"Rockin' Roadster"
By: Lucas Aykroyd

Autoweek (September 24, 2001)

Michael Anthony definitely likes it hot, whether he’s chowing down on Tabasco sauce or pumping out blistering bass lines for rock supergroup Van Halen. Now, the 47-year-old musician is generating some heat in the world of hot rods. His replica 1933 “Fire” Roadster Ford hi boy went on display along with three custom basses on June 14 at the “Cars and Guitars” show at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, where it will stay until Dec. 31.

While the show features 30 cars and 75 custom guitars altogether, Anthony’s contribution is distinctive. Dave Weiderman of the Guitar Center in Hollywood invited him to make it the featured car this year.

Anthony originally got into cars through ex-Van Halen vocalist Sammy “I Can’t Drive 55” Hagar. After meeting Boyd Coddington in 1992, Anthony commissioned the master hot rod builder to create his dream roadster. It took 18 months.

“I’d say to build that car today, you’d be talking close to a quarter of a million dollars,” Anthony says. “A lot of hours of massaging went into that car.”

Coddington achieved a look that’s both stylish and traditional. Featuring an original steel body and fully independent suspension, the car is well equipped for the long drives its owner likes to take.

The roadster stands out on the highway with its DuPont PPG black paint job with flames, courtesy of Dennis Rickleffs.

“Dennis is very well known in the business as far as his flames go,” says Anthony. “I said, ‘Okay, man. I know you’re going to do a great job. Just go to town.’” The choice of a Chevy 350 engine with a 350 B&M transmission was a no-brainer: “I wanted to go with a carbur-eted motor. It’ll do more than peel the rubber off a tire!” Comfort and elegance mark the roadster’s red leather interior. Anthony got upholsterer Gabe Lopez to install a traditional single-bench seat. He can also blast his Van Halen favorites like Mean Street and Get Up, as the trunk holds a pair of custom-made amps by Precision Power for the Alpine stereo system. For finishing touches, the body sports a hideaway rear license plate and taillights and a milled chili pepper rear end cover.

“When I’m showing the car, it’s got a real clean look from the back,” Anthony says. “And my trademark now is chili peppers, because I’m a big fan of hot spicy food. When Van Halen goes out on tour, every city that we pull into, people give me hot sauce.” Although Anthony is displaying his classic Jack Daniel’s bass at the show, he dismisses the idea of a JD roadster with uproarious laughter. The Chicago-born rocker is a family man these days with his wife Sue and two young daughters.

“My oldest, Elisha, is turning 16 and really likes the Plymouth Prowler,” chuckles Anthony. “It’s starting to worry me a bit.”

He plans to relax at several hot rod events this year, including the South-west Nationals in Scottsdale, Arizona, Nov. 16-18.

For those who can’t get to the Peter-sen exhibition, check out Anthony’s car collection at his official website, www.madanthonycafe.com.

Interview 2001 Autoweek