Metallica’s Kirk Hammett’s 1936 Ford coupe

Metallica's Kirk Hammett makes heavy music and drives a beautiful '36 coupe

Photographers: Ron Kimball

One thing I’ll never understand is people who look down upon those who pay a master craftsman to build them a truly beautiful car. After all, not everyone is born with a natural aptitude for beating sheets of metal into wondrous shapes, or the ability to lay down a paint job that would shame da Vinci.

First published in the October 2010 issue of Street Machine

Nope, talents come in all shapes and sizes and if a guy who’s a whizz at building houses wants to take his cash and transform it into something cool on four wheels, who really cares? The car builder benefits because he gets the chance to work on something he’s passionate about — as opposed to fixing pranged Magnas — and the rest of us benefit simply from the fact that there’s one more amazing car to ogle and be inspired by.

Take Kirk Hammett and his amazing ’36 Ford coupe, for example. Kirk is a San Francisco native who likes to surf in his spare time and earns a living playing lead guitar in a little band called Metallica.

Lead singer James Hetfield is a well-known revhead, with his allegiances to both the Blue Oval and the Beatniks club tattooed prominently on his body. Like ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Pomgolian musos Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, Hetfield has used his earnings to become a patron to a number of America’s top car builders, commissioning a series of seriously cool rides, most notably from Rick Dore and Blue Collar Customs.

While Hetfield is deeply entrenched in the car scene and likes to wrench when he can as well, Hammett’s involvement is somewhat quieter. All we know is that he drove a ’63 Buick Skylark as a teenager in the late 70s and that he bought a Porsche 911 Carrera 4 in 1990 — which he subsequently lost when he bet the band’s tour manager that the album Metallica wouldn’t sell more than 10 million copies.

So far, so good, so what, right? Fate stepped in when Billy Gibbons introduced Hammett to car crafter Cole Foster, head of Salinas Boys Customs. Cole has had a few famous customers in the past, including Mike Ness from Social Distortion and Van Halen’s Sammy Hagar. The pair soon struck a deal for Foster to paint Hammett’s GTO and with that done, hatched a scheme to build Kirk his dream ’36 Ford three-window coupe.

Foster was given almost total artistic freedom to build a car in the classic early custom mould. He started with a five-window coupe when a suitable three-window couldn’t be found, and then he and his boys — including his dad, Pat, who’s not only a veteran Funny Car racer but a master fabricator — got stuck in, removing the B-pillar and lengthening the front doors to create a fresh three-window coupe.

The car also scored a gorgeously proportioned roof chop plus a roof insert from a ’50 Chev, a handmade one-piece bonnet and a reshaped boot opening. The guards were also moulded into a pair of reshaped running boards, with a set of skirts fitted flush to modified wheel arches. All done in metal, naturally.

Detail mods include a custom stainless steel windscreen frame, ’38 Ford rear bumper, ’40 Studebaker tail-lights, ’36 Chev headlights and a ’56 Oldsmobile dash.

Slammed on a custom chassis with airbags, painted in PPG black and sitting on 15in steel rims covered by Kelsey-Hayes-style discs, the ’36 created a sensation when it made its public debut at Paso Robles in 2006. It also cemented Cole Foster’s rise to fame as one of the leading lights on the US custom car scene and created a new wave of appreciation for the classic tail-dragging custom style of hot rod, which had its brief heyday in the late 1940s and early 1950s.