Rock star memorabilia has always drawn the interest of collectors worldwide. Anything that has ever been owned by our favorite musicians is sacrosanct and, with the right amount of cash, can be yours. Usually, however, those prices are ridiculously high and unattainable for mere mortals like you and me. It takes a person as rich or richer than a rock star to purchase one of their prior possessions.
Just look at Michael Jackson’s $5-million memorabilia auction, which took place in 2012 following his passing. That’s the thing: if an object belonged to a rock star who is now gone from this world, it is worth exponentially more. Recently, a rather mundane car owned by David Bowie sold for six figures, all because of the rock star provenance.
Cars are one of the bigger things that rock stars own that collectors are interested in (besides, perhaps, their personal musical instruments). It’s because these cars often become almost as iconic as the artists themselves—you see these cars in their documentaries, on their tours, in the media pictures of them. People want to own a piece of that memorabilia and they’ll pay a whole lot of cash to do it.
There are many rock stars out there who are gearheads—usually the rock stars you least expect! Here we’ll touch on 25 famous and infamous cars that were once owned by music legends and were then sold at auction, either by the star, the most recent owner of the car, or the estate of the deceased legend.
Elton John is a huge fan of Bentleys, Jaguars, Aston Martins, and Rolls-Royces—all the big, luxurious brands from the UK (which makes sense given his heritage). The iconic musician bought this beautiful Bentley S1 Continental Sport Saloon in 1976, then kept it for 25 years. He told Bonham that he thought this was “the most beautiful car, I think, that’s ever been designed.” (via RobbReport.com). That’s pretty high praise! Elton’s uber-celebrity status added about 15-20% to the estimate when he eventually sold it at auction in 2017 for around $550,000. The car is also covered in HJ Mulliner coachwork, which made it even more coveted. In the past, Elton has sold 20 cars from the aforementioned brands in a single auction, but none that fetched as much as this one!
This Mini Cooper S once belonged to Ringo Starr, of The Beatles fame. When he got ahold of the car, Ringo insisted that the tiny vehicle be modified to fit his entire drum kit in! There are badges from coachbuilders Hooper & Co. and Harold Radford all over the car. Radford specially designed the car (which was converted into a hatchback to meet Ringo’s needs), just like he designed Minis for John Lennon and Paul McCartney around the time Ringo got this one. It was estimated to bring in between $120,000 to $160,000 at auction, both because it was bespoke and because of Ringo Starr’s celebrity status.
Sir Paul McCartney, also of The Beatles fame, has had a bit more experience in the exotic car auction game, as we’ll get into later. For now, check out this stunning DB5, the same model that James Bond famously drove. It was even painted in the same classic Bond silver, with red interior, though McCartney originally ordered it in Sierra Blue with a black interior. All vintage DB5s are sought after, but this one had special provenance thanks to McCartney’s ownership. It was estimated to bring in $1.7 million to $2 million, which turned out to be $1,811,994!
Undoubtedly one of the coolest, rarest cars on this list belonged to Steven Tyler, the frontman and singer for Aerosmith. It was the first one ever made, too! He sold his 2012 Hennessey Venom GT Spyder, alongside John Lennon’s Austin Princess and Justin Bieber’s Ferrari 458 Italia, at the 2017 annual Barrett-Jackson Collection Car Auction. This car cost $1.2 million, with only 29 ever built. It has the second highest top speed of all time, recording 270.4 mph at the Kennedy Space Center in 2014, though only in one direction (so it wasn’t given the Guinness World Record title). That’s faster than the Bugatti Chiron by over nine miles per hour! Tyler ended up parting with the car for $800,000.
Let’s continue the roll of Beatlemania we have going here, with a car that John Lennon once owned—one that sold at a Scottsdale, Arizona Barrett-Jackson auction in 2017, alongside some other rock stars’ cars. This 1956 Austin Princess, which was originally a hearse, was owned by the singer-songwriter right around the time he was writing “Imagine”, which would obviously go on to be one of the most successful songs put out by any ex-Beatle. This car was also featured in a 1972 documentary with John and Yoko Ono driving it. It was customized with rear airline seats and was estimated to bring in between $242,000 and $340,000 by the Austin Rock & Roll Car Museum.
