Retro Rumblings – Rock Royalty
There are rock stars, and then there is rock & roll royalty. Hot rodding is lucky in that the royals chose us. They speak our language.
This story started in 1972 when a long-haired British guitar virtuoso named Jeff Beck walked into Andy Brizio’s Shop on Old Mission Road in South San Francisco. Beck wanted one of Andy’s Instant T chassis for a project. He left with it and wasn’t heard from for six years.
The next year, Andy got a call from someone representing Led Zeppelin drummer John “Bonzo” Bonham – arguably the greatest rock drummer of all time. Bonzo had seen Andy’s Art Himsl-painted ’23 Ford C-cab in Hot Rod Magazine. He purchased it from Andy and drove it around the English countryside with his kids riding shotgun. He and the C-cab made an appearance in the famed Led Zep documentary “The Song Remains the Same”.
In 1978, Andy’s son Roy had just opened his new shop in South San Francisco. In walked Beck! He needed another chassis for a ’34 Ford coupe he was building. He placed his order but this time he didn’t disappear. Beck has been connected and active in the hot rod scene ever since and is especially close to Roy. Coupes, roadsters – all kinds of vintage American tin occupies the driveway and garages at Beck’s estate in Wadhurst, England.
The Brizio rock royalty connection only deepened in subsequent years. At the 50th annual Grand National Roadster Show (held at the Cow Palace in San Francisco that year), Austin, Texas rock royal and custom aficionado Jimmie Vaughan brought his friend Eric Clapton along. Yes, that Eric Clapton – the guitarist they used to call GOD (Google it). Vaughan introduced Roy to Eric, who later asked Brizio to build him a black ’40 Ford Tudor. This kicked off a procession of several bitchin’ cars Roy has built for Eric. Currently in production at Brizio Street Rods is a ’57 Buick Special with a Roadster Shop chassis as well as an all-steel ’42 Willys coupe for Mr. Clapton.
Beck and Clapton – two of Rolling Stone Magazine’s top five guitarists of all time like hot rod Fords. Even better, they like driving them. No living room, turntable art allowed.
Then there was that day Neil Young literally walked into Roy’s shop out of the blue looking to have his ’53 Buick Skylark convertible restored. Roy and his team did such a good job, Young returned to build “LincVolt” – a battery-powered, eco-friendly ’59 Lincoln Continental. Neil was in Roy’s shop a few days a week over a two-year span wearing overalls and wrenching on his electric classic right alongside Roy’s guys. The car was finished in 2010.
If that’s not enough, Roy just finished a ’34 Ford three-window coupe for Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason.
The men mentioned above literally shaped the face of rock & roll music for decades. They chose us and our hobby.
Roy isn’t the only builder to cross paths with rock royalty. Don Theland built ZZ Top’s iconic Eliminator coupe in the early-’80s. Then came CadZZila – Billy Gibbons’ ode to a futuristic custom built by the one and only Boyd Coddington. Boyd also built cars for Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony.
In recent years, Metallica’s James Hetfield teamed with Rick Dore to build several landmark customs including Black Pearl, Slow Burn, Aquiarius and VooDoo Priest, two of which won Goodguys Custom of the Year accolades. Hetfield recently donated his car collection to the Petersen Automotive Museum and they put together this killer video interview with James about his love, and self-described obsession, for cars.
Jerry Horton, guitarist of the alt rock band Papa Roach had Bio Kustumz build his dream car – a spectacular olive green ’51 Merc custom. Brian Setzer’s hot rod exploits are well known, too. The Who’s late drummer Keith Moon drove a T-bucket hot rod before he passed.
When you boil down all this star power, it becomes clear that the men who gave us some of history’s best songs and wailing guitar solos gave us something we can proudly carry. They gave us friendship, camaraderie, as well as legitimized our scene – gladly sharing their passion for speed, power, and the thunderous sound of angry V8s.
That hits all the right notes.