Since 1981, the hard rock band Metallica has been selling music like mad and wowing devoted fans with their spectacular shows all over the world. The members have been through all the ups and downs common to a rock and roll band, but instead of disappearing overnight or slowly but surely fading away, they have become more and more popular year after year as each album they release has hit the charts and the radio. Decades and generations after their early beginnings as a young band in Los Angeles, they are bigger and better than ever, and they have earned the right to be called one of the single greatest rock bands of our time.
As he is the voice, James Hetfield is also pretty much the face of Metallica. As the band’s frontman and guitarist he is the first to come to mind when one thinks of Metallica or sings one of their songs in shower or while driving to work. He is no longer the young man with stars in his eyes, dreaming of playing sold-out shows before thousands; now he is a seasoned man with loads of professional success and worldwide renown under his belt, but that is likely only the icing on his heavy metal cake. The 56-year-old rock star has a beautiful wife, three children, a gorgeous yet comfortable home, and…a mind-blowing collection of automobiles that would make the most avid of collectors jealous.
While Hetfield isn’t famous for his car collection (in fact, most fans are completely unaware of it), he loves and nurtures it nonetheless. His cars, which he has been building and working on for years, are an incredible sight to behold, both as a group and individually. Anyone who has listened to his music is familiar with his style, and if you pay attention to the lyrics he writes, you will see that his personality is reflected in this collection, as well. It is all ‘James’, and it is uber-impressive, to say the very least. These beautiful vehicles will go on exhibit January 30, 2020 at Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, and suffice to say, many, many people are on the edge of their seats waiting to get their chance to see them. The exhibit is entitled ‘Reclaimed Rust: The James Hetfield Collection’…and aptly so.
So, gather round, children, and take my hand as we check out the dynamite cars of James Hetfield…we are definitely off to Never-Neverland…
1. Voodoo Priest (1937 Lincoln Zephyr)
‘Voodoo Priest’ was first presented to the public at Goodguys 30th All-American Get Together, where it won Mother’s West Coast Custom of the Year award for 2012. At the Sacramento Autorama it won the H.A. Bagdasarian Award months before for the World’s Most Beautiful Custom as well. This car is the result of a collaboration between custom hot rod builder Rick Dore and Hetfield, who told what he was envisioning to Dore, and when they were finished Voodoo Priest was born. The original engine, a Flathead V12, sits in its evil belly, rebuilt and rumbling, thanks to H&H Flatheads. It also features chromed carburetors by Stromberg 97 and a C4 automatic tranny. Artillery-style chrome wheels measuring 16 inches carry it, and the Coker Tires Firestone wide whites with Zephyr caps are hand lettered. A black mohair art deco interior with accents in candy red and vanilla white serve as the icing on this cake, as does the mirrored red paint job. Breathtaking…
2. Aquarius (1934 Packard)
Also by Rick Dore and James Hetfield is ‘Aquarius’, a 1934 Packard. With sheet metal work by Marcel’s Custom Metal that sits on a Morrison chassis with a 124” wheelbase, the car rides on airbags by Accuair. It also has skirts painted silver by Himsl which cover the wheels and tires, almost giving it a ghostly ‘floating’ appearance. Sherm’s Plating did the chromework. It also features a 4L80E transmission and LS motor. This car is almost too perfect for words.
3. Str8edge (1956 Ford F-100)
Called ‘over-the-top’ by Hot Rod Magazine , ‘Str8edge’ was purchased by James from an old man online, and he took it to Scott Mugford to be redone. According to Mugford, it was painted purple when he got it, but it was a different shade at the time. Today, Str8edge boasts an incredible reworking done by Scott and others at BBC. The design, both inside and out, was done with them knowing that James would drive the truck regularly. It has a 455ci Oldsmobile motor that has been ‘refreshed’ by Rex Hutchinson Racing Engines, as well as a TH400 tranny; the beast has a 9” rear-end from whence cometh it’s motivation (it’s rear-wheel drive). Body conversion were done, of course, and now it sits in all its glory, its 1960-61 Chrysler grille, accents, and wheels gleaming for the world to see. Str8edge also has a ’57 Ranchero tailgate that the guys worked perfectly into its design. The roof is metalflake, and black and white pinstripes are the topper, along with two shades of purple on the body in a razor sharp design. Just wow…
4. Black Pearl (1948 Jaguar)
There had to be a Jaguar, didn’t there? ‘Black Pearl’ happens to be a Jag that makes classic Jaguars unforgettable again. James Hetfield’s hauntingly beautiful version is definitely a sight that we can all bear in mind. Winner of the Goodguys Custom of the Year award and designed in collaboration with Rick Dore, Black Pearl is an art deco-inspired job that is built on the chassis of a ’48 Jaguar Mk4. Hetfield has said that it was designed with the European coach-building skills of Letourneur et Marchand and Figoni et Falaschi in mind. A masterfully-reshaped body with a Daryl Hollenback paint job in black hides not only an interior by Ron Mangus, but custom-brass-capped wheels by Wheelsmith Fabrications as well. Also tucked cleanly out of sight are Black Pearl’s inner workings, which purr like a satisfied cat’s would. Sleek and elegant, Black Pearl deserves all of the attention it gets.
