Back when Rick Dore first teamed up with Metallica front man James Hetfield on their first build, the resulting finished product—a dream car–inspired ’53 Buick Skylark—wasn’t the only thing on their minds. Seems James was looking a bit further down the road, like six years and nearly as many collaborated customs (Rick Dore Kustoms, that is).
According to Rick, the two were at Pomona (Grand National Roadster Show), where they were debuting the car James’ daughter dubbed “Skyscraper”, when out of the blue, James brought up Lincoln Zephyrs. The pair compared fellow Beatnik club members’ versions with others—most of which were drivers—and also with Terry Cook’s ’glass-bodied sled, “Scrape”. Rick says that he was pretty sure he knew what James was getting at, but he didn’t just want to come out and say it. But it wasn’t long before he had no other choice but to ask, “So what are we talking about here? You want to build your version of a Zephyr or keep dreaming about it?” With the talent-blessed ability to do so, eventually they would fulfill that dream—but there were some other things that needed tending first … a Candy Root Beer Auburn custom, for one.
Rick readily admits that without James, he wouldn’t have been able to build some of the cars he’d dreamed of doing. And the same goes for the ’37 Lincoln … well, sort of. You see, Rick’s got this thing for concept/Motorama-type customs—but that’s exactly what James didn’t want with the Zephyr. Instead, he envisioned a traditional custom that played on the existing factory styling, not one that asked the question, “what if?”. For Rick, this was a challenge he was more than ready and willing to take on.
Interesting story with the ’37: As Rick tells it, the Lincoln belonged to a fellow up in the Sacramento/Auburn area of Northern California. Upon returning from Vietnam back in 1972, obviously adversely affected from his recent tour of duty, he literally hopped a train and was never seen or heard from again. And for the next several decades, the Zephyr sat in the same place it’d been in since the late ’60s.
Rick had learned of the Zephyr through the grapevine, and through persistence, wound up acquiring it for James not too long ago. In the coming years, the coupe would bounce back and forth between NorCal and SoCal during its construction, pretty much in a pattern: up north to Antioch Muffler for chassis work and exhaust, back south to Keith Dean for all the major body modifications, up north again to Darryl Hollenbeck for final bodywork and paint, south to Craig Hopkins for upholstery, and north again to Tony Gomes at Tri Valley Glass. While the car was doing its bouncing routine, so too were many of its major components—for instance, as Mike Herman at H&H was breathing new life into the Lincoln’s V-12 Flathead in La Crescenta, Sherm’s Plating was dipping the handmade brass trim (and other various to-be-plated parts) in its chrome vats up in Sacramento.
When all was said and done, well, let’s just say that James Hetfield’s Zephyr is indeed a deviation from what we’re used to seeing come out of Rick Dore’s mind into custom car form. In short, it’s a custom not void of its original styling cues, rather, one with enhanced signature design elements. And that’s a good thing; it’s exactly what James wanted—no more … no less.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
James Hetfield/Rick Dore Kustoms
Bay Area/North San Diego County, California
1937 Lincoln Zephyr Coupe
True customs don’t require mega-buck, high-tech chassis to get the job done—they don’t hurt, but often all that’s necessary to properly propel a sled are a few modifications to the existing platform, which is exactly the case here. Antioch Muffler (Antioch, CA) handled the aforementioned chores by first installing a Mustang II–derived independent front suspension followed by a 9-inch Ford rearend—each outfitted with RideTech airbag setups—and, of course, what their name suggests, a complete dual exhaust system.