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Take a Look Inside James Hetfield’s Rockin’ Car Collection

  • Celebrity Car Collections
  • Renee Martin
  • 12 minutes

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You’ve heard his music. Now join us for an exciting and informative tour of James Hetfield’s amazing car collection. Take a closer look at the array of automobiles that the Master of Puppets’ (and apparently cars) donated to the Petersen Museum.

James Hetfield’s car collection

Metallica frontman James Alan Hetfield has excellent taste in classic American automobiles. The lead singer/guitarist owns an impressive collection of vintage Lincolns, Buicks, Packards, and Fords. It’s pretty clear that he has a massive soft spot for hot rods.

James Hetfield cars

Hetfield is not your typical car collector who sees a car they want and buys it. Instead, he visualizes a classic car and then goes ahead and builds it. That’s why practically all of the vehicles in his collection were custom-made just for him.

He also just went ahead and donated his car collection to the Petersen Museum for auto lovers to appreciate and enjoy. They are part of an exhibition called Reclaimed Rust.

So if you want to have a look at James Hetfield’s car collection, you could go to the Petersen Automotive Museum, but we’ve got a list here that will do the job just as well.

The 1932 Ford Roadster ‘Blackjack’

Although Hetfield’s Ford tattoo on his right bicep is physically close to his heart, this classic American muscle car is even closer. Hetfield’s 1932 Deuce Coupe was a labor of passion, and he insisted on using only period-appropriate components. He gave the all-steel 1932 Ford roadster, customized by Josh Mills of Marietta, the name “Blackjack” after the lead singer of Metallica, James Hetfield.

Most of the automobile components came from old wrecks and barn finds. However, the crew had to build the pieces unavailable elsewhere by hand. Therefore, the Blackjack is an absolutely authentic recreation.  The upper portion of the roadster was painted a deep brown, while they painted the lower portion a glossy black. The crew also constructed the white top by hand. James’s Blackjack, which was named America’s Most Beautiful Roadster in 2017, is still his favorite car.

The 1934 Packard’ Aquarius’

James’ 1934 Packard, affectionately named Aquarius, is a one-of-a-kind addition to his garage. There’s a teardrop shape to the hot rod bodywork. Overall, its style is like a French car from the same era. A Delahaye 165 from 1939 served as the model for the new design.

Rick Dore and the RD Kustoms crew crafted James’ Aquarius. The car’s air suspensions ride on a modified Morrison chassis. The silver-painted final product is worth more than $114,900 according to current market valuations. In 1934, the Packard Eleventh Series Standard Eight Model 1101 was equipped with a 5.2-liter, eight-cylinder engine that produced 120 horsepower.

According to an independent source, it could reach up to 100 miles per hour and accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in just 20.6 seconds. However, James did not stop with just a new coat of paint. He also replaced the old engine with a 6.2-liter LS3 V8. The LS3 V8 in Chevrolet vehicles produces 426–436 horsepower and 420–426 pound-feet of torque.

Hetfield’s 1936 Ford ‘Iron Fist’

James recovered the 1936 Ford “Iron Fist” and donated it to Blue Collar Customs from its previous life as a five-window beater. In this stage, the ’36 Ford received an air suspension system, a newly routed exhaust system, and a tweak to the airbag system. It was necessary to do all of this to get the car lower without sacrificing ride quality or handling. Everything but the engine was hand-built and painted silver. After finishing the exterior, the crew moved to the interior.

The oxblood leather seats and steering column were custom-made, and the interior was finished in nickel.  The other panels were black gloss. James took the car all across the country to various performances, so it had air conditioning and a stereo. Those later two were covered up to protect the interior’s authentic feel.

After all this time and effort, James presented his 1936 Ford at the 2012 SEMA and the West Coast Customs Cruisin’ Nationals, where it was met with widespread acclaim. It’s still unknown how much the car is worth since it resides in the Peterson Automotive Museum. But a similarly restored vintage Ford typically sells for around $40,000 now. The 1936 Ford Model 48 had a 3.6-liter V8 engine that produced 85 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque. The coupe’s specs are a mystery, but we anticipate it can reach at least 65 miles per hour.