5. Slow Burn (1936 Auburn)
‘Slow Burn’ happens to be our personal favorite…it is a ride that one must literally gawk at to fully appreciate. Slow Burn debuted at the 2010 Grand National Roadster Show, and made a mark that simply cannot be erased. Technically, she is an Glenn Pray Auburn 852 Speedster, as it was Glenn Pray’s shop that finished the recreation of this automobile after collaborating with Hetfield. Rick and James got together once again on the design, which was built on the original chassis, and by the time it was finished the vehicle was worthy of the 2010 Goodguys Custom of the Year award…and won it. There is a unique story behind Glenn Pray and the original car owned by him that Slow Burn is based on, which you should definitely give a gander to if you want to better understand its background. Otherwise, the car now has a ZZ4 350 that puts out 350 horses and 405-lb.-ft. of torque, and also features both an Edelbrock 650-cfm four-barrel and Edelbrock intake. Slow Burn stays cool thanks to a US Radiator, but she gets hot with the help of a TH350 transmission. There is a lot more going on that we have time to discuss, but we wouldn’t be doing her justice if we didn’t mention that she has one of the sexiest bodies around, made more luscious by a paint job that is perfectly reminiscent of molten lava. Eat your heart out…this is a gorgeous frickin’ car.
6. Crimson Ghost (1937 Ford Coupe)
When considering the design of ‘Crimson Ghost’, Hetfield and his collaborators decided to pay homage to originality by not veering too far off base with additions or accents, and the result is a car richly reminiscent of his heritage with slight modern touches. It has been said that the design takes ‘what is best about the ’37 Ford coupe and makes it [even] better’. We also agree that James seems to have both an eye and a heart for improving on originals, and the Crimson Ghost is no exception. A smooth runner with a magnificent body and the inner guts to match, this is a set of wheels to be proud of, as he surely is. (By the way, the skull shifter is AMAZING)
7. The Custom 1961 Lincoln Continental
Built by Blue Collar Customs, Hetfield’s 1961 Lincoln Continental is another of his babies to go on show at the Petersen Automotive Museum, which he has been named a Founding Member of. This is one of the ten vehicles donated to the museum by James that doesn’t have much information available on it, but we can say that it’s not only sleek, it has a spooky air to it as well. It’s entire presence gives us a ‘heavy metal rock star’ vibe’, and while we can only imagine what it holds both inside and under the hood, we’re sure the man has ensured that justice has been done…he’s proven himself trustworthy like that when it comes to these works of art.
8. Iron Fist (1936 Ford)
Now here’s another piece of eye candy that does nothing less than astound. ‘Iron Fist’ is a 1936 Ford that was also built for James by Blue Collar Customs. Created using a chopped Flintstone body and a ’36 Ford SW kit by AMT. The color is actually called ‘Clear’, and was done by Daryl Hollenbeck’s Vintage Color Studio (it’s technically NOT paint…just CLEAR ; the interior is done in a deep, almost blood, red leather with a black dash and chrome accents. It appeared in Pleasanton, California at the Goodguys 30th All-American Get-Together and was greeted with much love. Back to the body ‘color’…why clear? Because Hetfield wanted to boast the great talent demonstrated by the builder, and he believed the best way to do this was to forego a traditional paintjob in favor of ClearCoat only. Obviously he has a more-than-admirable amount of guts, and gloriously…it works.
9. Skyscraper (1953 Buick Skylark)
A car collection really isn’t a collection without a Buick, and Hetfield chose a beauty to represent, didn’t he? Also built by Rick Dore for James, ‘Skyscraper’ features incredible detail and an astonishing pearlescent, shifting color that is fit to be tied (a pastel that is above and beyond the realm of the popular, yet equally mind-blowing ‘Chameleon’ color of yesteryear). As beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside, Skyscraper takes the ’53 Buick and makes it even better than it’s original creators ever dreamed it could be.
10. Black Jack (1932 Ford Roadster)
Built by Marietta’s Josh Mills, ‘Black Jack’ is an all-steel original that is able to boast that nothing it possesses of any kind of importance is newer than 1949, and the rest came from old barn finds or junk piles. It’s perfect, and it was named as a popular pick for America’s Most Beautiful Roadster in 2017. The interior was fabricated and upholstered by hand, and the paint, rather than being black (as many think) is actually a deep, rich brown (only the suspension and frame are really black); it features a removable white ‘Carson-style’ top, as well. It should be noted that Black Jack, while picked by fans for the Most Beautiful Roadster for 2017, did not take home the prize that year. However, it is a wonderful addition to the Petersen collection, and deserves all the attention and love it can get.
There you have them: The ten cars donated to the Petersen Automotive Museum for display by James Hetfield, Rock Star and Custom Car Collector Extraordinaire. Just because he donated these doesn’t mean he isn’t still collecting. According to Autoblog, the Metallica frontman still has his custom motorcycle collection and a 1952 Oldsmobile named ‘Grinch’. ‘Reclaimed Rust: The James Hetfield Collection’ will also feature guitars and memorabilia owned by James, and will feature food and drink for visitors. So, if you’re from California or will be visiting there on the 30th of January or afterward, this is a display that simply cannot be missed…and age is not a factor, regardless of the level of love you have for the musical workings of Metallica. Be there or miss the show of a lifetime.
Written by Benjamin Smith
Read more posts by Benjamin Smith