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James Hetfield Car Collection


Opening Night Reception – Petersen Automotive Museum

Story and photos by Jimmy Steinfeldt


Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 1/30/20 – I’ve been photographing James Hetfield and his legendary band Metallica for over 30 years. Recently I had the pleasure to photograph him and his car collection at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

Blackjack (1932 Ford Roadster)©2020Jimmy Steinfeldt

Hetfield unveiled his auto collection, which he calls Reclaimed Rust. He finds old rusted autos mostly from the 1930s in farm fields, garages, barns, just about any place and restores them through meticulous work and in many cases custom redesign. He also has built some amazing cars from scratch based simply on new designs in his head or from the creative mind of his good friend and amazing car builder Rick Dore who I interviewed.

Slowburn (1936 Auburn)©2020Jimmy Steinfeldt

Hetfield spoke to a standing room only audience at the museum just before the ribbon cutting ceremony opening the exhibit of his cars to the public. He talked about many things. His childhood growing up in southern California and how the car culture influenced him. He bought his first guitar for $5 at a swap meet. He learned how to play piano and read music from an old lady. He learned a lot about cars from his father. His mother, who died when he was young, was an accomplished artist. He inherited his mother’s talent for design and used his design skills when creating the Metallica logo and in designing or co-designing cars.

Iron Fist (1936 Ford)©2020Jimmy Steinfeldt

He talked about the creation of the name Metallica and how it was one of dozens of names from a list of names he considered in the early years. He put the band together first with Lars Ulrich and then built it from there. It was tough to find a singer and so finally he decided to concentrate on singing himself. He thought
eventually they’d find a real singer and he could concentrate on guitar. He made the audience at the Petersen event laugh when he said “maybe someday we’ll find a singer for Metallica.” Hetfield had the crowd laughing over and over again showing a great sense of humor from a guy who sometimes writes loud, cacophonous, brooding songs.

Str8 Edge (1956 Ford F100) ©2020Jimmy Steinfeldt

He talked a lot about his family and how he spends a lot of time with his kids. He sometimes drives his kids to school in his custom cars and everyone gets a kick out of seeing what car he’ll show up in. He helps raise money for the school by auctioning off his services. He will drive the auction winner’s kids to school everyday for a month in one of the cool cars.

The Dead Kennedy (1963 Lincoln Continental)©2020Jimmy Steinfeldt

He reminded the audience that a Metallica album takes a long time to make. It’s a huge process of coming up with new songs, recording, mixing, and then releasing.


He said he didn’t know when the next album would be but basically said it will happen when it happens.

Interview with James Hetfield©2020Jimmy Steinfeldt

Hetfield has donated all these amazing cars to the Petersen Automotive Museum. They will be on display there for a year then tour other museums around the country. A group from Germany has also expressed interest in showing them overseas. Regarding the incredible generosity of gifting his collection to the museum
he stated the Petersen is where they should be and also “I spent fourteen years creating this collection. I’ve enjoyed creating these cars, driving them, and just looking at the beauty of them. It’s time for me to move on to a new phase of my life.”

Rick Dore with Aquarius (1934 Packard)©2020Jimmy Steinfeldt

Jimmy Steinfeldt: Please tell me about this Delahyesque car.

Rick Dore: I always loved the Delahaye 165 which debuted at the 1938 Paris World’s
Fair. It’s in the Mullin collection. That car is so elegant. However I wanted to add a twist to it. A little more style, and attitude. More of an American custom car. It’s an aluminum body. Everything was made by hand except the side view mirrors, the
license plate frame, wheels and tires. I wanted the roof lower to make it look like it was chopped. I wanted a lot of chrome trim, a longer wheelbase. This has a LS3 Corvette motor in it. It will rock n roll down the road but it’s more about style, elegance, and grace. This car took fourteen months to build and I did it, as always, with my team.


James said building a car is like writing a song. You sit down with a blank piece of paper. You got a pen and you’re putting your thoughts and lyrics down. With us, we sit down with a blank piece of paper and draw some lines and we turn it over to our artists and tell them “look we need to stretch the rear quarters another three or four inches. We need to do a horizontal section in the front fenders.” It comes together when you have a final silhouette of the car, a profile. You get the green light and you start building it. That’s what we did with this car. French styling with an American attitude.

JS: What color do you call it?

RD: Platinum.

JS: When and where did you meet James?

RD: Many years ago at a Hot Rod show. James was getting into cars then and he knew of me from my background in cars and car magazine covers. He came over and introduced himself. A couple of weeks later I’m at his house having dinner. We became quick friends. We had a lot in common. We both had children, though mine were a bit older then his. We were both family guys, we both loved cars, and we ended up in the same car club.
He bought a 1953 Skylark on ebay while he was on tour. I was with him in Vegas. He saw it on ebay and he said to me “what do you think?” I said let’s fly to Tennessee and check it out. He clicked on ebay right then and bought it. I thought that was
ballsy. So my relationship with James started with that car. Then we did a 37 Ford, then the Voodoo Priest, the Aquarius, and many more.

To learn more about James Hetfiled, Metallica, Rick Dore, and the Petersen Automotive Museum check out these websites: