Remembering Jimmy Buffett, car guy

Jimmy Buffett owned 1963-Ford-Falcon-Sprint-Convertible side
RM Sotheby's

Don’t need to feel important or famous
No limos or my little Nash car
One lucky man
With my feet in the sand
Tonight I just need my guitar

In the wake of the passing of legendary troubadour and businessman Jimmy Buffett at the start of Labor Day weekend, hundreds of thousands of words have been written about him, his legacy, his music, and the escapism his songs and concerts brought to millions, from toddlers to great-grandparents.

It’s been reported in dozens of stories that Buffett, along with his friend and fellow singer-songwriter, Jerry Jeff Walker, fixed up Walker’s 1947 Packard and then headed south from Coconut Grove, presumably on Florida’s A1A highway. A1A ends at mile-marker Zero, right next to the water, in Key West. Jimmy stayed in Key West, while Jerry Jeff returned to Coconut Grove.

But Buffett had a few other cars along the way, and, because Buffett was a storyteller, it should come as no surprise there are stories attached to each one.

Jimmy Buffett owned 1963-Ford-Falcon-Sprint-Convertible
RM Sotheby's

Fellow journalist Terry Boyce posted his reminiscences on social media shortly after Buffett’s death: “Although we never met Jimmy Buffett, we did long ago play a small part in helping him obtain an example of his high-school car, a 1963 Ford Falcon Sprint Convertible.

“It was in January 1983, while I was working as Editor of Classic Sixties magazine for Dobbs Publications in Florida, that Buffett’s friend, the late photographer, author and publisher Tom Corcoran, contacted us. He was looking to help the singer/songwriter find a Falcon Sprint Convertible like the one he’d driven as a teenager.

“A sportier and scarcer version of the 1963 Falcon Futura Convertible, the “1963-1/2” Sprint, with its V-8 engine and bucket-seat interior, was a real “Classic Sixties” type of car. We quickly put together a brief notice for the February 1983 issue. Quoting Buffett through our conversation with Corcoran, it asked the readership to be on the lookout for such a convertible. A photo of Buffett seated in a 1966 Mustang and waving a fistful of cash was also provided by Corcoran, who photographed album covers for the singer.

“We received a letter from Oregon reader and Falcon enthusiast Ron Boesl, advising us that he’d found a Falcon Sprint Convertible for Jimmy—who had inspected it at Boesl’s home in Portland, before calling later to confirm he was purchasing the car. The following evening, after the deal was done, Boesl and the Sprint’s newly former owner, Andy Pass, also of Portland, were Buffett’s guests at Buffett’s concert in Portland, a memorable conclusion to an amazing couple of days.

“We ran Ron’s account of meeting Jimmy Buffett and arranging for him to view the Falcon Sprint he’d go on to purchase as a letter-to-the-editor in the April 1983 issue of Classic Sixties. Ron also provided a photo of him with the famed musician and Boesl’s own Falcon Futura convertible, which was similar to the Sprint.”

Seventeen years later, in 2010, Buffett gave the car to Ty Houck, owner of Ragtops Motorcars in Palm Beach, Florida, to sell. Ty consigned the car to the Auctions America sale, held in the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center March 26–28. There was a good bit of presale interest in Buffett’s turquoise-colored ride, mostly unmodified except for a surfboard rack/roll bar contraption that would be covered if the top was up. The car sold for a healthy $39,600. At the time, Hagerty’s Cars That Matter price guide, precursor to the Hagerty Price Guide, listed the car in #2 condition (Excellent) at a value of $28,200.

Ford Falcons seem to be a theme in the Buffett stable, as there are reports of a few others spotted at different times.

The same is true for Porsches. Houck remembers getting a call from Buffett asking for assistance, as he was stranded by the side of the road in a Porsche 356 close to Houck’s place of business in West Palm Beach. By the time Houck arrived, there were multiple fans seeking autographs from the unfazed Buffett. Donny Gould, a senior car specialist at Broad Arrow auctions and a long-standing resident of South Florida, also remembers a red 911 cabriolet with full whale-tail that Buffett drove in the mid-1980s. More Miami Vice than full laid-back Key West, it would be interesting to see where those P-cars are today.

Although I am sure there are other cars that entered and exited the songwriter’s life, this sampling should give anyone a smile knowing that Buffett found fun and satisfaction in the world of old cars.

And that “little Nash car” that Buffett sang about in his song, “Tonight I Just Need My Guitar”? That was a 1958 Nash Metropolitan that Ty Houck sold to Jimmy Buffett many years ago. Resplendent in—what else?—white over turquoise paint, you’d think this would be the perfect mode of vintage motorized transportation in Key West.

Christopher Ziemnowicz
Jimmy Buffett fan
Ty Houck, Buffett fan and SoFlo car dealer. Ragtops Motorcars

Buffett sold the Metro back to Houck years ago, and he sold it on to another collector in Maryland. However, fear not! Houck just called me to let me know that he will be getting the car back on consignment soon.

Interested parties can reach out to him on the Coconut Telegraph. Tell him Dave sent you.




