but it is certainly not seven figures’ worth. It is among the most expensive timepieces ever sold. The actual most expensive timepiece at auction, until this year, was the Rolex Daytona that belonged to Paul Newman for nearly twenty years. In 1984, when Newman gave the watch away to a boyfriend of his daughters, it would have sold for $200. In 2017, an anonymous bidder won the watch for $17.8 million.

Both of these items have been blessed by their celebrity wearers—Brando spotted with his Rolex through a series of mesmerizing photos by the famed photographer Mary Ellen Mark, while Newman’s watch was a gift from his wife Joanne Woodward with the sentimental engraving, “Drive Carefully.” The glimpse behind the façade of celebrity is what makes them so compelling. It also helps that the watches are cult items to start.

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Walker’s Nova Wagon Project

Among enthusiasts, cars and watches go hand-in hand. But cars are among the biggest, most expensive, most visible reflections of this celebrity fixation. In the pantheon of provenance, you have your A-List automotive celebrities: your Steve McQueens and Burt Reynolds, whose personal car collections have reflected their film careers, and whose enthusiasm is as famed as their characters. Reynolds, like the pope himself, blessed a limited-edition run of “Smokey and the Bandit” Pontiac Trans Am resto-modded recreations, while his own 1978 Trans Am went up for auction with Barrett-Jackson in Arizona two years prior. Paul Newman famously drove a Porsche 935 to a class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979; at the Gooding & Co. auction in Monterey, California in 2016, it sold for $4.8 million—at least 4-5 times the price of an “average” example of one of Porsche’s most legendary race cars. But the actor’s aura—and the racing success—certainly propelled it to a hell of a price.

In Barrett-Jackson’s case, at its blowout Scottsdale auction next year, the cars might not be what you might expect. Sure, he famously drove Skylines, but in his personal life Walker favored Ford Mustangs and BMWs. And these BMWs in question are bona-fide rarities: of the seven M3s, two are E30s, but the remaining five are all E36-generation BMW M3 Lightweights. Just 126 examples of the America-only special edition emerged from the factory—all in Alpine White with M-colored checkered flag graphics, all exactly the same. They’re valued at anywhere from $70-100,000; one sold at auction in 2017 for $145,750. This shows where Walker’s priorities were: sure, these cars are rare and valuable, and like special-edition Porsche 911s, they’ll find their respective niches.

Hoarding five examples of the same car clearly speaks to one’s priorities—not only Walker’s own personal preferences, but his character, as if you, the bidder, might share a secret with his automotive tastes. (Newman might have raced Porsches, after all, but he also once owned a Nineties Volvo wagon powered by a Ford 302g V8. Why not? He talked David Letterman into getting one built, too.)

Walker’s Boss 302

How much is an OJ Simpson-era Ford Bronco worth? While Barrett-Jackson doesn’t list its valuations publicly, we know that some of the cars are unusual enough to cross the block at Scottsdale. Would the esteemed auction house even consider a 2006 Toyota Tundra, worth an average of $7,000, if it wasn’t fortunate enough to be part of a collection belonging to a figure who’s achieved cult status? Many of these cars have been modified to Walker’s tastes, like his 1967 Chevrolet Nova coupe with a slew of YearOne parts, or the 2005 Harley-Davidson modified by Road Dog Customs. His tastes reflect his character, and that’s what people are searching for when they’re going to bid.

Lastly, here’s one example that ties it all home: the personal touch of a figure whose untimely death turned him from a mere actor into, in automotive circles, a pariah. The value of a 1964 Chevrolet Chevelle 300 two-door wagon hovers around $11,000. But this particular example “was slated to be Paul Walker’s next project,” says the listing for Lot 376. “To finish his vision for the project would be a true honor.”

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