Paul Walker: True Motoring Icon?

by Eric Weiner
24 January 2020 3 min read
Paul Walker: True Motoring Icon?
Nissan 370Z 'Fast Five' Barrett Jackson

Paul Walker’s legacy is alive and well, if the results of his collection’s auction at Barrett-Jackson last week are any indication. The late actor and Fast and Furious franchise star’s 21-vehicle roster sold for an eye-watering $2.33 million at Barrett’s Scottsdale 2020 event. The immense result has us seriously considering if Walker, an icon of the modified car culture and its mainstream popularisation in the 2000s, is the next big name of celebrity car collectors—a sort of Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, or James Dean of the “Youngtimer” generation. Walker died at the age of 40 while riding as a passenger in a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT that crashed outside of Los Angeles in November 2013.

News of the collection’s consignment broke last October, revealing a particularly noteworthy congregation of five E36-generation BMW M3 Lightweights. The collection also included two E30-generation M3s. Of the total sales from the Paul Walker collection, these seven BMW M3s account for a shocking $1.7M in sales, for an average of $244,000 each. (All prices include commission.)

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Weighing 128 Kg less than the standard U.S.-market E36-generation M3, BMW built fewer than 130 examples of the track-focused Lightweight model. Lacking radio, air conditioning, toolkit, some carpeting, and the sunroof, the M3 Lightweight sports a unique multicolour checked graphics package on the front driver’s side and rear passenger fender. The seats feature a special patterned cloth, and on the dashboard above the glovebox is a carbon-fibre plate indicating the car’s limited-edition status.

The top sale of the group was a 4,600-mile 1995 BMW M3 Lightweight (Lot 1371), which brought $385,000. That smashes the prior record-holder for an M3 Lightweight, which sold at Gooding & Company’s 2017 Amelia Island auction for $145,750. Standard E36 M3s have been on the rise in recent years, but there’s no doubt that Walker’s celebrity ownership is worth a serious premium. Our data indicates that without his involvement, a #1-condition (Concours) 1995 BMW M3 Lightweight is worth around $132,000. In fact, even the lowest-price M3 Lightweight sale from the Paul Walker Collection (Lots 1372 and 1373.1 each sold for $220,000) at Barrett-Jackson this year beat out the previous overall record for an M3, which belonged to this 2001 BMW PTG M3 GT V8 Grand-Am that sold for $196,000 at Amelia Island in 2018.

The Walker premium does not apply exclusively to BMW M3s, of course. A Concours-quality 2000 Audi S4 averages $20,000, but Walker’s sold for $29,700—and the car is a rough example, to put it mildly. Given the faded paint, peeling roof, and missing driver’s side marker light among other issues, we rated it #4+ condition based on an inspection on the auction show floor, which ordinarily would translate into a price of roughly $5,000. Walker’s 2009 Nissan 370Z, featured in the film Fast Five, sold for $105,600. Even taking into account this example’s custom front-suspension tweaks and visual flair, that’s a far cry from a garden-variety example, which you can find fairly easily for just under $20,000.

All 21 of Walker’s offerings (including motorcycles) sold for more than the expected value for similar vehicles without famous ownership. If we try to quantify the Walker premium, we can calculate that they sold for an average of 167 percent above expected value without celebrity status.

Hagerty valuation expert Adam Wilcox also noted that certain cars in the collection—those that typically appeal to a younger audience—sold better than the rest. “Walker’s fans tend to be around 30–35 and the cars that his Fast character Brian O’Conner would drive are the cars that they are most interested in,” Wilcox notes. “Muscle cars like his Chevelle and Nova wagons didn’t sell as well as the S4, the BMWs, and the 370Z because they don’t fit in the middle of that Venn diagram.” Such vehicles sold for 235 percent above expected values.

For a younger segment of the population, Walker’s popularity as both a Hollywood celebrity and automotive hero are at this point well cemented, and this monumental sale is simply further evidence that people are willing to put serious money down for a piece of the late actor’s legacy.

All proceeds from the sale are headed to The Paul Walker Foundation, a charitable organization managed by Walker’s daughter.

Like this article? Check out Hagerty Insider, our e-magazine devoted to tracking trends in the collector car market.

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