Wherever lies the line between coachbuilt car and custom car, between handcrafted work of rolling art and aesthetically altered automobile, rock star James Hetfield and custom car builder Rick Dore have obliterated it with their latest car, and in the process captured the Goodguys Custom of the Year award.
Hetfield, front man for the long-lived heavy metal group Metallica, has long been known for his taste in high-end custom cars. A member of the Beatniks car club, Hetfield’s customs have progressed over the last decade or so from a simple chopped 1936 Ford to a radical chrome-bedecked 1936 Auburn Speedster to the Voodoo Priest, his chopped and V-12-powered 1937 Lincoln Zephyr that took the World’s Most Beautiful Custom award at the 2012 Sacramento Autorama.
For his latest custom, though, Hetfield went beyond merely modifying an existing car. Designed with Rick Dore, who handled the customizing work on Voodoo Priest, the car may have started out with the chassis of a 1948 Jaguar Mk 4 and some renderings inspired by the Art Deco era of European coachbuilding. Specifically, some have pointed to the work of Figoni et Falaschi and Letourneur et Marchand as influences on the car’s styling, but Hetfield has said that it’s meant to combine the best of European coachbuilding design and American custom car design from about the same era. “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.
To shape the body, Hetfield and Dore turned to famed panelbeaters Marcel and Luc De Lay to form it out of aluminum by hand and from scratch, a task they reportedly accomplished in the span of six months. “The fact that [the De Lays] started with an 8-by-10 drawing and ended up with a complete car is a testament to the ability of the human mind and hands,” Hetfield said in a Goodguys press release. “It still blows people’s minds when they ask what body we started with and we say ‘steel sheets.’”
About all that remained of the original Jaguar chassis after the build were the outer frame rails, which now supported a 375-hp Ford 302-cu.in. V-8 and Ford C4 automatic transmission. Airbags front and rear connect the Mustang II-style independent front suspension and four-link 9-inch rear axle to the frame, and GM discs front and Ford Explorer discs rear stop the car.
While the Black Pearl debuted at last year’s Grand National Roadster Show wearing not a lick of paint and still sans a number of details, it re-emerged earlier this year wearing Daryl Hollenback-sprayed black paint, a Ron Mangus interior, and Wheelsmith Fabrications wheels with custom brass center caps.
To win the Custom of the Year award at this past weekend’s Goodguys show in Pleasanton, California, the Black Pearl beat out a few other customs, including the 1939 Lincoln Zephyr of John Fleming of Asher, Oklahoma; the 1955 Cadillac of Brandon Penserini of American Canyon, California; the 1956 Packard Caribbean of Mike and Rita Gardner of Livermore, California; and the 1951 Ford Victoria of Mark and Kelly Skipper of Fresno, California.
Article courtesy of Hemings Daily, written by Daniel Strohl.