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by Steve Temple  More from Author

A Hard Rocker’s Rollin’ Rod

Living life on the road is a common among rock stars, but not all of them have a love for it. Unless they own a really righteous street rod, like guitar bassist Michael Anthony of the rock group Van Halen. He bangs out a whole different kind of beat in his private life, the kind heard from the exhaust pipes of his Ragen ’40 Ford, custom built by Boyd Coddington.

And this isn’t his only ride. Actually, he has 11 vehicles in all. “That’s 10 too many,” he admits. So why have so large a fleet?

“My cars are a way to unwind from the music business,” Anthony says. “I like to listen to tunes with the top down, haulin’ ass. I get a certain feeling from it. And I can go to a car show with one of my hot rods and just blend in, like just another hot rodder.”

Coddington confirmed this trait of Michael. “He’s a real hot rod guy, not just a rock and roller,” he says. “Michael loves the cars and really enjoys them. He’s very concerned about having a car he can drive. During the buildup, he often stopped by the shop and worked with us on the design.”

Anthony’s red-pepper ride took 17 workers nine months to assemble at Coddington’s shop. It features a Corvette LT4 engine, automatic transmission, independent rearend, power windows and leather interior. And it’s no show queen, either. The morning after he picked up the car, he promptly drove it from Los Angeles to Springfield, Illinois with a convoy of fellow street rodders. “That was the break-in for it,” Anthony says. “It proved that a Boyd hot rod isn’t just for show. The only problem we had on the entire trip was a slight leak in one of the brake lines.”

Not surprisingly, Ragen ’40 cranks out tunes from a studio-grade audio system, blasting out about 1000 watts of power. But the only indication there’s a kickin’ system is the custom amps hidden in the trunk. “A lot of people like the stereo to be a focal point, but I don’t like stuff like that to be real obvious on a car,” he says. “I prefer a more low-key, traditional look, but when you turn it on, there it is.”

One of Anthony’s other rides a ’33 Ford, and both have hidden touch that reflects another one of his many interests: the polished diff cover has a chili pepper milled into it, reflecting his taste for spicy Southwestern food. (One of his bass guitars has the same imagery on the neck, too.)

The music business has been good to Michael, who now resides in a custom home in the hills overlooking Los Angeles near where he grew up in Arcadia. He started out in various garage bands in the area, eventually went on to play for the supergroup Van Halen in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He became known for his intense vocals, an impressive range of playing styles, and a bass shaped like a bottle of Jack Daniels (which he’s been known to sample on occasion). His abode features a multi-car detached garage with a hydraulic lift, where he keeps a new Corvette (a present for his wife Sue), a Suburban (his daily driver), a 1969 Shelby GT 500, and a couple of Ferraris. 

How does he reconcile raising two teenage daughters with that of a hard-core rocker? “You’ve got to find a balance,” he admits. “I can’t get caught up in the rock lifestyle. I don’t bring that home. I turn into a responsible adult.”

Like his life, his cars aren’t just about the shows. “I built them to drive. I like to show them off, but the main thing is to get out and drive them.”

Boyd Coddington Shop


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