Musicians and Cars
Baby You Can Drive My Car, Yes, I'm gonna be a star, Baby, you can drive my car And maybe I'll love you… Beep-beep, beep-beep, yeah
These lyrics from a Beatles song sum up the love affair between rock and pop stars and the motor car. Before the age of TV talent shows, bands would spend days and nights travelling to gigs in less than roadworthy vans and buses, so it was only natural that once the money started rolling in, the young men – and it was mainly young men – would choose to splash the cash on some fancy wheels.
Of the four Beatles, it was drummer Ringo who had the most left-field vehicle, running an exotic Facel Vega, while John Lennon upset the purists with a psychedelic paint job on his Rolls Royce. George Harrison was the real car nut of the group, devoting almost a year to following Formula 1 around the world in 1977, a good friend to many of the drivers, including Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda and he even wrote a song about it, “Faster” which featured on his self-titled 1979 studio album. The video for the song, sales of which raised money for the Gunnar Nilsson cancer charity, featured Harrison singing in the back of a car driven by Stewart. A Jaguar E-type, an Aston Martin DB5, a variety of Porsches and Mercedes and a McLaren are just some of the marques that passed through the guitarist’s hands.
George settled for being a race fan, whereas some pop stars thought they wanted to have a go at racing themselves. Andrew Ridgeley was generally regarded as the least talented member of Wham, the group he was in with George Michael and motor racing was another area where his enthusiasm exceeded his skill. He crashed in six of his first eight races in the French Formula 3 championship. He’s now found his calling as an environmental activist.
Ringo Starr's Facel Vega Facel II exhibited at the NEC Birmingham Classic Car Show 2013. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Guitar god Eric Clapton has always taken his enthusiasm to excess and that trait extends to his obsession with Ferrari cars. With record sales in excess of 250 million Pink Floyd drummer has a car collection that would leave you “comfortably numb” to quote one of the band’s song titles. Mason is also a handy classic car racer and has even competed in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Perhaps the jewel in the crown of his collection is a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO. Mason bought it for under £40,000 and it’s now reckoned to be worth a mind-blowing 40 million! Mason also owns the Ferrari 312 T3 in which Gilles Villeneuve won the Canadian Grand Prix, as well as an example of the car voted "the world’s greatest racing car" in 2009, the Maserati 250F. The Fifties Formula One racer was driven by the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss. Mason owns one of just 26 ever made and it lives in his garage alongside an even faster car, the truly stunning space-frame Maserati Tipo 61 Birdcage.
While many musicians loved their cars and treated them with respect, the mix of music and motors has not always been a happy one. Crazily erratic Who drummer Keith Moon is best known for driving his Rolls Royce into a swimming pool and having taken the wise decision to switch to having a chauffeur, he blotted his copybook by running over the poor man! Drummers have a bad rep in this area and Cozy Powell died at the wheel of his Saab. Well over the alcohol limit, he was talking to his girlfriend and not wearing a seat belt when he lost control and flew through the windscreen.
A Maserati 250F spotted at the Hampton Court Concourse Event in 2020. Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons
Marc Bolan, one of the leading lights in the Glam Rock era and singer with T-Rex, died in South London when he was a passenger in a humble Mini, which hit a steel post, the area around it in South London now a shrine to his many fans.
Of the current crop of music stars, it’s no surprise that Lady Gaga has an eclectic collection of four-wheeled art, most of it American muscle metal, such as a 1965 Lincoln Continental Convertible, a ’67 Ford Mustang and Bronco, a Chevy Nova Supersport churning out 375 horsepower and a vehicle often described as the prettiest truck of all time, a V8-powered 1970 El Camino.
As for “The King,” Elvis Presley got through a whole showroom full of cars in his short lifetime, including a second hand 1954 pink Cadillac. He used it to drive his band, The Blue Moon Boys, around the southern states of the USA. Elvis loved it: “I parked it outside my hotel the day I got it and stayed up all night just looking at it,” he said. The car caught fire after a few months of ownership, so Elvis ordered a new Cadillac Fleetwood 60, which he had painted pink and presented to his mother…who couldn’t drive.
One of Elvis Presley's Cadillac's on show at the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons