As man caves go, the studio-slash-garage of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Sammy Hagar looks modest from the outside. Just a one-story stucco affair in the Marin County town of San Rafael, Calif., nestled amid a series of industrial warehouses. But the car parked in the driveway — a green Ferrari 456 GT — begins to give away the automotive plot.
Just past the non-descript front door, a hallway brims with photos, gold records and other memorabilia from the rocker’s tours of duty as a solo artist, Van Halen frontman and Chickenfoot founder. But at the back of the building, past an impressive recording studio, is a cavernous room with a dozen sports cars. While marques such as Aston Martin, Lotus and Ford take a bow, this space is really all about one brand: Ferrari.
Hagar owns a half-dozen Prancing Horses, all of which I’ve seen him drive routinely over the decade that I’ve known him. Now he’s on the road to adding one more: a $1.4 million LaFerrari, the company’s latest supercar over which collectors the world over have been battling. Only 499 will be built, and one is destined for Hagar’s garage, a prospect that leaves the 66-year-old sounding more like a giddy six-year-old.
“I couldn’t be more excited, and I’m buying it to drive it,” says Hagar, whose passion for speed is neatly summarized in his autobiographical 1984 hit, “I Can’t Drive 55.”
“I suspect I might even have to take some more driving courses to really be able to pilot this baby with confidence,” he says. “From everything I’ve read about the LaFerrari, you need to recalibrate your brain when you get inside."
While the LaFerrari's 950 hp will push Hagar’s driving skills to the limit, the musician is no stranger to fast Maranello steeds. His first purchase dates back to the late ‘70s and a four-headlight 330 GT 2+2. When his solo album “Standing Hampton” raced up the charts a few years later, it was time to upgrade to a 1982 512 BBi, a black beauty that starred in Hagar’s music video for “I Can't Drive 55.”
That car remains in his stable today, alongside a 400i automatic coupe, an iconic and increasingly valuable Daytona, the aforementioned 456 2+2, and a custom-painted (by Ferrari) black with red stripe 599 GTB. Although he recently sold a prized 275 GTS to help finance the pricey LaFerrari, Hagar says he has no intention of letting any more cars go.
“I’m lucky because I can get this new car but keep the rest of them,” says Hagar. And why so many of this one marque? “I don’t know. I’ve eyed other supercars, like the Bugatti Veyron, but in the end I have always felt so connected to Ferraris.”
In truth, Hagar’s growing collection isn’t the result of his rock star status. While his Van Halen years produced some of the band’s best-selling albums (and an ongoing debate as to which incarnation of the band — Hagar vs original frontman David Lee Roth — is best), the singer’s entrepreneurial bent is responsible for most of his lucre. Hagar’s tequila company, Cabo Wabo, named after his bar in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, sold a few years back to Gruppo Campari for nearly $100 million.
Not that Hagar is sitting on his liquid laurels. He continues to record and tour; he and drummer Jason Bonham, guitarist Vic Johnson and ex-Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony are on tour this summer as Sammy Hagar & Friends: A Journey Through the History of Rock. Hagar’s Beach Bar rum and Beach Bar and Grill restaurants donate proceeds to a range of children’s charities.
On a recent break in rehearsals for the summer tour, Hagar immediately diverts the conversation back to his LaFerrari, for which he recently plunked down a $250,000 deposit at his local Ferrari of San Francisco dealership. He laughs at the mention of the cost.
“When they first told me about the price, they said it would be around $800,000. I thought, ‘OK, fine,’ and then I found out they were talking euros not dollars and I flipped,” he says, laughing. “I thought someone was pulling my leg. I guess not.”
Truth is, a few years ago Hagar was desperately searching for an Enzo, Ferrari’s 2002 supercar that had initially left him cold.
“I saw it when it first came out at a racetrack, and I don’t know why but I just didn’t get it at all,” he says. “Then a few years ago I was at Quail Lodge (for their annual summer motorsports gathering) and I fell in love. Every one I saw was around $1.7 million and now I hear they’re even more because of the LaFerrari coming out.”
When he couldn’t find the right Enzo, he approached a few friends in Ferrari’s inner circle and expressed an interest in getting the new supercar. “That wasn’t a given, I soon learned,” he says. “There are plenty of collectors who have far more than I do. But I was committed and things worked out.” (Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo reportedly approves every LaFerrari customer to weed out speculators, and buyers typically must already own multiple Ferraris.)
The next step will be to fly to factory headquarters in Maranello sometime this winter in order to be fitted for the LaFerrari’s trademark custom driver’s seat, as well as choose the car’s color palette and interior trim. Although known for decades as the Red Rocker, Hagar is sure of one thing: his LaFerrari won’t be classic Rosso Ferrari, or even anything close.
“The way I see it, a car this radical doesn’t need to be painted red, because it already screams red,” he says. Although many of his cars are in fact black, “even that color now seems too flashy to me. Early in my rock and roll days, sure, I wanted to shock and impress, but as I get older I really don’t like that. The color for my car will say elegance.”
He thinks he knows what that will be, though he’s honing in on a particular shade: white, along with a cream leather interior accented by carbon fiber.
“Whatever I come up with has to feel timeless to me,” he says. “I don’t ever plan to sell it, but if I wanted to or had to one day, at least I won’t be one of the hundreds of red ones out there.”
For Hagar, what is perhaps strangest of all about this particular automotive experience is that it involves huge money for a machine he has yet to see in the flesh. But, he says, sometimes - as with a good riff, lyric or bandmate — you go with your gut. And if you’re ever in Marin County in 2015 and see a white LaFerrari cruising around, you can bet who’ll be at the wheel.
“I have no doubt this car will be amazing,” he says. “Bring it on.”
White LaFerrari photo courtesy N-D Photography