ZZ Top’s guitars, cars, and motorcycles
The ZZ Top guitars
Like many rock stars, Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill are dedicated rare, classic electric guitar and vintage amp and speaker system collectors (“the pursuit of things sonic”), and famous for their personal custom guitars, many of which were co-designed by Gibbons and master luthier John Bolin of Bolin Guitars. Gibbons likes his custom instruments with a neck conforming to the specs of his highly-prized 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard nicknamed “Pearly Gates” (named after the barely-roadworthy car Billy sold for money to buy the guitar many years ago). 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. For concerts, a fan favorite pair of guitars are the spinning “white fuzzies” (covered in synthetic white fur) — “Have Mercy!” — 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.His custom vehicles were a mainstay for the earlier ZZ Top videos and were also used for promotion.
The red 1933 Ford 3-window coupé Hot Rod ‘The Eliminator’ was customized by Don Thelen at Paramount. The car was featured in a video trilogy from the album Eliminator, consisting of “Sharp Dressed Man”, “Gimme All Your Lovin’” and “Legs”. The car was also featured in various custom car magazines around the globe.
‘The Eliminator’ gets eliminated by two wheel loaders in the video “Sleeping Bag” from the Afterburner album, while it saves a young couple from being captured by the “bad boys.” The car gets reborn as a mix between the Hot Rod and the Space Shuttle, as shown on the cover of the album. When the Eliminator Shuttle rockets into space, controlled by the ZZ Top crew, a text appears “to be continued…”. But in the next video “Stages”, the shuttle only has a very brief showing at the end with the text “Stay tuned…”. In the following video “Rough Boy” the shuttle 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…”. The Eliminator has one last (so far) and almost imperceptible appearance at the beginning of the video “Burger Man” from the Recycler album.
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.
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.
Based on a 1948 Cadillac Series 62 Sedanette, the CadZZilla is a low-slung, sleek and dark custom car built by Boyd Coddington and designed by Larry Erickson. 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” — pulling out of the parking lot of a diner at the very beginning of the video. When CadZZilla has left the frame, it reveals a brief view of ‘The Eliminator’ parked beside the diner. 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 the Hot Rod Magazine, even named it as one of his favourite custom cars ever, and called it the epitome of the “Dare to Be Different” era. The intense customization cost around USD 900,000 at the time. CadZZilla was shown outside the USA, for example 2005 at the 14th Annual Yokohama HOT ROD Custom Show. CadZZilla’s timeless looks motivated and inspired Richard Ferlazzo to design the Holden Efijy showcar.
Scale models in 1/24 and 1/64 were produced under license.
Other cars and motorcycles
- HogZZilla To accompany his CadZZilla, Gibbons decided to have two Harley Davidson motorbikes converted to matching custom bikes. The name is a contraction of the Harley Davidson nickname HOG, ZZ Top and Godzilla.
- Kopperhed Based on a Fifties’ Ford sedan, radical re-modelling of the roof creates the look of a 3-window coupé.
- Mambo Coupé Based on a 1936 Ford Coupé.
- Slampala Based on a 1962 Chevrolet Impala. The modern air ride suspension allows the car to be set to extremely low ground clearance (a classic “lowrider”). The scene term for this is “slammed”, hence the name Slampala, a contraction of Slammed Impala.
- 8 Ball B Based on a 1992 BMW 325i with a louvred hood/bonnet and distinct Pool-Billiard theme.