Quick Stats: Iggy Pop singer-songwriter, actor
Daily Driver: 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead (Iggy’s rating: 9.5 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Favorite road trip: “Station to Station” tour cross country with David Bowie
Car he learned to drive in: 1956 Chevy Nomad
First car bought: 1956 Chevy Nomad
After buying his first car in high school, music icon Iggy Pop, aka James Osterberg Jr., didn’t buy another one until he was 44.
Technically, his business manager bought him the car—a 1992 Ford Bronco—because he didn’t want to deal with anybody. Pop just wanted to pick up a car on a certain day. “I never owned anything,” he says. “I just lived out of a bag in the large cities of the world, and if I left the big city, I would rent.”
Pop built a little house in Los Cabos, Mexico, and needed a car. He got the 1992 Bronco in 1991. He says he loaded it with all sorts of goods from America and drove it from L.A. to land’s end in San Jose del Cabo to this new house. “It never let me down,” he says. “It was wonderful.”
The Michigan native had the Bronco for about 15 years until he moved to Miami, where his car buying and enjoying spree began. “I started here with used cars, like the Ferrari and an old cherry red Caddy Deville convertible with a white top that I bought for five grand in classified ads,” he says.
When Pop moved to Miami, he wanted to do things for himself. “I’d never even rented an apartment myself, I’d never bought anything myself, so I came down here all alone and started to live my own life without gophers or anything,” he says. “I didn’t know what you had to do to do anything. Even when I bought my house, first I had a little condo, and I went out one Sunday to open houses and I liked a guy’s house. I was wearing flip-flops and no shirt and a bathing suit, and I said, ‘Well, I’ll buy your house, I have cash.’ He thought I was a nut. Especially when he found out I was Iggy Pop. Well who is this Iggy Pop? Some nut!”
Pop had cash to spend on a Camaro, but he was so turned off by the dealership he opted to buy used cars from classifieds instead. “I have always lived kind of wild most of my life, and I didn’t understand that,” he says. “I had money. I had cash, baby. I’m a musician, and they wouldn’t even talk to me. They wanted my information. They wanted to know who my employer was, all this stuff that turns me off. They wanted to hassle me. They wanted my address, stuff about my credit, all this crap. I’m like a feral guy, don’t hassle me.”
Since then, Pop has enjoyed an eclectic mix of rides. His car-buying decision took a left turn to more exotic cars, with local car dealers missing out on his good, cold hard cash. If that hadn’t happened, who knows, perhaps Pop would’ve stayed with Chevy and continued to support them. U.S. automakers were engrained in him because he grew up near them.
These days, Pop’s daily driver is a used 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead, which he rates a 9.5 out of 10. “I got it because there was a population boom in Miami, and so I didn’t have room to drive my Ferrari properly anymore,” he says.
Pop says the population in Miami Beach has “quadrupled.” “The areas of Miami that I frequent, they’re popular places to be, so the traffic is enormous.”
When he first moved there in 1998, he bought an old 1984 Ferrari 308 GTS that was electric blue with white calfskin seats from a used car dealership. “They ran a classified ad, and when I got the papers, the last owner was John Malkovich and that’s a very unusual name,” he says, assuming it was the actor. “It was a wonderful car. Whenever I wanted to blow off steam, I’d just race around the freeways here. Over time, I traded up. I had a new red Ferrari.
But Pop preferred the 1984 model, but it wasn’t perfect. “It was always breaking, and it had no paddle,” he says. “I had to use the foot clutch. It was like parking a semi, but it was complete rack and pinion, total control of the car. Whatever you did, it instantly did, whereas the newer ones they have the computer to help you.”
With the newer Ferrari, he started getting tickets. “I was finding myself again and again, behind some asshole on the freeway, and he’s not going 100 miles an hour and I’m pissed,” he says. “I realized, this is not the way to go right now, so I traded for the Rolls. I’ve been very happy with it.”
Pop bought the current Rolls-Royce from a guy in Utah who had it chopped. “It looks a little more gangster than they usually do,” he says. “It’s great for my back. If you have bad back, buy a Rolls.
The reason Pop rates it short of a perfect 10 is that everything costs a lot more to fix. “The only bummer with the Rolls is that, this used to be much worse before BMW came in, some of the electrical and computer and the odd little luxury touches in the coachwork will go haywire, and then you have to pay thousands of dollars for the repair,” he says.
This is Pop’s sixth Rolls since he moved to Miami. It started with a canary yellow 1980 Corniche convertible, which he loved. “But I was spending a lot of time by the side of the road, so I kept getting newer ones and newer ones,” he says. “Finally, this one, since BMW took over, they’ve become more dependable, but little things will happe,n and you have to love it.”
Recently, when Pop was coming home from gig with Metallica, his personal assistant was five minutes late to pick him up: “I was like, ‘Why are you late?’ And he says, ‘I stopped for gas, and the little lid on the gas tank wouldn’t open.’ So the repair was $660. But that’s OK, you have to love it, little odd things. I love the car, the ride. There’s just no ride like the Rolls ride, and there’s no car that gets more respect and good will across the board from other people, at least here in Miami.”
Pop says garbage men and women often give him the fist and thumbs up signs, and rude drivers make way for him. “They really do,” he says. “Some people just smile, ‘Hey, love your car, mister!’ It’s a nice thing. It’s just something about it that people enjoy it.”
Car he learned he to drive in and first car bought
Pop grew up in Michigan, where he took driver’s education at Ann Arbor High School. “Maybe this is unique to Michigan, but we had compulsory driver education in high school, you learned right there in school,” he says. “They showed you all the scary pictures of what could happen if you don’t do what they say, and then they took us out, and they had cars rigged up with the two wheels.”
