Interview: How Lee Dean created one of the best Porsche mags in the world

Those of you in Australia who love Porsches will no doubt have heard of, or purchased a copy or subscription of Duck & Whale magazine. As momentum grew with “cars and coffee” meet ups around the world and with rising prices of classic 911s, the print magazine industry was going through a transformation. Many long-standing automotive magazines were starting to look wobbly, some sadly disappearing, but this just gave rise to a new format and a new approach.

Cover of Duck & Whale magazine

In the early days of Duck & Whale magazine circulating through news agency networks, I would get quizzical looks from agency staff when asked if they stocked “Duck & Whale”. No, this wasn’t some weird crossover magazine for duck hunting and whale watching, rather an insider’s nod to early 911 RS ducktails and 911 Turbo whaletails. Those who know, know.

And it plays on the strength of the Porsche community. Here was a magazine which transcended its immediate market, finding fans across the globe thanks to its brilliant photography, premium paper stock, and insights into owners, cars, and events.

Lee Dean is the founder, editor, and photographer for Duck & Whale and one of the nicest guys you’re likely to meet in any car community. It takes a hell of a lot of guts to start a print mag when the industry was eating itself but Lee has managed to craft something special. To understand a bit more about Lee and Duck & Whale I asked a few questions…

What were you doing for work before Duck & Whale?

Before Duck & Whale I worked as a creative director in advertising and graphic design agencies, which doesn’t really enlighten readers as to why, now, a car magazine? Yet it was my stint in advertising which pushed me into Duck & Whale, I simply missed working closely with cars and car people. You see before advertising I was designing the monthly Australian automotive flagship; Wheels magazine, owned then by the Packer’s publishing company ‘Australian Consolidated Press’ which changed hands a few times after that. It was impossible not to learn from many of the best magazine people in Australia during that stint. World-class writers, designers, editors and chiefs. That was 2005 through to 2011, it was a moment in time because it all changed after that… 

Lee Dean exiting a classic Porsche 911 at a beach

Prior to 2005, in the UK I worked on the frantic weekly titles; ‘Autocar’ and the motorsport sister magazine ‘Autosport’ for Haymarket Media Group, they sold their motorsport portfolio in 2016 after 66 years. You learn at the weekly mags to get it right the first time as there is no time to redesign articles.

What was the catalyst for starting the magazine?

The writing was on the wall around 2010 – 2015 that there was a change coming to the publishing industry. The internet and the way people spend escapism time was the big change, social media feeds replaced the mags which were offering that type of chopped up content. Yet the opportunity was there to offer a niche premium offering with a deeper experience.   

Lee Dean sitting in a Porsche 911 flicking through Duck & Whale magazine

Did you own a Porsche before you started the magazine?

I didn’t own a Porsche before the magazine, another pro to the Wheels magazine gig, was the mythical office diary! It had the names of staff listed on one page and a pile of keys belonging to the test cars parked in the garage on the other… when the days end appeared, so did a set of keys! I had always known Porsche was special and driving nearly every make on the market only cemented that belief. The Porsche 997 GT cars were a real standout through this time.

How did you come up with the name Duck & Whale?

Ha. Well to begin with I knew the Porsche legal department had copyright over everything relating to the brand, so I needed to draw on creativity. In truth the name arrived during a brain storming session where I scribbled down every word I could think of relating to the brand and I remember circling those two words in different columns, then taking a quick breath in. 

Lee Dean of Duck & Whale photographing a Porsche 911

You started off by distributing via news agencies. What made you shift to a subscription only service?

I love news agencies, they are something I grew up with, I was a regular wandering through to flick through magazines – so it was a hard decision to pull out. Honestly it was a sad scene, distributors were telling publishers at the time that 60% waste was normal, the outlook was bleak. We needed to make a change, with an aim to move the classic Duck & Whale print experience through a distribution medium on the rise. The point needs to be made that we only produce a print magazine, we now sell subscriptions, single magazines, and merchandise like our grill badges from our websites, orders are fulfilled via local distribution points in Australia, USA and UK/Europe. 

Classic Porsche 911 with a surfboard on top at the beach at sunrise

Photography is an important aspect of what makes D&W so great. What camera gear are you currently using?

Firstly thank you for the compliment, I am still shooting with my Nikon D810 with Sigma art lenses. I am thinking about a new setup but haven’t settled on anything. I have had a great time shooting with the new Leica SL and Nikon Z Mirrorless cameras in the past. I think with a decent set up in hand the magic comes from the photographer’s view of composition, light and ability to control the scene. But new toys are fun! 

Rear of a Porsche 356 with doors open at the beach

Tell us more about the Duck & Whale 911.

The Duck & Whale 911 is a 1973 T, LHD Californian car with a fairly standard SC 210hp steel lined 3.0litre engine, these characteristics made it an easier entry point into the Porsche world. When I was looking for a car, being setup for club sprints and seeing a lot of workshop love, it was a wonderfully raw driving experience and was shouting “take me home!” It is a seventies GT3 experience, a great combination of classic road nostalgia and track competence.

Side view Lee Dean's classic Porsche 911 in front of an old factory
Rear view of Lee Dean's classic Porsche 911 at the beach

What’s your favourite road you’ve driven so far?

I would say driving the Targa roads in Tasmania is pretty damn special, it must be said that my favourite road is an empty one. Roads, like race tracks can fit one type of car perfectly and also reveal a weakness in others, my car has short ratio gears and a LSD, so it shines in the second to third twisty stuff for example; Mccarrs Creek Rd is in the wheel house of my 73 T, where as West Head Road may require something turbo-charged or big HP to get the same fang feeling with the long sweepers.

What’s your favourite Porsche you’ve driven, or been driven in?

That’s a really tough question. I could say; “I like mine the best” because I know everything about it and I don’t like taking other peoples Porsche to the limit. But, there two special cars come to mind; the LeMans 935 hot lap around SMSP with Craig Baird wrestling it around was brilliant, also the Corse built 964 with 996 cup car drivetrain was a hooting good time!

The rear of an orange classic Porsche 911 with the engine lid open

What makes the Porsche community so unique?

I think that all car people are similar; the unique thing about Porsche people is the engineering history. 

Even the entry-level stock cars are fast, people ask what have you done to the engine; I say “it’s a Porsche engine, they are pretty good out of the box!”

Sometimes the scene seems like a blender full of motorsport history, builders, modifiers, engineers, collectors and factory perfectionists, and they all come to the same events! Still, the cars really matter to every one of them, you may fault a person’s taste but you can’t fault the passion! 

Will the 911 ever be made electric?

Interesting question, I think there will be an electric variant in the range eventually, probably sooner than most will like. It’s also interesting to look to the GT cars in that question; Porsche is listening to the market here most of all. For example the manual gearbox was brought back from near extinction even though it’s slower, because people were shouting they wanted the engagement over the PDK. Look at the GT cars; my bet is that they will be the last stand.  

What’s in store for Duck & Whale over the next few years?

More magazines! We had big travel plans that have been put on ice obviously, so when we come out of this storm I’d like to tour around the world and discover more Porsche loving people!

Visit Duck & Whale to subscribe or to get back issues.

Follow Lee and Duck & Whale on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube

All images used with permission and © Duck & Whale

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