Paul Walker’s Death, and a History of Celebrity Porsche Crashes

LEAD-Paul Walker

By now, many of you have probably learned of the passing of actor and Fast and the Furious staple, Paul Walker. It was perhaps tragically ironic that Walker died in a fiery, single-vehicle car crash, as a passenger in a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT. He was attending an event for his own charity, Reach Out World Wide, which helps raise funds to send emergency responders to disaster-stricken areas.

Walker’s career was notable for a number of roles, including starting alongside James Van Der Beek in the 1999 film, Varsity Blues. But arguably his most notable role is as Brian O’Connor, the street-racing undercover cop that goes native in the 2001 film, The Fast and the Furious. In the motoring world, Walker’s name was synonymous with the tuner community, and Walker backed that up by being a true driving enthusiast. After the filming the first movie, Walker acquired an R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R.

Reports vary as to whether it was one of the GT-Rs used in the filming of the first or second film. What is certain is that he cared about cars, and had a robust collection that included multiple Lamborghinis, a vintage Corvette and Mustang, and a Ferrari F40. He was even a driver on Redline Time Attack, a racing series in which he piloted a BMW M3.

Porsche Carrera GT

PHOTOS: See more of the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT

At the time of the crash, Walker was a passenger in a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT, the German automaker’s previous range-topping hypercar before the new 918 Spyder. Walker’s friend, Roger Rodas, who owned Always Evolving Performance Motors, where Walker’s charity event was being held, was driving the Porsche. We are sad to report that Rodas also passed in the fiery crash, and officials say speed was a factor in the incident.

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It is just the latest in a history of celebrity car crashes, and one of several to involve very specialized Porsches. The first and most notable one was that of James Dean in 1955. Dean was driving a race-prepped Porsche 550 Spyder, at speeds of 85 mph (in context, that would have been like driving at speeds close to 120 mph today). The “Little Bastard” as Dean Called his 550 was a lightweight racecar, with minimal (if any) safety features.

James Dean Porsche

PHOTOS: See more of the 1955 Porsche 550 Sypder aka “Little Bastard”

In 1955, there would have been few safety features available that would have helped a driver survive such an incident, but even the advancements in safety technology half-century were not enough to help Jackass star Ryan Dunn. Sometime after 3:00am, on June 20, 2011, Dunn and a Jackass production assistant, Zachary Hartwell entered Dunn’s late-model Porsche 911 GT3. Their late night joyride ended with the high-performance Porsche slamming into a tree at speeds between 132 and 140 mph. Toxicology reports would later determine that Dunn’s blood alcohol content was more than twice the Pennsylvania state legal limit.

Porsche 911 GT3

PHOTOS: See more of the 2007 Porsche 911 GT3

We are by no means saying that the choice of Porsche vehicle was the cause of, or contributed to, the crash (In Dunn’s case, we’re certain of that). But in these three incidents, automotive thrill-seekers selected a rare, high-performance Porsche their vehicle of choice.

Consider the tires in a situation like this. Though there is a possibility the vehicle was modified by Always Evolving, images from the crash reveal that the wheels appear to be stock, so there is a good chance the tires could still be the Michelin tires that are sized only for the GT. Typically, the Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires that would be on a stock Carrera GT are a soft compound that warms up quickly and offers serious grip, but until they are warm, do not offer full traction. It is not uncommon for even a seasoned driver to loose traction if driving too fast on tires that are not appropriately warmed up.

00-Porsche Carerra GT

With time, more details will come out regarding the Walker/Rodas crash. But the common thread among all these crashes was that they took lives that many looked to for laughter, drama, and entertainment. From Dean, to Dunn to Walker, their work, in one way or another, touched many lives. The other common thread among all three– their lives were taken far too soon.

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