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Axes & Axles: Cars and guitars celebrated at the NHRA museum

Fri, 03 Sep 2010

WITH VIDEO -- Cars and guitars--who can explain why the two go together? NHRA Museum director Tony Thacker says they both represent freedom. You could say they're both a means of self-expression. Or maybe it's just two more tools guys use to try and impress girls.

Whatever the draw, the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum (presented by the Auto Club of Southern California) opened a new exhibit celebrating cool custom cars and matching guitars, each owned by rock stars.

Fender was a major contributor to the exhibit, this being the 60th anniversary of the Fender Telecaster, built just down the freeway in Fullerton, Calif. There are dozens of Fenders and other guitars on hand throughout the museum's "Hall of Champions." Eddie Van Halen's Frankenstein guitar sits next to Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony's flamed bass.

Cars on display include Anthony's '33 Ford Roadster built by Boyd Coddington in 1994; Jeff Beck's '32 Ford Roadster--Jeff's daily driver when he is in the United States--rebuilt by Roy Brizio in 1982; and Eric Clapton's '47 Chevy Woody, also built by Brizio and completed the day before the exhibit opened.

And what would a cars and guitars exhibit be without some Billy Gibbons entries? The mighty CadZZilla 1948 Cadillac built by Hot Rods by Boyd during that shop's rise to glory in 1988-89 flanks right center of the exhibit's middle, while Gibbons' new "Mexican Blackbird" 1960 Thunderbird (with matching guitar), finished this year by the So-Cal Speed Shop, sits to the left. In the middle is Fabulous Thunderbirds guitarist Jimmie Vaughan's pistachio '61 Caddy.

Both Vaughan and Anthony attended the show's opening Sept. 1.

"I knew as far as hot rods went, if I could ever afford a hot rod it would be a Hi Boy roadster," said Anthony, whose black-with-orange-flames roadster sits in front of a similarly painted guitar. "This is obviously better than whatever I'd envisioned."

Vaughan said: "When I was a little kid I had all the magazines, the hot rod magazines, I was a complete car nut. I got a car with the money I made playing a guitar."

One aim of the exhibit is education. During the Los Angeles County Fair, Sept. 4 through Oct. 3, the exhibit will feature guitars for kids to try out as well as guitarists to help them play. Then on Jan. 28, during the Grand National Roadster Show, there will be workshops aimed at adults featuring, among others, Pete Chapouris of the SO-CAL Speed Shop. SO-CAL's belly tank roadster, fresh from an award at the Pebble Beach Concours, is one of the cars in the exhibit. Original hot rod hero, the 88-year-old Alex Xydias, was at the opening, too. Asked if he ever played guitar, he said yes.

"They (Fender) gave me one and I told them they had to teach me to play something on it," he told us.

What'd they teach him?

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow," said the legend, with a laugh.

We look forward to hearing that performance.

Axes & Axles runs through the end of June. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday except during the fair, when it is open seven days a week. See

Watch video from the exhibit's opening:

By Mark Vaughn