Many rock stars have sold their exotic and expensive cars at auctions, but perhaps none of them are as famous as the King himself, Elvis Presley. Elvis is known for having owned many cars, though he had a certain distaste for exotic cars (he famously destroyed his Pantera). But limousines were definitely in his wheelhouse—he had two in his early career. His 1960 Lincoln Continental Mark V sold in 2009 for $110,000 (10 times the Hagerty Price Guide value). This 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 sold for even more: $172,000 in 2011, which was over 8 times the Hagerty Price Guide value.
The legendary Freddie Mercury, who has seen a resurgence in popularity recently thanks to the new film Bohemian Rhapsody (at least for the younger generation: my generation never forgot about him!), unsurprisingly owned many flamboyant and exotic cars throughout his life. They were a good representation of his own eclectic style in life. In 2013, a 1974 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow owned by Freddie sold at auction for $120,348, which was 9.6 times the Hagerty Price Guide value. Other cars he owned included a 1950 Studebaker Champion, a Daimler limousine, a Mercedes-Benz 420 SEL, a vintage Lincoln Town Car, and a Range Rover V8 convertible. This Rolls replaced the Daimler as Freddie’s “fancy” ride.
It is sad writing about iconic and legendary musicians who have passed away, there’s no doubting that (the last three entries are all part of that unfortunate club). But one of the ones that stings the most, because it’s one of the most recent, is David Bowie’s passing, which happened just three years ago (though it seems like yesterday). Recently, his 1981 Volvo 262 C Bertone was sold at auction for a whopping $216,000, which was over 24 times the Hagerty Price Guide value of $8,900! That just goes to show how much celebrity provenance goes into selling a vehicle.
Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones hasn’t joined the club mentioned above, and we hope he never does! In fact, his longevity and ability to keep on kicking have been a running joke for years, turning Richards into a living meme. In September 2017, a black 1983 Ferrari 400i that had been owned by Richards sold at RM Sotheby’s Ferrari auction for $414,000. The car reportedly had only 2,030 miles on the odometer, and it had the much-desired five-speed manual transmission. Those qualities, along with Keith Richards’ fame, explains why it was sold for over 10 times the Hagerty Price Guide value.
Once a rock star passes away, their belongings and possessions gain almost mythic qualities. Everything they once touched or owned in life has the Midas touch of gold. Such is the case for Janis Joplin’s 1964 Porsche 356C, a car that totally captured the artist’s style and the era in which she lived: the liberated counterculture of the 1960s. It had a carefully hand-painted exterior that totally matched the Flower Power vibe Joplin gave off and the auction included period photos of Janis with her car. It sold for almost 13 times the Hagerty Price Guide value of $137,000, bringing in a whopping $1,760,000 in 2017!
Unless you’re a true music buff, you might not have heard of Nick Mason, but you’ve almost certainly heard of the group he was apart of. Mason is the insanely talented drummer of Pink Floyd. Mason is also a true gearhead, so he didn't buy this 1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GT Spyder for its looks, but because he’s been collecting Ferraris and other supercars since the 1960s. This car was painted in “Nero" or black, with brown hide seats. He still rides today: just two years ago, he was driving his multi-million dollar McLaren F1 GTR Formula One car when he crashed it into a wall of tires. That was one of only 28 of those cars ever made! This Dino ended up selling for between $520,000 to $590,000.
The Lamborghini Diablo is one of the most iconic Lambos ever built, pretty much setting the company apart from other exotic supercar makers in the 1990s. Just like fellow knighted rock star Paul McCartney, Sir Rod Stewart had a huge crush on Lamborghinis. His retro 1991 Lambo Diablo (the year the car debuted) totally matched the glamorous style and attitude that he portrayed in the 1980s. He bought this car as a Christmas present for himself following the Platinum success of his 16th studio album, Vagabond Heart. This iconic supercar was ticketed at $170,000 to $190,000 at a 2018 Bonhams auction.