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    Jimmy Buffet isn’t exactly my end of the musical spectrum, but I saw him in concert about a year ago. A lot of folks walking in were talking about how he made it big on one song… but not being a fan, I probably recognized at least half of his play list. I had a great time and I’m glad I went

    Jimmy Buffett was so humble and kind. Every time I went to the beach I played his songs…..such a sweet man. Husband. Father. Why jimmy why????????? His music will play on like Bubble’s I played it today it’s a blessing…we love you Jimmy. Have fun….like you said…

    One of the things I almost constantly hear from people who have attended Buffett concerts is the phrase “great time”. I give him credit for being a good-time-kinda-guy who wanted his audiences to enjoy themselves. I’m happy to read that he was also a car guy to some extent! 🦜

    As long as he made his money honestly what difference does it make? Most of the country is liberal to moderate. Less than 1/3 thinks like you apparently do.

    I saw him often at the surf break in Mountauk NY and he drove a 4 WD van conversion that ran on vegetable oil , quite a sight to see

    Thanks for the article. I did not know Buffett had a 1963 1/2 Spirit in High School. But after reading it and seeing the photos it reminded me of my 63 powder blue convertible just like Jimmies when I was in college in 1968 or 1969 and needed wheels to come and go to classes and work. My Dad bought me my Falcon and drove up to me in college in Superior Wisconsin. Loved it (called it a girl catcher) and just bought another as close as I could to match it. I am in the process of refinishing it today in Arizona with my son.

    Jimmy was not just a party time good times guy. He was as very smart businessman who learned how to sell a good time. He even help inspire Sammy Hagar to the fortune he put together with is business ventures.

    But Jimmy was a car guy. We had sold a number of parts for some of the projects he had. I recall working on one for an El Camino he was redoing. I never saw it but the sum of the parts made a compelling car.

    Fun music and cool cars are a perfect marriage. Buffet obviously has both ends of the spectrum. What is interestiing is that he had cars that were not ostentatious but rather a tribute to their eras.

    We should have a national holiday for the guy. Cars and music what a mix and combo for Trumps next event. Hope this does not offend anyone.

    I’ve been a Parrothead for decades. I always knew Jimmy loved cars, if for no other reason than the lyrics to various songs, as well as comments made on stage. It makes perfect sense that he had a Sprint convertible, because that is exactly the car that always comes to mind when I listen to ‘Conky Tonkin’… “She saw him pull up to the stoplight in an old ragtop that she couldn’t name”. Then later he mentions that they are “explorers in a hotrod Ford”. What else could it have been but a Falcon Sprint convertible!

    I enjoyed some of his music but was dismayed by some of his fuel related environmental/political views.
    While he had cars, seaplanes, warbirds and a private jet (a three engine Falcon, I believe), he came across as liking the “let’s raise the price of fuel to reduce consumption” mindset.

    It was okay for him, because he’s rich, without giving much thought to the middle class guys who made him rich by going to concerts, buying recordings,dining at his restaurants and retiring in his subdivision.

    One aspect of the holier-than-thou crowd is they are typically people who have ‘made it.’ The tennis stars who are retired but complain about the trans gender players for example. All tennis players ought to be yacking but since they have not yet ‘made it’, they can’t afford to complain. Same with the environmental fakers. It is the same old story, never changes. When you can afford to lose a lot and not blink, what you say does not matter. But when some one with lots on the line take a risk, those are the real people. Those are the people who risk their fortunes on a cause in which they really believe. The others…….. not so much. Actors, singers, sports people ought to stick to their schtick… leave the virtue signaling to somebody else.

    Guess it counts as literary license but Mile Marker 0 is not ‘right next to the water’…… It’s at Fleming and Whitehead about six blocks N of the Lighthouse……. RIP Jimmie

    It must have been in the late ‘70s in Key West that I’d see Jimmy himself in his tiny rented shop at Lands End Village selling cassette tapes and T-shirts and driving around in a very beat-up and rusty red Falcon “convertible” except it wasn’t … as the top frame had no fabric covering! Ahhh – the good old days when KW was just fun .. and affordable. 👍

    When I flew Phantoms in the USMC in the 1970’s we occasionally went to Key West to fly when our hometown weather went bad. I am sure key West was sort of on its way then, but I had a navy buddy stationed there who used to show us the local haunts. In many trips, never saw anything of Jimmy Buffet stuff but I am sure it was there. Too bad Key West is one big commercial now

    Years ago, here in Memphis, I saw a white Porsche Boxter northbound on I55, with a vanity plate with some abbreviation of Margaritaville on it. I pulled up even with it, and sure enough, there he was wearing a hat and shades, top up! Saw if again about a week later headed south on I55.

    My first new car, right out of the Army, was a red over red Falcon Sprint convertible four-speed. Great little car. Had a power top when most compact convertibles had manual tops. It was the perfect car at that time of my life.

    Billy pulled in in a jaguar
    Red convertible sixty-five
    Headed home to mississippi, he’d been
    Around the world
    He was that black sheep uncle of mine

    From Pascagoula Run

    I delivered a new 1981 red Porsche 911SC to Jimmy (it was a coupe, not cabriolet). A shop in Gainesville FL. where I had worked maintained some of his cars (including, I believe, an early 60s Mercury Caliente convertible), and they asked me to pick up the car from the Porsche dealer on Bird Road in Miami, then I drove it to Indianapolis to meet up with him while they were on tour. He was like a kid on Christmas Day when I handed him the keys. That night he drove the car to the concert and had me ride in the limo with the band. He then asked me to drive it to the next venue in Detroit. A fun time putting the first 1200 miles on a new 911, and meeting my most favorite musician from my high school days.

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