The wheels are one-offs from...
The wheels are one-offs from Colorado Custom while the radial rubber comes by way of Coker Tire.
Sometimes we have to be aware of the story behind the story to fully appreciate what's in front of us. James Hetfield, from San Francisco, California, appreciates all types of customs and hot rods-but there's more. A gifted musician, co-founder of the metal band Metallica, and lover of cars, James has a story to tell, but so does his Auburn Speedster fiberglass recreation from the shop of Glenn Pray (and that's another story).
James and custom car builder supreme Rick Dore, of Carlsbad, California, have known each other for some time, and over the years they have built six cars together with the seventh on the way. While in the mood to build something different but very cool James found himself on eBay when he located a Glenn Pray fiberglass recreation of the original classic '36 Auburn 852 Speedster (boat tail), although at the time neither knew about the car's history. This original Pray classic was at a shop with the proverbial weeds growing up all around it. The body was in derelict condition but usable, the engine had seen its heyday, but the chassis could be salvaged.
The fenders were highly reworked...
The fenders were highly reworked by Dean while the headlights came from Headwinds. The grille insert was cut by a water jet CNC machine.
Dore began to do what he does so well and that is "orchestrate" the resurrection of a classic car design, ensuring the addition of James' persona and today's modern influences to make it an award-winning yet driveable custom. The car most recently won the 2010 Goodguys Custom of the Year, King of the Customs in Sacramento, and was a tremendous hit at the 2010 Goodwood Festival of Speed-with the guitar-hero subtitle of Cars, Stars, and Guitars.
Before we delve off into the whys and wherefores of this unique recreation, let's take a look at the backstory. Sometimes you have to understand what's behind the curtain to fully appreciate what's in front of it.
As a hot rodder he enjoys working on his rides as well as his music. It's one thing to have played guitar or drums in a youth band and it's another world to be one of the founders (1981) of arguably one of rock's influential bands. Officially, Metallica is a heavy metal band, but their music has achieved a broad and lasting appeal. In support of this claim Metallica has earned nine Grammy Awards, produced nine studio albums, three live albums, five extended plays, 24 music videos, 45 singles, and is a featured band in Guitar Hero.
James is ranked No. 16 in Joel McIver's book The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists and ranked 24th by Hit Parader on their list of the 100 Greatest Metal Vocalists of all Time. The group has had five consecutive albums debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the first band to do so. Whether a musician or a hot rodder, all of us appreciate it when our peers appreciate us. Metallica was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. Theyhave sold over 100 million albums worldwide-that's one hell of a resumé and a brief glimpse into the man behind steering wheel.
The interior is stitched in...
The interior is stitched in dark brown carpeting and cream leather by Bob Devine. The ididit steering column is topped with a'40 Ford steering wheel while the custom pedals come from Clayton Machine Works.
The gauges are Classic Instruments...
The gauges are Classic Instruments but the dash and insert are custom touches.
Glenn Pray Auburn 866 Speedster
The Speedster featured on these pages is a fiberglass recreation of the classic Auburn Speedster. The original Speedsters sell for extreme dollars, with the last one leaving an Indiana factory in 1937. But that's where our story begins.
Glenn Pray in 1960 purchased the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Co. and moved it from Auburn, Indiana, to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Around 1959, he quit his job teaching mechanics at Tulsa's Central High School to take control of the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Co., making him the youngest president (age 36) of an automotive manufacturing company in the world at the time.
He designed and manufactured, among others, the Auburn Speedsters and phaetons. Pray owned the rights to produce and title these cars as Auburns. He used the real Auburn hardware and design, making his fiberglass reproductions strikingly authentic to the original car.
The nickel-plated brass trim...
The nickel-plated brass trim was handled by Jake Hill while brightwork came from Sherm's Custom Plating.
In August 1967, the first Speedster was viewed at the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club event. It was designated the New Auburn 866 Speedster and available to the public in 1968 (and produced through 1981) with a retail price of $8,450. Pray referred to his 866 Speedsters as Second Generation Cars or Auburn Continuations, as he believed they were never meant to be replicas of the originals. Again, he believed his cars are modern-day versions of the original Auburn Speedster.
Pray was able to get Ford involved and the original chassis and powertrain came from Blue Oval; a 428 Ford engine, automatic or manual transmission, and rearend was used on the Auburn prototype. Other items, such as the functional supercharger-style exhaust pipes (two pipes per side), along with the likes of power steering, power brakes, and air conditioning, made this car unique. Pray modified the original body design to accept the Ford convertible chassis, featuring an extended wheelbase of 127 inches.
The GMPP ZZ350 is decked out...
The GMPP ZZ350 is decked out with an Edelbrock intake, a 650-cfm carb, and a radiator from U.S. Radiator.
Because Pray had the original tooling and surplus parts he believed 100-125 Speedsters could be trimmed out in original N.O.S. Auburn parts. He produced 138 Auburns and sold an estimated 90-100 Speedsters that were in various stages of completion.
One last story on Glenn Pray; he was 15 when he bought his first automobile, a used Model A with no wheels for $12.50. He got the car to run but was too young to drive it. Given a moment to think about it he converted the car into a tractor. It was legal for him to drive a tractor. He could drive a tractor without a license thus achieving his goal. You have to admire his "never say die" attitude and ingenious behavior. (He died in March of this year at the age of 85.)
Cream leather, dark brown...
Cream leather, dark brown paint, chrome accents, and pearl guitar pick guard material make up the door panels.
By the time Dore finished his work on the Hetfield Speedster there could be no denying the changes were many but the results were worthwhile. You will notice the custom trim (nickel-plated brass; the remainder of the brightwork was handled by Sherm's Custom Plating) designed by Dore and hand fabricated by Jake Hill. Take your eye off of the trim for a moment and you may see a slight top chop (Carson top), sectioned body, lengthened fenders, filled body seams, and flush-mounted fender skirts.
While Dore was deeply involved in the daily hands-on, he did turn to such notables within our industry for assistance such as Keith Dean of South End Kustom (son to the legendary customizer and king of the top chop Dick Dean). Dean took charge of the Carson top and the highly modified fenders that capture the Headwinds headlights. The grille began life as a rather substantial piece of aluminum and by the time the water jet metalworking CNC was finished you have what you see before you. The aluminum hood came from the metalworking hands of Mickey Galloway. Once the bodywork was finished final paint fell to Darryl Hollenbeck who applied the House of Kolor two-tone candy Root Beer paint.
The mechanics for the Carson...
The mechanics for the Carson top were handled by Keith Dean but the upholstery was Bob Devine.
Interior of the Speedster is filled with Egyptian leather that covers the custom dashboard, which is filled with Classic Instruments, an ididit steering column, and one of Hetfield's '40 Ford steering wheels that he had "rat holed" away for just such a project. The custom pedals come by way of Clayton Machine Works. The Haywire wiring system was then positioned by Max Fish. The cream-colored leather and dark brown Mercedes carpet was stitched into place by Bob Devine who also covered the custom door panels and Carson top after Dore built the custom seating and finished off the other interior appointments.
The original '75 Lincoln chassis was salvaged but in place of the Ford motor now sits a ZZ4 350 sporting 350 hp and 405 lb-ft topped with an Edelbrock intake and Edelbrock 650-cfm four-barrel. Engine temps fall to the chore of the U.S. Radiator and getting the horsepower to the rearend is a TH350 tranny. The RideTech air suspension system was installed at Bio Customs while other corner treatments include Coker Tire radials and Colorado Custom wheels. The wheel design came from Hetfield's imagination and the wheels measure 15x7 with 215/75R15 rubber wrapped around them.
Well, now you have the rest of the story.