As we just mentioned, Rod Stewart loves his Lamborghinis. And this one, in particular, is probably the coolest one he once owned. It’s a shame he gave it up to auction because the Lamborghini Miura P400 S is really the car that established the company as the premiere supercar maker in the world way back in the 1960s. It is considered the first supercar and its rear-mid-engine, two-seat layout has become the standard for high-performance supercars. Luckily, Stewart owns not only versions of every model, but multiple versions of the Miura. This Miura by Bertone was estimated to bring in $1.57 million to $1.83 million (or £1.2m –1.4m).
As mentioned earlier, there was a time when Elton John just didn’t have enough time to drive all the exotic cars he owned and he wanted to give other people the chance to enjoy them. Included in this 20-car massive auction were 10 Bentleys (ranging in years from 1956 to 1997), two Jaguars (including the ultra rare 1993 Jaguar XJ220 supercar that had a 200-mph capability and brought in the most at the auction, around $306,000). In all, Elton John left the Christie’s Dermot Chichester auction £2 million richer (about $2.6 million), though he probably could have left them even richer had he sold or auctioned the cars individually.
More cars from Elton John! He’s owned quite a few during his illustrious career, and this is probably one of the coolest ones: a rare, 1972 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona, which was sold by Silverstone Auctions for £551,250 ($720,000) in a huge, premium £5.5-million ($7.2 million) sale during the Silverstone Classic Motor Racing Festival on July 27-30, 2017. This bright red Ferrari brought an enthusiastic crowd to the floor, though there were others that also brought gasps, including a 1987 Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 and a 1973 BMW 3.0 CSL. Over the three-day sale (July 28th was excluded), 71% of the cars on offer went to new owners.
Bill Wyman, the bassist for the Rolling Stones, is included on some of the band’s most famous albums. In 2015, Wyman sold some of his vintage car collection, including a 1971 Citroen Maserati SM and a 1966 Mercedes-Benz 250 S. They only brought in about $85,000 together, probably because Wyman is one of the lesser known Stones—unless you’re a true fan, in which case you know how much he contributed to their success! Wyman drove these cars to the studios during the recording of several famous Stones albums, including Beggars Banquet (1968), Let It Bleed (1969), Exile on Main St. (1972), and Tattoo You (1981). He also admitted that the rare addition of tinted windows on the Mercedes led to somewhat unwanted attention from police.
The Queen of Pop, Madonna, is the best-selling female recording artist of all time, as noted by Guinness World Records, with over 300 million records sold worldwide. She’s also the most succesful solo artist in Billboard’s Hot 100 chart history. That being said, you can tell that her already-expensive Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud Drophead Coupe would bring in a whole lot of money, especially a vintage one made in 1959. However, Madonna actually never owned this car, but it was used to ferry her and Guy Ritchie on their wedding day in 2000. But it still fetched around $1,070,000 at auction after winning a Concours d’Elegance competition!
Neil Young is also a vintage and classic car collector and also one of the best-selling artists of all time. After reaching fame with Crosby, Stills, and Nash, he embarked on an unprecedented solo career that is still flourishing today. He personally worked on many of the cars he’s sold at auction, including a Cherry Red 1953 Buick Skylark, which was built to celebrate Buick’s 50th anniversary. It fetched $400,000 in a 2017 Julien’s Auction. His black 1941 Plymouth Series 28 is a beautiful pre-war coupe that Young claims once belonged to Steve McQueen. Still, it only brought in $35,200 in 2017. His 1948 Buick Roadmaster hearse, dubbed “Mort,” was used early in his career to bring him around Canada, and it sold at the bargain price of $31,250.
As the last Beatle to round out this article, George Harrison is famous for being the “quiet” Beatle, for his expert guitar work, and for penning songs like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. This 1980 Porsche 928 once belonged to him, and it crossed the auction block in March of 2017. In his post-Beatles years, Harrison became a true gearhead, at one point owning more than 100 cars! He owned this car between 1980 and 1984 and put just over 11,000 miles on it during that time. Optioned with the highly desired six-speed manual transmission, it brought in $55,780 from Omega Auctions.
