Sammy Hagar simply isn’t going to drive 55. There’s no way. His 1984 hit makes this clear:
“Write me up for 125/Post my face, wanted dead or alive/Take my license, all that jive/I can't drive 55, Oh, yeah!” In case you didn’t get it, he then repeats that he can’t drive 55 four times.
Hagar doesn’t seem to be slowing down. In fact, he owns a heart-stopping collection of 30 fast cars (including seven Ferraris) that are barely capable of driving 55. One of those chariots, a 1,000-horsepower 2015 LaFerrari (with a hybrid drivetrain!) will be on display August 19 at The Quail, a Motorsports Gathering, as part of the historic Monterey Car Week.
In an interview, Hagar talked about not driving 55, about that Ferrari, and about being a diehard car guy.
Back in ’84, Hagar was coming back from a three month tour of Africa with his family, and was heading up to a log cabin he owned on Lake Placid. And that’s when he got stopped—for doing 62 (not 125!) in a “piece of junk Avis rental car” on “a four-lane road with nobody else in sight.”
Hagar swears he was writing the lyrics even as the cop was writing the ticket. “I Can’t Drive 55” became his biggest song ever, though it only hit 94 on the Billboard charts. “It's my most licensed song ever, double what I got from the big Van Halen songs like ‘Right Now,’ ‘Top of the World,’ ‘Finish What You Start.’ Someone’s always wanting it for a commercial.” If you've been under a rock, here it is:
And the song had an unexpected benefit: “I’ve gotten plenty of tickets in my day, but since that song came out in 1984 most cops let me go. They say, ‘Oh, it’s you, Sammy, just take a selfie with me and I’ll let you go.’ That’s happened 35 to 40 times.”
Sammy Hagar in a LaFerrari must be a tempting target, though. It’s a very exclusive car, which he says took a lot of arm-twisting, cajoling and two trips to Italy to land in his garage.
“I’ve never driven anything as exciting as that car, and that includes the NASCAR rides I’ve had with people like Bob Bondurant and Jimmy Johnson. With the 220-horsepower electric motor for low-end torque, it never stops accelerating. Things happen so fast when you step on the gas that you almost have to recalibrate your brain. I’ve never driven anything as exciting as the LaFerrari. It’s the way it sounds and feels—like it can do anything I want it to. I have total confidence driving it.”
Driving the LaFerrari, Hagar says he achieved zero to 125 mph in eight seconds, without even using launch mode. Did he get a ticket? “What, in eight seconds?”
There’s an obvious parallel between car guy Hagar and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, a major Ferrari collector. “We have in common that we’ve been rock and rollers all our lives, and we have passion for exotic cars, especially Ferraris,” Hagar said. “But one thing we don’t have is the same level of cars—he has a GTO [specifically, one of the holy grail ’62 to ’64 250 GTOs now worth as much as $50 million].”
Hagar doesn’t covet that car, though, because “I’d never actually use it. They’re worth too much money now. I like my cars because I drive them—it’s important that these Ferraris actually get out on the road. Anyone who’d take out a 250 GTO would have to be out of their mind.”
The Hagar collection, mostly living in a warehouse, includes an Aston-Martin Vanquish S (“a rare car”), a Jaguar E-Type, a 427-powered Shelby GT 350 Mustang, a Ford GT (“the first remake”), a 1970 454 Chevy El Camino, a Lotus Elise, and a BMW/Alpina Z8. The latter is the car he “drives more than anything—I know it’s going to start and be fun to drive, with a top that goes down.” The Ferraris include an iconic 1972 Daytona and a 1983 512 Boxer (the car in the "I Can't Drive 55" video).
Not surprisingly, Hagar knows world champion car collector Jay Leno, who’s visited his warehouse. “He started telling me about cars I needed to buy, and I told him I didn’t have any more room. You know what he said to me? ‘You buy the place next door, Sammy.’ Man, that’s more than a hobby—it’s a sickness! Whenever I met Jay in his green room we’d talk cars, then I’d go on the show and we’d talk about the new album or whatever.”
Perhaps the most surprising car in the Hagar garage is a Tesla Model S, his wife's car. "I drive it all the time," he said. "I like EVs and think they're the future. There's no doubt about it, that's the way we should commute. EVs are so efficient, and so much better for the environment. And they haul ass. I make a parallel to horses. We used to drive them into town for groceries, but now they live in beautiful stables and we take them out for trail rides. My Ferraris are like that--they're not really a form of transportation."
I asked Hagar for his favorite driving song, and he came up with “Highway Star” by Deep Purple. I ventured as an alternative, “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. “We’ve got a disagreement on that, Jim,” he said. “That’s hippety-hoppety country. It's ‘Highway Star.’” Here it is:
Hagar’s car is featured as part of the “Great Ferraris” exhibit. Other cars you might see among the 200 at the Quail Lodge and Golf Club’s concours event in Carmel, California on August 19 include a 1957 Lancia Aurelia B20 “Outlaw” Coupe; a hot-rodded 1934 Packard owned by Metallica’s James Hetfield; a 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder like the one James Dean drove to his death; and a 1966 Lola Mk2 T70 Can-Am car.