Yannick Bisson has more than 60 film and TV credits to his name, but he’s best known for his role as Detective William Murdoch on Canada’s most watched drama, Murdoch Mysteries. It’s a role he’s had on the internationally acclaimed series for 16 seasons and counting. The 53-year-old Montreal native loves the spotlight and acting just as much as he loves fast cars and driving. He owns a 2002 Porsche 996 Turbo, a 2023 Land Rover Defender 110 Carpathian Edition SUV, and is also building a custom hot rod from a 1995 Porsche 911.
Petrina Gentile: What sparked your interest in cars?
Yannick Bisson: When I was very small, my father had a ’68 Camaro RS and it had a 396. Shortly after I was born, he had to get rid of it. My grandfather, when I was little, had a body shop. My uncle was very big into cars – he had tow trucks and service stations. I was always aware of another world out there that includes cool cars. Also, being a Quebecer and having Gilles Villeneuve as a global presence at the time was a big deal. That’s what started my interest in cars.
PG: When did your passion for Porsches start?
YB: One day when I was six or seven, in my neighbourhood near Montreal, there was a green car that looked very special. It had black bumpers, chrome, green metallic paint, and a gold crest across on it with Porsche. It was not a normal car because the engine was somewhere in the back. I couldn’t figure that out, but I knew it was special and I never forgot that.
PG: Are you mechanically inclined? Are you hands-on when it comes to building your custom Porsche?
YB: That’s a complex restoration modification project. This thing has been built out of 25 different cars – even the gears and gearbox have been sourced from different cars. All the body panels were cut off and different ones put on. The roof is custom-made carbon fibre. This is highly specialized work that I’m definitely not going to involve myself in, but the decision-making and vision is what I wanted. I wanted to stitch together some of my favourite aspects of a group of two or three Porsche models all into one. I started with a salvage car because I didn’t want to cut up a perfectly good one. I actually put a bunch of cars together – that’s taken three years and a lot of skilled hands.
PG: How did you end up with the Defender?
YB: The Defender wasn’t planned. There’s a global shortage of cars and when the lease on our Range Rover Sport was up, we ordered something to replace it but it was going to be two years to get a car from Land Rover. Then, I got a call from a gentleman who said, “I have a customer who just cancelled an order on a special edition Land Rover Defender with a supercharged V8 and they’re not going to be making more,” so I took it.
It’s utilitarian. It’s a proven car and wheelbase that’s capable of doing a lot of things. It has very nice adjustable suspension and traction. Inside, it’s more beefy and less luxurious, so I can cart around my bike and equipment to go to the cottage. And it has good responsiveness because of that supercharged V8. It was a welcome change with more cargo space.
PG: What was your first car?
YB: A 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI. I have a lot of good and bad memories with it. I really liked the interior – it had tartan inserts in the seats and the rest was black cloth with race car instrument dials. It also had a three-spoke steering wheel that was GT-inspired and a hand-cranked sunroof. I customized the stereo and I had a tape deck. Driving around in the evening in the summer with the sunroof open was neat, listening to all my ’80s tunes. But on the flip side, even though it was a strong performer and a cool car, it crapped out on me pretty good.
PG: You’ve owned Audis, Porsches, and VWs. Is there one car you wish you never dumped?
YB: A Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3L 16-valve. It was a Cosworth-developed motor and a very cool car. It was the birth of the AMG division. It was one of three cars that was developed for GT racing in Germany and it was one of the most beautiful cars ever made. It was at the top of the game. I had one for a short while. It wasn’t a very good version – rust was starting to surface and bunch of things went wrong and I didn’t have the knowledge or appetite to correct. And I didn’t have the money. It’s one of those cars that got away.
PG: What’s your best driving story ever?
YB: A recent trip driving to all of the Atlantic provinces. It was me and my wife – I kidnapped her from her job and we ran away together to the Atlantic. The Defender had 49 kilometres on it and we basically drove 5,000 kilometres from Toronto to the Atlantic just to get away with no work or any business. Being with my wife, ticking something off my bucket list, and being on the road, which I enjoy, it made for a very special trip.
PG: If I can bring you the keys to any vehicle what would it be?
YB: A Lamborghini Miura, the original supercar. Everything about it was cool. It has all kinds of history and the people who collaborated on it, they were able to piss off Ferrari. And the styling holds up to this day – there’s not many cars you can say that about.
2002 Porsche 996 turbo
2023 Defender 110 Carpathian
Building a hot rod ’95 Porsche 911
- Multiple award-winning actor who has starred in films including Another Wolfcop, Casino Jack, Anything for Jackson, and Year by the Sea
- Appeared in numerous TV commercials for CIBC and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
- 2018, Canadian Screen Awards (CSA) winner of Golden Screen Award for TV Drama, Murdoch Mysteries
- 2017, received the ACTRA Award of Excellence for his outstanding contributions to the industry
- 2016, winner of the inaugural CSA Fan Choice Award
- 2015, won the CSA for Best Host in a Pre-School, Children’s or Youth Program
- Involved with Artists for Peace and Justice, which funds a middle and high school in Haiti; Boost for Kids and Childhood Cancer Canada
Season 16 of Murdoch Mysteries premieres September 12, 2022, airing Mondays at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT) on CBC and CBC Gem.