These four American classics tie me to family and to home
This article first appeared in Hagerty Drivers Club magazine. Click here to subscribe and join the club.
I ’ve always liked finding cars in people’s yards out in the country. I like knocking on doors. That’s how we found cars where I’m from, a little town in North Carolina. Cars with maybe just a hint of the front end showing—that always gets me excited.
There was an old lady who had a Datsun 240Z in her yard. I had always liked the look of those—that long front end and the way they squatted when going through the gears. I’d walk by her place every now and then, and finally I knocked on her door and asked if it was for sale. It wasn’t, but she said it was her husband’s car and had been there forever. I gave her my number in case she ever decided to sell it. Then one day, I got that call. I went over there and we ended up making a deal. I was 14 and a half.
I was always tinkering with it, trying to get those dual carburetors right, but I never could get that thing to run to save my life.
Around that time, I got started in the entertainment industry. I signed on with the Ford Modeling Agency when I was 15, and I was with them for 25 years. I did mostly print ads and campaigns for big fashion houses—Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Yves Saint Laurent—and I was featured in GQ. As an African American man, that was rare. But I made it, and I got to travel the world.
I lived a very clean life, and all during those years, cars were my high. I sold the Z after a while, but one of the first cars I got that I have held on to is a ’54 Bel Air, which I keep in North Carolina, where most of my family still lives. Today it’s part of my eclectic collection, mostly postwar American stuff.
I love the ’59 Eldorado Biarritz. It’s a lot of car, all [225 inches] of it. So much metal, so elegant, and it’s numbers-matching. And you can eat off it! The ’56 Eldorado isn’t far behind—that’s probably the classic I drive the most. It has the same feel as the ’59 but is easier to park. Driving the ’59 is like driving a bus, you know? When you turn, you better make sure you’re clear, because those fins might hit something. I don’t really drive any of the cars far, though. Mostly around Beverly Hills, or over to Bob’s Big Boy, or to a cars and coffee. Stuff like that.
My two boys are into cars, too. Morris is 18, an up-and-coming pop star, and he’s always driving our cars in his videos. (You can see them on his Instagram, @moneyxmo.) Bronson is 14 and behind the camera—a filmmaker who’s always shooting and producing. They’re both so creative, and both of them love cars. They’re always laying claim to the ones they like. Morris will say, “Well, Dad, you know the ’56 is gonna be mine.” And Bronson will say, “Well, Dad, you know the ’59 is gonna be mine. And the ’56 Lincoln, too. Morris can have the ’63 Lincoln.” Always picking favorites.
I have my own favorites, including my Morgan 3-Wheeler. It’s one of the finest cars I’ve ever owned. A buddy introduced me to them one day and let me take it out. I had such a blast in that thing. It was really something else. I love-love-loved it. I’m good friends with [former football player] Michael Strahan, who is a huge car guy, and he and I actually ended up ordering a pair of them. We take them out on weekends up the Pacific Coast Highway, into the canyons, and have fun with them.
Driving is what I enjoy, and I don’t really show my cars, but one day a couple of years ago, I was at the Original Farmers Market with my ’59 during a car show at the Grove, and I met [collector] Bruce Meyers. He came up to me and asked if it was mine. He said, “I know every car in this town, but I’ve never seen this one.” I’m around, I told him. Then he invited me to his show, the Rodeo Drive Concours, and said he’d love it if I would drive the mayor. I was like, who is this dude? But that’s how we met, and we hit it off. They put me in the concours magazine, and I even won a trophy.
For a while, I thought I was done buying. I’m very happy with what I have. Then I started teetering, you know, so I’ve been on the lookout. Now there are about 10 cars I’m interested in, mostly prewar. I’d really like to make them my own and do some customizing, because most of my cars now are pretty stock.
Now, when I was growing up in North Carolina, Camaros and Chevelles were the cars. My uncle, his friends, or somebody’s daddy always had one. I always said that if I ever made it in life, I’d get the best of both. And that’s what happened. Those cars represent where I’m from. And that I made it. Both are dream cars to the people I knew (and still know) back home.
If I’m being honest, my dream car is the one that runs without me having to crank it up every week to keep it running. But really, there are elements of every car I own that make up my dream car. I love certain things about all of them. It’s a blessing to feel that way.