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The 1936 Auburn ‘Slow Burn’

With an estimated value of $800,000, James’ 1936 Auburn ‘Slow Burn’ boattail is the most valuable vehicle in his collection. James was inspired to create the boattail design after seeing Glenn Pray’s fiberglass reproduction of the 1936 Auburn 852. James then purchased a genuine Pray vintage body and gave it to car builder Rick Dore to begin.

The 4.6-liter eight-cylinder engine of the 1936 Auburn Boattail Speedster is supercharged and produces 150 horsepower and 230 pound-feet of torque. It was quick and powerful for its time and came standard with a three-speed manual transmission. Sources outside of Auburn dispute the manufacturer’s claimed 0-60 mph time of 15.0 seconds and maximum out at 121 mph.

Dore altered the car from bumper to bumper and hand-built most of the panels. The bodywork was finished. They then painted it in two different colors. Most of the dials and gauges have been modified to seem vintage, and Egyptian leather is used throughout the cabin. James, though, had a 350 c.i. ZZ4 Ford crate motor installed. The torque was 405 lb-ft, and the horsepower was 350. The transmission was automatic, too. The automobile rode on 15-inch forged wheels and a RideTech air suspension system.

The 1937 Lincoln Zephyr’ Voodoo Priest’

Another car in James Hetfield’s collection completed by Rick Dore and the crew at RD Kustoms was the 1937 Lincoln Zephyr, also known as the “Voodoo Priest.” A rusty 1937 Lincoln Zephyr was the Voodoo Priest’s donor vehicle. James brought the car back to life after it had been abandoned. The Voodoo Priest has a shiny red paint job and a hot rod aesthetic.

They made minor adjustments to the car’s front end, but most of the work was on the back. Even the interior was personalized, with white and red upholstery, while the rest of the room was painted black.

James’s 1937 Lincoln Zephyr still has its original 4.4-liter flathead V12 engine, which has been restored. The standard configuration includes a 3-speed selective sliding manual transmission in the center console and an engine with 110 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. On the other hand, a C4 automatic transmission has been installed to make the vehicle more user-friendly. There is no information about Zephyr’s performance with this engine. However, you can buy a Lincoln Zephyr of comparable age and condition for less than $65,000 rig

The 1937 Ford Coupe ‘Crimson Ghost’

As James Hetfield put it, the 1937 Ford Coupe was “an ugly duckling,” but he loved it. So he went out and bought one, then had Rick Dore Kustoms build it for him. James and the custom shop carefully preserved the original concept while smoothing off any rough edges.

In the back, the roof was lopped off and had a curvier appearance, and that was the only significant change to the body. The car’s blood-red paint job and restored chrome accents are eye-catching. Because of this, the vehicle is known as the “Crimson Ghost.”

A 3.6-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine produced 85 horsepower and 153 pound-feet of torque in the 1937 Ford 3-door coupe. A 3-speed sliding mesh manual gearbox is coupled to the V8 engine. The coupe’s top speed is 76 mph. However, we don’t have any information about its performance. Price-wise, the Crimson Ghost is a mystery, but a comparable 1937 Ford Coupe can be purchased for almost $50,000 today.

James Hetfield’s Black Pearl – 1948 Jaguar Mark IV

James owns a unique 1948 Jaguar named “Black Pearl,” hand-built and personalized by Rick Dore. The Black Pearl is a customized car based on a 1984 Jaguar Mark IV.  AccuAir air-ride suspension cut the original Jaguar’s body and lowered it. It took two years to construct the Black Pearl’s hull, which borrowed styling cues from a 1948 Jaguar fastback, pontoon, and grille.

Steering wheels from a Lincoln, quality carpet carpeting from a Mercedes-Benz sedan, and a gauge from a 1934 Plymouth are just a few examples of the mishmash of makes and models found within. With the engine and transmission, they swapped out the original six-cylinder unit for Ford’s 305 cubic-inch small-block engine and installed a C4 automatic. They also installed new disc brakes at each wheel to replace the antiquated drum brake system. Classic tires measuring 15 inches in diameter with a white sidewall were used to keep the vehicle looking like it was built in the ’50s.

However, the base model of the 1984 Jaguar Mark IV was equipped with a 3.5-liter, six-cylinder engine that generated 125 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. With its 4-speed manual transmission, this powerplant can reach up to 92 miles per hour. However, James Hetfield’s Jaguar is powered by a Ford V8 crate engine rated at 375 horsepower.