John Bonham is another extremely talented musician who unfortunately passed away before he could see the influence his band, Led Zeppelin, would have on future generations of musicians. Bonham is often considered one of the pioneering drummers of the 1960s and 70s, and one of the greatest of all time. In 2017, the drummer’s legendary 1915 Ford Model T appeared on eBay for £250,000, or about $327,000. This car famously appeared in the 1976 Zeppelin film, The Song Remains the Same. It was sold by Midwest Performance, who said, “Being Zeppelin fans ourselves, we are very excited to assist in the sale of this iconic Hot Rod.” It came with a completely rebuilt 5.7-liter Chevy Small Block and supercharger.
Back in 2011, Sheryl Crow sold her super-famous, cream-colored 1959 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL. Crow has sold over 50 million records worldwide and has garnered nine Grammy Awards under her belt, making her one of the most awarded musicians of all time. Back in 2011, she wasn’t getting much use out of her 1959 two-seater anymore, so she decided to auction it off, with the proceeds going to a local nonprofit dedicated to rebuilding the Joplin schools. Crow is also a bit of a gearhead and explained to Vanity Fair how she once wrecked her Camaro and how she once drove a 1955 Gullwing coupe, which was one of her favorite driving experiences.
Paul McCartney isn’t the only singer with an epic James Bond DB5—Led Zeppelin frontman and singer Robert Plant also once owned one of these bad boys. The golden-maned singer put the Aston Martin up for auction in 2017, and it was sure to bring a “whole lotta cash” (listen to more Zeppelin if you don’t get that). The rock star bought the DB5 in the early 1970s and sold it in 1986 to a car collector father-son team, and it was sold in “exemplary condition” by Nicholas Mee & Co, with 62,400 miles on his clock. Its unique color is described as “Dubonnet Rosso,” and it was estimated to fetch more than £1 million.
Rounding out three of the four Led Zeppelin members, Jimmy Page’s famous 1936 Cord 810 Phaeton was also sold at auction in 2011. The influential, phenomenal guitarist is one of the primary influencers of guitarists around the world today. The estimate on this vintage Cord was £75,000 to £100,000, which is approximately $98,000 to $130,000. This car is almost certainly the Cord 810 that Page purchased in Los Angeles in 1970 while on tour. The Phaeton received restoration while in Page’s hands, though the last time he owned the car was about 25 years ago. It also once belonged to Duncan Bannatyne, entrepreneur and “Dragon” from the BBC TV show, Dragon’s Den.
Finally, we have the Boss and his classic yellow 1957 Chevy Bel Air, which sold at auction in 2016 for $350,000. In the lead up to Springsteen’s initial success with the 1975 album, Born to Run, he bought a baby blue 1957 Chevy for $2,000. Eventually, he turned the baby blue into golden yellow, with flames on the hood. The car then became an iconic piece of rock and roll history. He only owned the car for two years and it changed hands numerous times after that. It sold on an eBay auction for a six-figure sum, according to Car and Driver. Its most previous owner had been Michael Crane, who bought the car in 2006 after it luckily broke down in front of his driveway in Long Beach, New Jersey.
We’d be remiss if we did not include John Lennon’s infamous, psychedelic 1966 Rolls-Royce Phantom on this list—a car that caused controversy and complaints from Rolls-Royce themselves, who weren't too happy about Lennon’s choice of paint scheme. However, in 1985, this 19-foot Rolls, painted in a psychedelic, floral motif designed with the help of a gypsy mystic, brought in $2,299,000, “The highest price ever paid for an automobile at auction,” according to Sotheby’s spokesman Parke Bernet (at the time). The bid came from Jim Pattison, a Canadian businessman and chairman of the Expo 86 World’s Fair. The yellow car had been purchased by Lennon in 1966 and he used it until 1969. In 1977, Lennon and Yoko Ono donated it to the Cooper Hewitt Museum—the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Design.
Sources: Car and Driver, Hagerty, NY Times, and The Mirror.