There's a long tradition in the collector car business of cashing in on fame — using former celebrity ownership to make a rare vehicle seem that much more special. Over the past few years, any car related to baby-boomer hero Steve McQueen has drawn a hefty premium; last year, a camera car he used while filming "Le Mans" fetched $11 million.
So it's entirely expected that following the death of beloved "Fast and Furious" star Paul Walker, a few collectors would attempt to test the market for cars he had a connection with. What may be surprising is just how fast one German seller has moved to sell this Nissan Skyline GT-R, and how his asking price for the hero vehicle of the fourth film — a car once impounded by the U.S. government and tagged for destruction — more than tripled to $1.4 million in the wake of Walker's fatal crash.
One of the starring cars in the Fast and the Furious series, the 90s-vintage, Japan-only Nissan Skyline GT-Rs became sought-after rides in the United States — not just because of their 500-hp twin-turbo performance, but because they were also illegal to import under federal auto safety and emissions rules. To get around that prohibition for the filming of "Fast & Furious," importer Kaizo Industries bought eight chassis without engines in Japan, shipped them to the United States under rules for kit cars, and installed proper engines in this country. Only one — the "hero" Nissan GT-R R34 that Walker drove in non-violent scenes — survived filming without being wrecked or torn up, the builders told Import Tuner magazine in 2009.
But in June 2009, the federal government cracked down on Kaizo and other GT-R importers, saying the kit-car sidestep was illegal. The blue GT-R was seized along with nearly 50 other cars, and the owners were given 60 days to either export the cars back overseas or see them crushed; a photo from September 2009 shows the car sitting in a federal impound lot covered in dust.
That's where the trail goes cold until this August, when a German car magazine posted a drive review of the Walker "Fast & Furious 4" Nissan — where the German owner reveals that he now has the car for sale at the price of 300,000 euros, or $413,000. Within the past few days, a new listing for the hero car has come online in Germany, detailing its co-starring role with Walker, its list of modifications and a new price: 1 million euros, or $1.4 million. Given Walker's worldwide popularity, this Skyline sale might be the first of his auto memorabilia to hit the classifieds with a recently inflated asking price, but it won't be the last.