A guided tour through some of rock ’n’ roll’s best garages.
Sammy Hagar sang “I Can’t Drive 55” and he has a chance to prove it every time he adds to his collection of Ferraris. But forgive this former Van Halen front man’s lead foot; these days, as lead singer of Chickenfoot, Hagar is racing to achieve the thrill he gets jamming onstage. “When you’re in a band that goes out and plays arenas for tens of thousands of people,” he says, “and they’re screaming and singing your songs, the excitement of that is only matched by a few things in life.”
Screaming down the highway in a 12-cylinder supercar is one of them, and Hagar is not alone in that opinion. Musicians from Adam Ant to ZZ Top have testified to their love of cars, whether it was Ronny and the Daytonas waxing poetic about a GTO, Bruce Springsteen celebrating his pink Cadillac, or Don McLean driving his Chevy to the levee. Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88,” recorded in 1951, is widely considered the first rock ’n’ roll song, and it is about an Oldsmobile.
“That really says something about the interconnectedness of rock ’n’ roll and automobiles and that feeling of freedom and not having to answer to the man,” says Meredith Rutledge-Borger, a curator at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “You can just get behind the wheel and go wherever you want to go. That’s what rock ’n’ roll does.”
Hank Williams Jr.’s (and Kid Rock’s) 1964 Pontiac Bonneville Convertible
Few musician-owned cars have the backstory and music lineage of Williams Jr.’s “Silver Dollar Cadillac.” Commissioned by Audrey Williams, Hank Williams Sr.’s first wife, Hollywood cowboy tailor Nudie Cohn gutted the interior of the Bonneville convertible and replaced it with silver dollar–studded saddle-like leather and installed six-shooter pistols for door handles. Massive cow horns are mounted on the grille. The car was sold out of the John O’Quinn collection to Kid Rock in 2010 for $225,500 at Amelia Island.
Where Hank Jr. busted staid Nashville wide open when he added rock influences to his traditional country sound, Kid Rock crossed musical lines with his blend of rap and rock. Kindred spirits, they both owe a debt of gratitude to Williams’s pappy, and live these lines from a Kris Kristofferson song: “If you don’t like Hank Williams, honey, you can kiss my . . .” rear end, which in the Bonneville’s case has a rifle mounted on it.
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