In 2019, METALLICA frontman James Hetfield donated his car collection to the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. James has always been a car guy and shares his car journey to one of the coolest custom car collections around. Hetfield has described seeing cars in the same way he sees music: as forms of freedom and expression that convey the passions of their creator.
Best known as a co-founder, songwriter, singer and guitarist for the heavy metal band METALLICA, Hetfield has also gained recognition in the automotive world for his unique collection of entirely bespoke vehicles. While the vast majority of collectors acquire vehicles by purchasing pre-existing examples, Hetfield elected instead to build his from scratch, channeling creativity often reserved for his music into the production of rolling sculptures.
Speaking to MotorTrend about his decision to donate the cars, Hetfield said: "I had a vision of not having to take care of these cars anymore because at some point... when I have these cars, at some point they have me. It takes a lot of time and effort to keep these things up and running, and in good condition. They were going to be either auctioned or donated or something. Then that did actually happen.
"I'm super grateful that the Petersen Museum was able to take the collection and keep it all together. That's the one thing that I was really disappointed about, the fact that if they went to auction and they all went off somewhere different they wouldn't be living together anymore, and it wouldn't be as a collection. I think word got around to them, and they offered to take the collection. I was stoked. As far as the prestige of the Petersen Museum, and my collection being in there, it's a huge honor. It really is."
Asked if he misses the cars yet, Hetfield said: "I get to look at them every day in my book, man. Yeah, I miss driving certain cars and just being around them but, you know, they served their purpose. I got to get creative. I got to help other people get creative, all the different guys: Robert Roling, and Scott Mugford, and Josh Mills, the De Leys. I got to work with some awesome, historical people. Art Himsl, who did the paint on the Skylark. Darryl Hollenbeck. I met a lot of great people who have some old-school craftwork in their blood, which I love. I got to do these things. Now other people get to look at them."
Among the cars on display at "Reclaimed Rust: The James Hetfield Collection" are Voodoo Priest, based on a '37 Lincoln Zephyr, a '36 Auburn roadster named Slow Burn, a Delahaye inspired '34 Packard, a '36 Ford in bare metal called Iron Fist, a purple '56 Ford F-100 pickup truck and Skyscraper, Hetfield's 1953 Buick Skylark.
A book about Hetfield's cars, "Reclaimed Rust: The Four-Wheeled Creations Of James Hetfield", was released on July 28 via Insight Editions. In the book, Hetfield opens up his garage for an exclusive tour of the highlights of his incredible collection of restored and customized classic cars.