Let's face it, a guy such as Metallica's front man, James Hetfield, has money to burn when it comes to cars. Million dollar Veyrons, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis are all just a phone call away. But thankfully this is no tell-tale about a spoiled rock star with more money than sense. Nor is it the story of a Johnny-come-lately rodder throwing hissy fits over the smell of the fresh leather in his shiny new cab. Quite the opposite in fact.
Scott Mugford smiles and recalls, "It all started in 2004, we had a Model A sedan at a show in San Francisco. That car was chopped six inches, channeled, it had a nail-head engine and sat just right. We had already built two similar projects and, thankfully, it just caught James's eye."
It's not every day James Hetfield takes time out to say he likes what you're doing, so Scott took some of his own time to show the singer around his Model A. Truth to tell, nothing much came of that first meeting, but fate was weaving its wonderful way in the background and the two men kept running into each other at various car shows in and around Northern California. Just like thousands of hot rodders do every weekend all around the world, the two of them would stop and talk about cars, and Scott would joke with Hetfield about when he was going to get around to building his own version of the BCC sedan.
"Remember all this happened back in '04 when the rat-rod scene was huge," points out Scott with a stroke of his beard. "James was kind of into some of that stuff, but his style was growing and changing really quickly at that time. He was moving much more towards finished kustoms rather than rough, but safe, beaters."
The truck's story starts, as many things do these days, with the internet. "James really wanted a daily driver," begins Scott as he eyes the truck with a combination of pride and apprehension. (The '56 Ford is about to be delivered to its expectant owner and the last thing anyone needs right now is a scratch or a ding). "He bought it off the internet from some old guy," continues Scott. "It already had the extended cab and a flatbed on it. The funny thing is it was also painted purple, but a completely different purple to the one you see here today."
As well as building a daily driver, the original idea saw Scott and the BCC team installing a new front clip and chopping the top. After that, the truck would be delivered to Hetfield's workshop and Scott would help the frontman finish off the project there-the Metallica man has an excellent garage and is more than handy around a toolbox (when he gets the time).
Unfortunately, the best-laid plans often make a hard left when it comes to taking on someone else's hot-rod project. Like peeling back the layers of a bad onion, the further Scott and the boys got into the truck the worse it got. First, and most alarming, was the cab, which on close inspection turned out to be a diamond shape, rather than square. Next up was the chassis that came complete with a chunky girder for extra strength. Naturally as BCC started to address these issues, the truck just got nicer and nicer until it surpassed the daily driver mark and headed full-tilt for show car world.
"What you have to understand about James and his truck is that he will actually drive this thing," points out Scott, clearly happy that this will be another BCC success that sees more tarmac than it does show halls. "For him, his financial freedom means he just gets to enjoy it the way he always wanted, which is great. And we know he'll get in the thing and go 90 mph. He uses his stuff for sure and we went into the project knowing this."
Despite its ramshackle beginnings, the vision and execution of Hetfield's truck is faultless. Think what The Jetson's might be driving if they ordered up a kustom truck from Gene Winfield and you are in the ballpark. Now, hold that thought.
While this Ford is all about the look, it's certainly built on very solid foundations. When it arrived at BCC it was running a 455ci Olds motor, which worked well. Ironically, Scott crossed it off the to-do list because of this. What then happened was as the rest of the truck got better and better, the Olds started looking shabbier and shabbier until at last Scott could take it no longer and sent it away to Rex Hutchinson Racing Engines for a freshen up. Backing up the 455 is a TH400 transmission that pushes the power back to a 9-inch rearend. Taking care of business at the front is a Mustang II clip while an air-ride suspension setup looks after the stance and the speed bumps.
As far as the bodywork goes, the cab features a beautifully executed 2 1/4-inch chop, five-window conversion, and big rear window. Up top, there is a '58 Chevy Impala vent hiding a satellite antennae, while the headlights are from a 1960/61 Ford pickup canted sideways. The grille is from a 1960/61 Chrysler complete with a Thunderbird bar. Other trickery includes a suicide hood complete with '53 Buick vents and 'Saturn' emblems just to ram home that Jetson's feel. The inner fenders and firewall were all built from scratch.
"When it came time to build the bed, the truck had got pretty crazy," admits Scott with a wry smile. "Obviously we had to keep with the theme and I remembered seeing a truck in a magazine a long time ago with a bed that had a Nomad tailgate. That truck was a Chevy but I thought it would be kinda cool to do something similar with a Ford. At the time I had a '57 Ranchero. I started looking at that and the width seemed to be really good and so the work went from there."
"The great thing about teaming up with James is that he is an artist and he understands how things evolve. When we told him about the bed he said, 'can you really do that?' And we said sure, and he just let us run with it."
Aside from the super swoopy tailgate, the bed features taillights that are a combination of '57 Ranchero and '56 Thunderbird. The bed floor is aluminium and lifts out to give access to the suspension, battery, and compressors. The roll pan is exquisitely crafted while the two-tone purple paintwork works brilliantly with the fins and curves. For extra pop, painter Jason Haskin went for a metalflake roof and black 'n white pinstripes.
The inside of the cab is incredibly well-finished and features a host of great details such as the manual side window cranks that have been converted to operate the now-electric windows.
After just a small amount of time spent with Scott and the BCC team, it quickly became clear that, as a group, they are very proud of the '56 Ford and no doubt they should be. But surely it wasn't all plain sailing, surely working for a man such as Hetfield comes with its own set of challenges? "Well, there is always pressure because we always try to put deadlines on cars, otherwise they never get done. But there was definitely no pressure coming from James. Never once has he called and hounded us."
With Hetfield's next car already in the workshop and well underway, it seems as though Blue Collar Customs, through their skill, integrity, and ingenuity have found themselves official hot rod builders to Metallica. Now all that remains is to get the other three guys measured up for their cars and all will be well with the world.
Thanks to: James Hetfield, Scott Mugford and all the guys at Blue Collar Customs.