ZZ Top: Cars and Guitars

Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill are dedicated to their music and are also dedicated classic electric guitar and vintage amp collectors. They are equally well known for their personal custom guitars, many of which were co-designed by Gibbons.  Gibbons likes his custom instruments with a neck conforming to the specs of his highly-prized 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard nicknamed “Pearly Gates”. Hill requests that his basses have a similar neck profile to the 1951 Fender Precision Bass he used extensively in the early days of the band, and often uses to this day.  In the 1990s, Gibbons also contributed to the design of the “Muddywood” guitar, a one-off instrument crafted from a plank of the Mississippi Delta shack in which blues legend Muddy Waters was born.  When playing concerts, the guys bring out a fan favorite pair of guitars that are the spinning “white fuzzies”, a tribute to hanging fuzzy dice in the custom street rods of the ’50s.

Billy Gibbons is a fan and avid collector of custom cars and motorcycles.  Billy’s custom vehicles were a mainstay for the earlier ZZ Top videos.  The 1933 red Ford 3-window coupe named ‘The Eliminator’ was featured in a video trilogy from the album “Eliminator, the album consisted of the hit songs “Sharp Dressed Man”, “Gimme All Your Lovin’” and “Legs”. The car was also featured in various custom car magazines around the globe and is probably one of the most recognized cars on TV. ‘The Eliminator’ makes another appearance in the video “Sleeping Bag” where it gets buried by two CAT wheel loaders; the car gets reborn as a hybrid between the Hot Rod and the Space Shuttle, as shown on the cover of the “Afterburner” album.  In the following video “Rough Boy” the shuttle hybrid plays a larger role as the sole customer in a car wash space station. This video closes the “Afterburner” trilogy with the ominous text “Stay clean…”  A 1/24 scale plastic model of ‘The Eliminator’ was produced by Monogram under license. The car now resides in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

Next car up is the ‘Leapin Limo’ based on a 1948 Pontiac Silver Streak, the car was stretched 40 inches, painted in black with ZZ Top graphics and used in the video for “Velcro Fly” from the album “Afterburner.

Another car dubbed ‘CadZZilla’ based on a 1948 Cadillac Series 62 Sedanette, the CadZZilla is a low-slung, sleek and dark custom car. The name is a contraction of Cadillac, ZZ Top and Godzilla. It wasn’t featured as prominently in ZZ Top’s videos as ‘The Eliminator’, but it appeared in “My Head’s in Mississippi” and in “Burger Man”.  An artist’s rendition of ‘CadZZilla’ was used on the cover of the “Recycler” album.  In the video for “Doubleback”, which uses ‘Back to the Future Part III’ footage, CadZZilla appears at the final showdown and similarly to the early Eliminator videos, three sexy women get out of the car and solve the problem. When the car drives off, a view of its rear license plate is shown: “I8TOKYO” — I ate Tokyo, a reference to Godzilla. The car was well-received in the custom scene. Gray Baskerville, Senior Editor of Hot Rod Magazine, even named it as one of his favorite custom cars ever. Scale models in 1/24 and 1/64 were produced under license.

Check out Billy Gibbon’s book which gives you an exclusive look at his exquisite vintage and way-out custom guitars and his influential hot rods and custom cars.  More than four dozen guitars and ten vehicles, all expounded upon by Billy himself.  While Billy’s guitars are the stuff of legend, no less intriguing are the tales behind his incredible music career.  From teenage Houston garage rock to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the whole story is between these covers, told in the Good Reverend Willie G’s own words and illustrated with photos and memorabilia from his personal archive.

By: storm@backstage360.com

One Response to "ZZ Top: Cars and Guitars"

  1. Laurie Swanson  April 19, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    Excellent article Storm!


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