THE passing of Van Halen guitarist Eddie Van Halen yesterday at the age of 65 was a heavy blow to the Street Machine team, and no doubt to many of you reading this. Van Halen’s scorching but fun-loving approach to rock ’n’ roll was the perfect accompaniment to those of us who grew up around hot cars in the late 70s and 1980s.
When Van Halen released its debut album in 1978, they introduced a new era in hard rock and were on their way to being the biggest band in the world. Not only did Eddie Van Halen reinvent the way the guitar was played, he also changed the way it sounded. His modified ‘Frankenstein’ axe combined the sound of a Gibson Les Paul in the form of a Fender Stratocaster – much like putting a Chev engine in a Ford. The music industry subsequently adopted the term ‘hot-rodded’ for similar types of instruments.
And when MTV debuted in 1981, it was Van Halen that celebrated custom cars in their videos. The clip for Hot for Teacher features frontman David Lee Roth ripping a skid in a blown ’32 Ford tub, while the Panama video features EVH’s 1972 Lamborghini Miura (and the sound of its revving V12 is featured in the song itself).
The ’32 tub from the Hot for Teacher clip was owned and built by Street Rodder founder Tom McMullen. Dubbed ‘Tom’s Tub Two’, the ’32 was based around a fibreglass body and powered by a 6/71-blown 350 smog motor, while a Doug Nash five-speed shifted gears
Many of the band members were car guys through and through, particularly former bass player Michael Anthony, sometime singer Sammy Hagar and Eddie himself. Let’s have a look at just some the amazing rides that Eddie was involved with over the years.
Van Hauler C1500
One of Eddie’s most famous rides was his Chev C1500 pick-up, which was built by Hot Rods by Boyd and designed by Chip Foose. Style-wise, the truck’s mods included a rear rollpan, billet grille, paint inspired by EVH’s Frankenstein guitar and 16in billet rims.
It was even wilder under the skin, with an LT1 engine swap and Corvette independent rear suspension.
A second truck was built for Sport Truck magazine as a giveaway car, which featured more-extensive graphics.
Eddie’s truck fell into disrepair and was restored in 2009 by Hot Rods by Boyd alumni Duane Mayer and Bernt Karlsson. It was auctioned off at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale in 2010.
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1970 Chevrolet Nova
This pro touring-style 1970 Chevy Nova was built by Jim Bassett’s Bones Fab shop in California. The driveline consists of a 454 LSX motor, Tremec T56 gearbox and Currie nine-inch diff. The suspension and brakes were completely revised, including a four-link rear. The body features a carbonfibre bonnet and boot, and the whole lot is smothered in PPG Tang Yellow Orange duco.
Bones Fab also built Eddie a très cool 1947 Dodge cab-over truck. The truck arrived at Bones Fab already modified with a Ford 6.9-litre diesel and four-speed manual transmission. The crew updated the whole car, including fitting a newer 7.3-litre turbo diesel, ZF five-speed gearbox and a Gear Vendors overdrive out back.
1956 Chev Nomad
Eddie’s ’56 Nomad was a tamer build than those above, but was a super-sweet example with factory air and power steering and a 265-cube Power Pack V8. The Nomad sold at Barrett-Jackson’s 2009 Scottsdale auction for $930,000.
1955 Chev 210
EVH certainly appears to have had a thing for shoebox Chevs, and this smooth ’55 is a little more bad-arse than the Nomad, featuring a 408-cube small-block backed by a Muncie Rock Crusher four-speed. It was sold at Mecum’s Houston auction in 2016.
Supercharged Audi R8s
Eddie didn’t just tinker with classics; he was fond of more modern machinery, too. A pair of Audi R8s took pride of place in the EVH garage, one V8 and one V10; both were six-speed manuals with rowdy exhausts and superchargers added.
Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Eddie wasn’t shy in letting people know he was behind the wheel. His Porsche 911 GT3 RS wore ‘5150’ plates, a reference to Van Halen’s 1986 album of the same name. He also liked to drive his cars hard, regularly hitting the race track. He was a huge fan of the 991-generation RS, telling Car and Driver: “It’s the first time ever I’ve been able to four-wheel drift a Porsche. Every other Porsche I’ve ever had, I’ve spun them all. Well, every 911, anyway.”
Prior to the GT3 RS, Eddie’s track hack of choice was a Ferrari 550 Maranello; not an obvious choice, but not a bad one, either. The black 550 received a rollcage, race seats and Challenge-style rims, though following the precedent of his other vehicles, it’s fair to assume the engine and suspension weren’t standard, either.
Porsche 911 Turbo by RUF
Bought new by Van Halen in 1996, this 993 Turbo remained stock for four years before the tinkering began, German Porsche specialists RUF liberating some extra horsepower courtesy of new turbos, camshafts, exhaust system and ECU.
Last but not least, is there any greater rock-star car than a Lamborghini Miura? A wedding gift from his first wife Valerie Bertinelli, Eddie immortalised his Miura in the song Panama, where it can be heard revving during the breakdown (the song’s, not the car’s) from 2:33. Like all Eddie’s cars, it ain’t stock, wearing wider rims and distinctive side air intakes for that transverse V12.