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Rock Stars And Their Cars
One of those is Janis Joplin’s unmistakable 1965 Porsche, which boasts a wowzer psychedelic / flower-power paint job that’s a swirl of day-glo flowers, star-sign symbols, cartoon butterflys and even a ‘portrait’ of her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. “It was like a moving mural,” said Howard Kramer, curatorial director for the Hall of Fame, referring to Joplin’s Porsche. “The artwork is really emblematic of the psychedelic era. Plus, she didn’t just store it -- it was one of her prized possessions, so she drove it around all the time. If it was parked on a street in San Francisco somewhere, you knew she couldn’t be too far away.”
Back to Bruce Springsteen’s obsession with cars, cruising, wrenching and racing in the streets: Springsteen, earlier this year, loaned his 1960 Corvette ragtop -- black body with white insert panels -- to the Hall of Fame, where it is presently on display. “The Vette has always been among the finest American-made sports cars, and the one from that year, ’60, is just a beautiful model,” Kramer effused. “This one was of real significance to him -- it was the first great car he could afford, after ‘Born to Run’ became a hit” in 1975.
Then there’s Roy Orbison’s gorgeous, cherry-red ’67 Corvette Sting Ray ragtop, another car from the Hall of Fame’s collection currently appearing in the Henry Ford exhibit. Orbison was an inveterate car freak going back to his youth. “Roy had a big collection of cars, but he didn’t buy this one until later in his life, during the time he was with the Traveling Wilburys, and had a new album out and was having a career renaissance. He was driving this car around L.A. all the time during that period. It’s a rare model, and highly collectible.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise of The Henry Ford exhibit is the vintage car loaned to the museum by James Hetfield, the growling, menacing-looking lead singer / guitarist from the heavy-metal band, Metallica. It’s a curvy and prettified ‘53 Buick Skylark convertible with long, flowing body lines. And, dig this: it’s lavender. “The color looks like something you’d pour out of a shampoo bottle,” joked Tom Varitek, senior manager of program operations at The Henry Ford museum. “The color is so soft and subtle that, under the spotlights, it almost looks like it’s melting. It’s definitely a different kind of statement than what you’d expect from him.”
On the other hand, the jet-black, customized ’36 Ford Coupe from the collection of Hetfield’s bandmate, Kirk Hammet, is exactly what you’d expect from a Metallica guitar-basher. “It has that sinister gangster look,” Varitek remarked. “Kirk and his customizer are both fans of film noir and gangster movies, and this car definitely reflects that.” It also has a customized guitar case built right into the back of the trunk, which is open to afford patrons a peek. We couldn’t help but notice its resemblance to the iconic “violin cases” that once concealed gangsters’ Tommy guns in those noir flicks.
One custom car that’s immediately identifiable to fans of Tejas electro-boogie is Billy Gibbons’ customized ’32 Ford Coupe, also known as the “Eliminator,” which is part of the Hall of Fame’s collection but was also loaned to the Henry Ford for its current exhibit. Anyone who saw a ZZ Top video in the 1980s remembers this flashy red number, with a stylized “ZZ” pattern painted on the side -- because this crimson sled whooshed through five of the band’s videos. “So, to ZZ Top fans, this car is really an icon,” Kramer said.
No story on rock stars’ cars would be complete without a tip o’ the hat to Elvis Presley. So, we present the 1975 Lincoln Continental Mark IV in the Hall of Fame’s collection. Elvis purchased it, then gave it away to one of his “right hand men,” said Kramer. And it’s another wowzer -- the exterior is a deep purple color, with white leather interior. “It’s gigantic,” Kramer said with a laugh. “It’s remarkably deep, and wide. We used to have John Lennon’s Rolls Royce on display here -- the one with the paisley psychedelic paint job -- and this one is just as big, if not bigger.”
In one corner of the Henry Ford’s exhibit is one of the flashier rides in the display -- the 1963 Buick Riviera owned by Jimmie Vaughan, formerly of the the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Vaughan has dubbed the car “The Deceiver,” and every time the exhibit’s spotlights sweep across this Rivvy, the car’s iridescent lime-gold paint scheme practically burns your retinas. “Jimmie said that, as a youth, he remembered that model as being a symbol of success, and he looks at customizing cars as a true art form, so he takes an active role in the process, Varitek shared “He said this vehicle is ‘art that you can drive to the store.’”
In addition to the customized production models, the Henry Ford exhibit also includes a race car -- a Lola/ Cosworth T297 owned by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, who’s a rabid racing enthusiast. “In fact, Nick was just here in mid-July, and we laid down an audio interview with him talking about the car.” The Lola boasts a unique grid-like paint scheme to evoke the bricks in “The Wall” -- which, as Floyd freaks know, was the title of one of the band’s biggest albums.Read the Story: What Rock Stars Drive
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