James Hetfield’s heavy metal collection rocks the crowd at Petersen exhibit opening

James Hetfield, lead singer and guitarist for the multi-platinum band Metallica, has had a long love affair with cars. Ever since he first drove a fastback Barracuda he borrowed from a friend, that taste of power and speed hooked him for good. Now his collection of custom cars, trucks, and hot rods are together in an exhibit at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Reclaimed Rust: The James Hetfield Collection opens to the public on January 31st and will run until October 2020.

Speaking to fans assembled at the exhibit’s opening last night, Hetfield explained that Metallica’s success meant that he could just jump in and start customizing cars, many of which he purchased in rough project condition. He didn’t worry about ruining the cars, so he went at them with a cut-off wheel and a welder, without really knowing what he was doing at the time. He admitted that he had lots of help fixing his early handiwork, and he eventually met Rick Dore, the man responsible for many of the beautiful creations now on view at the Petersen exhibit.

reclaimed rust james hetfield collection exhibit
Brandan Gillogly
reclaimed rust james hetfield collection exhibit
Brandan Gillogly

Hetfield’s search for family and belonging led him to both cars and music, in the first place. While the cars that make up the exhibit mean so much to him, Hetfield would rather have them on display for others to appreciate and be inspired than sit in a garage. Terry Karges, Executive Director of the Petersen, announced to the crowd that after the exhibit wraps up in October, the cars will go on tour together across the U.S. and possibly abroad.

The exhibit includes everything from Skyscraper, a Buick Skylark lead sled, to a ‘32 Ford roadster built in the style of a post-war hot rod. The jewels of the exhibit, however, are Black Pearl and Aquarius—two coachbuilt customs that Hetfield commissioned from Rick Dore and metalworker Marcel De Lay. Their totally custom metalwork is in stark contrast to the simple lines of the ‘32 Ford, but each car represents a style all its own and together show the breadth of Hetfield’s appreciation of cars.

When asked about the significance of the exhibit’s name, Hetfield was ready with an answer, like he’d thought about it deeply already: “Everyone deserves a second chance. Or a third chance, or fourth. . . Knock the rust off and continue the story.”

To see James Hetfield’s cars in person, purchase Petersen Automotive Museum tickets here.

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