Hetfield’s 1952 Buick Skylark ‘Skyscraper’

Skyscraper, James’s 1952 Buick Skylark, was the first car he commissioned from Rick Dore and the gang at RD Kustoms. Factory modification ideas based on the Buick Roadmaster inspired the design. They cut the car’s roof and reworked the sides for a lower, sleeker profile.

This symbol of 1950s America now has a stunning purple paint job and a slew of music-themed details. The accelerator is repurposed from a bass drum pedal, the gauges look like Fender guitar picks, and it was showcased alongside a color-coordinated ESP electric guitar and a 2007 Mesa/Boogie Lone Star Special amplifier.

This 1952 Buick Skylark in James Hetfield’s car collection has a 5.3-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine. It generates 124 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque. There’s a 3-speed manual transmission hooked up to the motor. Performance data from a third-party source indicates that this engine and transmission setup allowed the 1952 Buick Skylark to go from 0-60 mph in 17.3 seconds and reach a top speed of 83 mph. James had the old drivetrain swapped out for a Chevrolet V8 with 350 cubic inches of displacement and automatic transmission. With all of the upgrades and customizations, James’ Skyscraper is likely worth more than $125,000.

1956 Ford F100 ‘Str8 Edge’

James wanted a pickup truck for daily transportation, so he built the 1956 Ford F100′ Str8 Edge. An ancient Ford F100 from 1956 was donated for use in the build, and it had a flatbed and an expanded cab. After hiring Blue Collar Customs, James and Scott began working on the body, which proved to be the most difficult part of the project.

After some time, the truck’s components began to take shape, and problems were solved. A pair of suicide doors, a two-and-a-quarter-inch chop, a set of headlights from a 1960 Ford pickup, and a grille from a 1960 Chrysler were some of the modifications made. The crew hand-built the rest of the extra bodywork, including the fenders, firewall, and side skirts. Ford offered a 167-horsepower, 260-pound-foot V8 engine in their 1956 F100. The engine displaced 4.4 liters.

James didn’t bother to replace the motor because it was functioning adequately. Rather, he had Rex Hutchinson Racing modify it for increased output. A manual 4-speed transmission was standard on the truck, but they later installed an automatic transmission. Finally, after much delay, James received his custom-painted purple truck. More than $100,000 has been put into James’ pickup truck.

1961 Lincoln Continental’ Dead Kennedy’

The name is somber, as it refers to the vehicle in which John F. Kennedy was killed, and the design is similarly somber… and the suicide exits add to the gloomy atmosphere. Resto-mod describes James Hetfield’s 1961 Lincoln Continental, which he has named “Dead Kennedy.” It’s based on the fourth-generation Continental, the same model in JFK’s car when he was shot.

In addition to Hetfield’s commissioning of the Continental to Blue Collar Customs, the band’s lead guitarist also gave the ship a commission. The vehicle has been fixed up and re-positioned. Everything that was outdated was replaced with new components stylistically similar to the originals. The car’s exterior is black and has a hard top.

Value estimates range from $47,400 to $85,000, depending on the vehicle’s condition. The standard engine in the 1961 Lincoln Continental was a 7.0-liter (430 cubic inches) naturally aspirated V8 that produced 300 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. The heavy Continental could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 10.5 seconds thanks to the V8’s power and reach a top speed of 120 mph.

James Hetfield donated his car collection to the Petersen Automotive Museum in 2019

It’s safe to say that James Hetfield is a generous man. He gave nearly all of the land he purchased in Marin County back to the local community. Even his car collection, which he gave to the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles, California, in 2019, is a part of this legacy.

james hetfield car collection museum

Hetfield says he enjoyed gazing at them in his garage, but they weren’t serving any purpose there. He considered auctioning them off but decided against it since he didn’t want them scattered around the world.

Keep his passion project, his collection of classic cars, in pristine condition while showing it off to the world: that was Hetfield’s goal. And he found the best way to do that. He just put them on exhibit at the Petersen, considered the best car museum in the world.

Have we tempted you enough to want to take a drive to the Peterson Automotive Museum and check out James Hetfield’s car collection? There’s no time like the present! But before you go, make sure to book Petersen Automotive Museum parking. You don’t want to come back to a pesky ticket!


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