Pop bought what he calls “a surfer car,” a red 1956 Chevy Nomad that he bought in 1965, which became his high school ride. He crashed it after a couple of years. After that, he briefly drove a Chevy Corvair Monza.
Pop bought the Nomad with money from being a musician. He was already in the musician’s union by then. “I’d been a working, gainfully employed musician since I was a sophomore, so I bought it with my music money, baby, yeah!” he says. “For my first I don’t know how many years, I was in the American Federation of Musicians. They’re ferocious, and you can’t do a gig and get around them, you have to join.”
Although it was his high school ride, Pop didn’t need it for gigs. “Maybe one of the guys had a woody,” he says. “We’d hitch a trailer, that was very common at the time, full of our equipment to the back of someone’s car, and we’d all go to the gig.”
They worked their way up to a van in his second band. By his third band, the Stooges, they drove to gigs together in a black Chrysler New Yorker. It belonged to their roadie, and they’d all get in his car while the other roadies rented a U-Haul.
Pop got rid of the Nomad when he crashed it driving too fast on a gravel road on his way to a place called Silver Lake near Ann Arbor. “It was on an elevated stretch of gravel road, and I lost control on a curve” he says. “I had a girlfriend with me, too, and we went flying off the road, and everything went slo-mo. We flipped and came down. No seatbelts, you know, kids, and we came down hard on the top of the car, and amazingly we both walked away. No one was hurt, not a scratch. The car was totaled. So that was end of that.”
Growing up in the Detroit area, it seemed like everyone was into cars and supporting the nearby automakers. “You just felt the world of automobiles started and ended in Detroit,” he says. “Imagine how you would feel if you were seeing all those beautiful cars in the ‘50s every year coming out fresh and new from right down the road. You’d go, ‘Wow, what a cool car!’”
Pop says there were lots of them around to gaze at. “All of them, right up through the ‘70s, gee whiz, what a wonderful, optimistic, and exciting vibration all those cars had—from the Cadillac, some of the DeVilles, all the Oldsmobile Delta Royales, and even some of the little Buicks like the Cutlass and the Skylark,” he says. “The various Mustangs, Thunderbirds, and Dodge was just insane—the Dodge Dart and the Plymouth Barracuda. It was a real golden age. And the Chevy’s.”
It seemed like everyone was keeping up with the latest U.S. models back then. “My dad was not a rich fellow,” he says. “He taught high school, and we lived in a very nice mobile home in a trailer park, but he would trade for a new Detroit car every year. Every year he’d bring it home, and I’d never know what it was going to be. It was always a surprise. He would have a new Chevy Bel Air, a new Thunderbird, a new Ford Fairlane, a new Cadillac. It was just great.”
That explains why Pop was eyeing a new Camaro when he moved to Miami and called the Chevy dealership. When he then went to a used car dealer, he was met with the same issue. “I thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to deal with some prick just to get the car!’” he says. “So I bought cars here through the classifieds for quite a while, old used cars that I liked. Then also I started buying American fun cars, muscle cars from a flamboyant dealer here called Ted Vernon. I had things like a ‘65 Jeep commander with red flames. Oh, it was so cool that car. It was really, really cool. And other really fun cars from him.”
Pop graduated to a used Rolls dealership and bought from them for a while. “There was a period here in Miami back about 15 years, where you’d see a lot of older geezers who’d had enough, and they came down here and had a little jack,” he says. “They’d drive around in these old vintage Rolls-Royces feeling good. I did that for a while until I finally started to go for the newer, more reliable cars. In my case being sensible is more like a Ferrari or Rolls Phantom Drophead.”
He doesn’t consider his current Rolls even much of a splurge car because he can afford it. “I’ve been kind of careful,” he says. “I didn’t get any money in life until pretty late. So I try to be careful.”
Favorite road trip
“My favorite cruise used to be—there’s something here called the Julia Tuttle Bridge, and if you’ve ever seen the film Midnight Cowboy, it’s a famous elevated bridge over Biscayne Bay and I lived right at the foot of it,” he says. “There weren’t a lot of people living here when I first moved here.”
His favorite drive was over that bridge, either to the airport—which took only 12 minute from his house—or just to cruise around. “Sometimes I’d get in the Ferrari if I was in a bad mood and blow off steam,” he says. “I’d floor it over that bridge, and I’d get on the I-95, go to the 395, and I’d get off at a place called Watson Island. I’d buy fresh fish from the fisherman who would come up in there and sell it in these fish markets. Now it’s all museums and condos. The town has exploded with growth and become more plastic. I do love Miami. I do love the town. It’ll be hard to leave if I ever left. I have nice digs here, there are nice things here.”
Pop’s favorite all-time road trip memory is one he took with friend David Bowie one summer in the mid-1970s.
“I was a stowaway on David Bowie’s Station to Station tour,” he says. “We went by road, coast to coast, all of America and part of Canada. He had a chauffeur-driven Lincoln Continental, the same car that’s in the movie The Man Who Fell to Earth. It was a midnight blue, and he had a good record collection—a really good record— collection and one of those little plastic vinyl record players. I heard a lot of good music that way.”
There were just four of them in the car, which included the chauffeur and another friend. “I saw a lot of scenery,” he says. “I saw a lot of America by night and heard a lot of good music.”
Post Pop Depression and new documentary
Pop released his 17th album Post Pop Depression last year, which included collaborations with musicians from Queen of the Stone and Arctic Monkeys. A documentary American Valhalla about the making of that album with Queen of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, will premiere in Canada June 29 and in U.S. theaters July 11. For more information, visit iggypop.com
Iggy is currently touring Europe and North America. You can listen to Iggy Confidential on BBC6 Music every Friday at 7pm U.K. time.