PLEASANTON -- For Metallica frontman James Hetfield, making music and dreaming up custom cars flow from the same wellspring: excitement and creation. Starting a new project with a drawing or idea and watching it come to life, he says, is just like writing a song.

"I love creating art," Hetfield said via email. "And I love cars. For some reason I have a phobia of driving cars with no character."

Hetfield, a Marin County resident and member of the Beatniks Car Club, has designed about seven customs since 2008, including four with his creative partner, award-winning car builder Rick Dore.

 Metallica frontman James Hetfield, owner of The Black Pearl and avid custom car collector. (Metallica)
Metallica frontman James Hetfield, owner of The Black Pearl and avid custom car collector. (Metallica)

Their latest creation, "The Black Pearl," is a highlight of the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association's 32nd Annual All American Get-Together, being held Saturday and Sunday at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. The car will be considered among about 40 entries for the Goodguys Mother's Custom the Year award.

Handcrafted from sheets of aluminum by metal shapers Marcel and Luc De Ley, Hetfield's sleek, one-of-a-kind Black Pearl blends stylings of classic coach-built European cars from the 1920s and '30s with more traditional American customs. Its swooping, jet-black exterior features prominent fender skirts over the rear wheels; the dashboard gauges finished in classy Art Deco style.


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But perhaps the car's most unique attribute is its lack of discernible make or model. The De Leys formed the showpiece from a drawing of Hetfield's.

"We started out with a left-hand drive 1948 Jaguar Saloon," Hetfield said. "We couldn't get what we wanted out of it so we just kept drawing. Rick (Dore) had been in contact with Marcel and Luc so we just started from scratch."

So far in 2014, the Black Pearl has snatched up numerous awards at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, and the Sacramento Autorama.

Goodguys spokesman John Drummond called the creation "groundbreaking."

"I can't remember the last time a car was scratch-built like this," Drummond said. "They're exploring new frontiers here."

The first Goodguys Pleasanton show of the year is expected to draw as many as 75,000 spectators over the two days. Among the field for Mother's Custom of the Year is John D'Agostino, of Discovery Bay, owner of Celebrity Kustoms. Due to a scheduling conflict, D'Agostino won't be making an appearance, but two of his prize cars will.

His 1956 Packard "Caribbean," and its striking pink pearl paint job, will make its first-ever appearance at a Goodguys show. The car is currently owned by Mike Garner, of Livermore. A lipstick red '51 Lincoln named "Ruby" is also in the running, a joint venture of Garner and D'Agostino.

Custom painter Marcos Garcia, of the Lucky 7 Custom Shop, in Antioch, has two cars entered in the competition, a '49 Ford and a '49 Chevy.

"We always have something solid to bring to the table," Garcia said. "But there are always a lot of great pieces there. We just try to bring our best and see what happens."

Hetfield has claimed the top custom prize twice before. In 2011, he won for his 1937 Lincoln Zephyr dubbed "Voodoo Priest." The year before, his root-beer-colored 1936 Auburn Speedster "Slow Burn" took home the hardware.

Darryl Hollenbeck of Vintage Color Studio in Concord spent more than 500 hours painting the Black Pearl, his third collaboration with Hetfield and Dore.

"Even if it doesn't win, it's already made its mark," Hollenbeck said. "I think it's got a pretty good chance."

Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.

IF YOU GO
The 32nd Annual Goodguys All American Get-Together is Saturday and Sunday at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. More than 3,000 show cars will be on display. Tickets are $17, $6 for children 7-12. Kids six and under enter free. Parking is $8. For details, go tohttp://good-guys.com, or call Goodguys at 925-838-9876 or the fairgrounds at 925-426-7600.