Paul William Walker died 30 November, 2013, in a ghastly car accident while riding alongside bestie Roger Rodas, who was in control of his newly acquired Porsche Carrera GT.
Image: Paul Walker
Roger [the car owner] was said to be a “collector” of fast rides with over 50 items resting in his garage. Both friends were out for a Sunday evening drive around town. It was Paul’s first ride in a Carrera which turned out to be the famous actor’s last.
An excerpt from Drive reveals the actual cause of Paul Walker’s death.
Old and bad tires.
According to the article published in Drive: “Your tires are the most important part of your car. They can make you faster, they can save your life, or they can get you killed, even if you’re the star of a major car-centric action franchise, and even if you aren’t driving. (Spoiler alert: the driver dies too).”
Image: Paul Walker
The Real Story:
…Fast forward a year. In November of 2013, Paul Walker and Roger Rodas were hanging out at an open house and car show in front of the business they owned together, Always Evolving. I had the pleasure of both their company on several occasions; though we weren’t close, both Roger and Paul were always a pleasure to be around, especially at the track, where they spent a lot of time. Both were excellent drivers and upstanding citizens. Neither of them would live to see the end of the day.
Roger, an avid car collector with more than 50 cars to his name—including what I believe is the largest collection of Saleen cars in the world—had just bought himself a Porsche Carrera GT out of a long-term collection.
The red-over-black Carrera GT was the right color combo and had a famous owner in its history: Graham Rahal. It also had only 3,500 miles on the odometer, making for a highly desirable example. He had just taken delivery of the car that week. Paul, as big of a gearhead as he was, had never been in a Carrera GT before. It was a Sunday, so the large office park was all-but-deserted save for AE’s small section of parking lot.
“Just once around the block.”
“Everyone wanted to hang Paul and Roger out to dry as their speeding scapegoats. The tires were a footnote to an exaggerated story, and it became a missed opportunity to teach a very real lesson.”
Once around the block was all it took to kill them both. The 3,500 mile Carrera GT was shod with its original tires. They, like the car attached to them, were 9 years old.
Roger lost control of the Carrera GT at an estimated 90 mph, and hit a tree.
The mainstream media, and indeed many automotive-focused web sites, simply couldn’t wait to report on the irony of the situation, that someone known for playing a character who drives crazy is killed in a supercar doing double the speed limit in an office park.
I was distraught the first couple of days, but honestly, all I could think about was how the crash happened, and I just kept going back to that day at Spring Mountain. This was a super low-mileage car. Roger was a really good driver. There were no other cars around or last-minute obstacles to avoid. It had to have been on original tires.
No one talked about the tires. Everyone wanted to hang Paul and Roger out to dry as their speeding scapegoats. The tires were a footnote to an exaggerated story, and it became a missed opportunity to teach a very real lesson. The LA Times reported one article on it nearly 5 months after the crash, and that was it. The cause of the crash was still ruled “unsafe speed for the conditions.” And not “tires, which may as well have been made of paper mache.”
Image: Paul Walker
I’ve been to that office park, and I know that corner, and you can take that corner at 90 mph in a fucking Prius, as long as you have tires that aren’t 9 years old. In a Carrera GT you could take it at 90, one-handed, while sipping a Venti Latte. I’m not saying you should be legally allowed to rip around an office park at 90, but from a technical sense, the actual cause of the crash was trash old tires. “Unsafe speed for the conditions” may have been the ticket Roger would have gotten if a cop stopped him, but that’s not what caused the accident.
I know no one wants to hear this, but I’m going to say it: Roger was a great driver, and actually quite conservative. And if he had a new set of tires on the car, that crash wouldn’t have happened, because 90 mph on that corner is nothing for a Carrera GT. With old tires, it’s not like you get oversteer or understeer, and you then correct, and back it down. They seem fine one minute, you hit the brakes or turn the wheel, and then they are just gone. You’re a passenger. Or, at least I was, back at Spring Mountain in 2012.
The Carrera GT was a handful when it was new, which gives it an edge as a collector’s item; an edge you don’t get from a Bentley. Leno spun one out, so did Seinfeld. It’s got a notoriously grabby clutch, a manic engine, and no electronic drivers aids whatsoever. It’s known for being nasty, sharing its legacy alongside the Ford GT as the last of the truly analog cars, discontinued because the government said we need stability control now.
Sort of like the Porsche 550 Spyder, a beautiful and successful racing machine far overshadowed by the young, handsome actor who happens to have killed himself in one.
I haven’t driven a Carrera GT in years, but I’m told that fitting a new set of Pilot Super Sports or Cup2’s on them really improve the drivability and dial back a bit of the sketchiness. The original tires, even when they were new, weren’t great. At 9 years old, they are absolutely worthless.
After the dust settled, I got a phone call from a lawyer claiming to represent Meadow Walker in a lawsuit against Porsche. He wanted me to testify that I thought the Carrera GT was a dangerous car, an opinion that he presented to me, and not the other way around.
I do not think the Carrera GT is inherently dangerous; I just don’t think it’s reasonable to expect a car to save passengers in a 90 mph broadside crash, nor to expect that the lack of stability management, rather than the old tires, caused the crash. And of course, the car passed all the necessary steps when new, and had now been out of production for nearly a decade. I say this with a straight face after losing two friends in that crash.
As badly as I feel for both Paul and Roger’s children, it is my opinion that the wrongful death lawsuit against Porsche is a greedy lawyer cash grab and has very little to do with the Walker or Rodas family, both of whom have plenty of money to live off.
The point, kids, is if you have a car you don’t drive very often; or if you buy a car from a collection and it has low miles; or if you buy a car that has been sitting for any period of time, or used sporadically: check the tires, and change the tires. They may look like they are in good shape with not many miles on them, but if they are out of date and you don’t check, you won’t know anything’s gone wrong unless it’s too late. Learn from my stupidity in this situation, or from poor Roger and Paul. As they say, the life you save, may be your own.
Image: Paul Walker
Meanwhile, Michelle Rodriguez, a veteran franchise, says it hasn’t been so easy after losing the heart and soul of the Fast and Furious.
Paul Walker’s death dealt a devastating blow to the team, but his former cast members have found a new cause to unite them since his death.
“We got to keep it street for the world — it’s a global affair now,” franchise veteran Michelle Rodriguez said at the PEOPLE / EW / InStyle studio at the Toronto International Film Festival, where she was in town to promote her new film, (Re)Assignment.
“Paul’s the heart of it, he’s the guy who really loved the genre, he loved that lifestyle,” she continued. “And not having that love affair with cars and that lifestyle, it removed a certain aspect of the soul of the franchise and it hurts all of us and we all know it.”