Billy F. Gibbons: custom car connoisseur and guitar collector extraordinaire.
It seems most hot rodders like to collect. Fenders, steering wheels, valve covers, taillights-they can all be collected to varying degrees and, chances are, if you aren't already a collector you probably know someone who qualifies.
For those who have a severe case of collecting (or hoarding), the medical field has a name for it: obsessive-compulsion disorder. But where do you draw the line? When is having 10 '34 Fords in your garage (or the parts thereof) too many?
Though most folks know Billy F. Gibbons as the frontman for the Texas rock 'n' roll trio identified collectively as ZZ Top, true fans already know of one of his obsessions: fine automobiles. You've seen them in the music videos that helped launch MTV in the '80s (the Eliminator coupe) and you've read about them in the appropriate magazines (CadZZilla in Hot Rod, July 1989; and his '36 coupe in the May '95 issue of STREET RODDER).
Just your basic 352: nothing to show under the hood except for the chrome valve covers and
After SO-CAL's Mick Jenkins applied the PPG black paint, DR Designs' Dennis Ricklefs spray
Billy with an identical pair of Bolin-built Mojo Maker Gibsons.
Billy also collects guitars and, as you might imagine, it's extensive (one number puts it around 600). The assortment is world class and was outlined in the '05 book: Rock + Roll Gearhead (ISBN-13:9780760322697), but the work also highlights 10 of his cars, as they're as much about his personality as the guitars he plays and the songs he writes.
Always writing new material for the next album, Billy never lets up with his interest in cars. His most recent addition, a vintage '58 Thunderbird nicknamed "The Mexican Blackbird" (after a '75 ZZ Top song of the same name), was customized and subsequently reborn at the hands of SO-CAL Speed Shop in Pomona, California, under the direction of Billy's longtime compadre and accomplice: Pete Chapouris.
For Chapouris, whose long and illustrious history of car building is as long as Billy's four-decade musical career, the project took him back to his early days growing up in El Monte, California, which is just down the boulevard from Bell Gardens, Whittier, Downey, and a host of other small cities that have had a big impact on car builders over the years, so the look of the cars coming out of Gene Winfield's or Larry Watson's was a big influence on him.
So it wasn't a big surprise when Billy contacted Chapouris to have SO-CAL Speed Shop begin work on something Billy had always wanted: a mid-'50s mild custom. And since the pair had worked together on a number of projects before (including the twin HogZZilla motorcycles and the '50 Ford three-window coupe called Kopperhed), they knew they could bounce ideas off each other and come up with something special.
A mild custom is just that-not a lot of body mods, but enough to make a statement. Rounded door and hood corners, shaved trim, scalloped paintjobs, and a custom upholstered interior are all hallmarks of the genre, and all were going to be employed on Billy's ride.
JAMCO Suspension (Corona, CA) supplied the lowered springs for the 'Bird (3 inches in the
Hot rodders one and all: (from left) Michael Anthony, Billy, Jimmie Vaughan, and Jeff Beck
So Billy reached into his warehouse of cars and produced a mint '58 for the SO-CAL team to start on. With a textbook low profile (aided by Jamco Suspension's 3-inch lower coils in the back and 2-inchers up front), the 'Bird's main body mod would be the removal of the hood scoop and flattening of the hood, capably handled by SO-CAL's Richie Nogueria. The results make the car look even lower, as your eye isn't drawn to a big hump on top of the hood. The wheels, gold-colored 15x7 Wheel Smith steelies, were shod with BFGoodrich Silvertown/Coker 6.70-15 2.5-inch whitewalls and then topped with a set of 15-inch '57 Dodge Lancer hubcaps. One of the few items to be replaced on the T-Bird was the gas tank, which Larry's T-Bird in Corona, California, reproduces.
The car's nameplate, fender gunsights, and door trim pieces were removed by SO-CAL's Tony Sandoval, but the factory Thunderbird emblems found on the nose and decklid were left intact. After SO-CAL's body shop massaged it to perfection, they rolled the car into Mick Jenkins' on-site spray booth and covered the car with PPG two-stage black paint.