Metallica star's hot rod wins top US award

18:25, Apr 12 2014
James Hetfield's Black Pearl
JAMES HETFIELD'S BLACK PEARL: It has British and American engineering and a style based on the work of French designers from the 20s and 30s.

In between making albums and touring with the band, Metallica's James Hetfield has been indulging in his other passion: hot rods.

He's been working with celebrated custom car builder Rick Dore to build a car called "the Black Pearl," which has just taken the "Goodguys" Custom of the Year award in the US.

The Black Pearl is a subtle and surprisingly tasteful rendering by traditional hot rod standards and is not based on the usual American-based underpinnings being effectively a heavily modified 1948 Mark IV Jaguar underneath, with Ford running gear.

Influenced by pre-war stylists Figoni et Falaschi and Letourneur et Marchand, Hetfield says his car is intended to combine the best of American custom car tradition with the hey-day of European coachbuilding and style.

"We started out with a left-hand-drive Jaguar, [but] we couldn't get what we wanted out of it so we just kept drawing," Hetfield told the Contra Costa Times.


The aluminium body was formed by hand from scratch over six months by lauded panel fabricators Marcel and Luc De Lay all from a single 20x25cm drawing. Hetfield added in a press release that: "[it's] a testament to the ability of the human mind and hands. It still blows people's minds when they ask what body we started with."

All that remained of the original Jaguar chassis after the build were the outer frame rails, which now support a 375-hp (276kW), Ford 302ci (5.0-litre) V-8 and an automatic transmission. Air suspension front and rear connects a Mustang II-sourced independent front suspension set-up and a four-link 9-inch live rear axle to the frame. The Black Pearl will stop as well as go with and GM discs brakes up front and Ford Explorer units at the rear.

When the Black Pearl debuted at last year's Grand National Roadster Show, it was a bare metal car, without paint and main detailing.

The project eventually re-surfaced at the beginning of the year, with deep black paint, applied by Daryl Hollenback, and an interior created by time-honoured custom cabin man, Ron Mangus interior. The whole plot was finished-off by a unique set of specially made wheels from Wheelsmith Fabrications, with special centre caps rendered in brass.

To win the Custom of the Year award at the "Goodguys" show in Pleasanton, California, the Black Pearl beat out a few other heavily favoured custom cars, such as a 1939 Lincoln Zephyr, a 1955 Cadillac, a 1956 Packard Caribbean and the 1951 Ford Victoria.

Sunday Star Times