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Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses Loves His Ford Mustang V-8-Powered Jag

Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses Loves His Ford Mustang V-8-Powered Jag

Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan prefers to keep things simple. Even though McKagan could buy any car, he calls himself a “basic guy,” and Ford has been his go-to brand for years. Even his flashiest ride is decidedly understated, yet it’s surprisingly powerful.

2018 Ford Explorer Sport

McKagan splits his time between Los Angeles and Seattle, where his daily driver is a 2018 Ford Explorer Sport with a turbocharged six-cylinder engine that moves the SUV with authority.

“I just came back from over the mountain. I was going 90 on the I-90, and the car is kind of a performance car, believe it or not,” McKagan tells MotorTrend. “It’s got blacked-out windows and rims. My wife has a Range Rover down in L.A., and I prefer the Ford.”

For McKagan, the Ford is the perfect all-around vehicle. “You can … valet park it and it looks cool, and it does all the s–t I need it to—haul gear, I can tow my boat, but I can go to dinner,” he says. “And it’s fast.”

He also likes the seats in the back. “I’ve got kids who are now adults. I love the walk through middle seats, so you can push up those back two seats. They come up automatically and kids can walk through, you don’t have to climb over s–t,” he says. “It’s a really nice SUV for me. I always feel a little weird in a Range Rover, myself. This is a bit more manly, I think.”

McKagan says Seattle isn’t a “very showy car kind of city,” so his Ford blends in. So why doesn’t he consider the Ford a perfect 10? He finds there’s a little too much interior noise.

2018 Jaguar XJ

Rating: 10

Back in Los Angeles, McKagan had leased a 2015 Ford Mustang GT. “I f–king loved that car, with the 5.0-liter,” he says of the Mustang. He originally intended to get an Explorer to drive in L.A., but at the dealer, “I hear this ‘huhbuhbuhbuh!’ I’m like, ‘What’s that?’ ‘It’s the new Mustang. ‘”

After he’d driven the Mustang for two years, McKagan’s daughters, both 6 feet tall, said they couldn’t get into the car. “It’s really a sports car. We do go out to dinner as a family. I’ve got to make sure I have a sedan, a four-door,” he says.

McKagan’s local Ford and Jaguar dealer suggested he look at the 2018 Jaguar XJ—and offered to put the Mustang engine in it.

“In between the Mustang and the Jag [sedan] being made, they loaned me the Jag F-Type,” McKagan says with a laugh. “It was a great car, but you can’t do anything. My wife, there was not even a place for her purse. But it was fun to have it as a loaner. I felt special to have that as a loaner.”

He got his black Jaguar outfitted with special features. “I got the wood trim, all this really cool stuff that I wanted inside, the lighting package on the inside,” he says, adding he chose the regular-sized sedan and not the long version, which would be a nice car for someone who has a chauffeur. “But it has the 5.0-liter Mustang GT engine, so the thing is fast as hell,” he says.

McKagan likes to be in something comfortable while he sits in L.A. traffic. “I like the power, I like having that 5.0,” he says.

He likes how the Jaguar looks and also that it’s a four-door. “My 6-foot-tall girls can sit in the back, my 6-foot-tall wife can sit in the front. I can put a lot of groceries, amps in the trunk, but it’s understated. That’s what I like, is understated stuff. But under the hood, I know, the alpha male in me—I can go real fast,” he says, laughing. “I like that discreet power.”

Car he learned to drive in

McKagan grew up in Seattle; in the late 1970s he learned to drive in a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle that belonged to a stranger.

“The statute of limitations has run out. First car I learned to drive in, me and my buddy, we stole. We heard you could use a screwdriver. We were walking home from a party, it was a long way from our house. We had a screwdriver by chance. Back in the punk rock days, if you’re a punk rocker and you walk in some places, you get your ass kicked because people thought you were a freak,” he says.

They kicked in the window of a 1963 Volkswagen parked in Ballard, Washington, and figured out how to drive a stick shift. “On the dash all you’ve got to do is put the screwdriver in, turn it right, it turns on. Neither of us knew how to drive a stick, so that was the car we drove from Ballard back to where we lived,” he says.

It was a good 7 miles of streets and hills back to their neighborhood. “I screamed that thing in first gear, until I figured out, ‘Oh, there’s one, two, three pedals.’ Figured out the clutch thing, stalled it out a few times. Figured out that clutch—you’ve got to ease it in. Got it into second gear, because we were just screaming through neighborhoods in first gear,” he says.

Photo courtesy of Terrence Matlin.

McKagan thought he knew how to drive by the time he got in the Volkswagen. “I’m the last of eight kids, so I grew up hearing about all this different stuff, like a stick shift and an automatic. We were punk rock kids, we thought we were the coolest puppies out there because we were ahead of the curve,  and it seemed like a pretty solid idea to just steal a car. We had no sense of, ‘That was a probably a sh–ty thing to do to somebody else.’ I did a lot of amends when I got sober at 30,” he says with a laugh. “We just thought, ‘Well, s–t, there’s a car.’ And thanks, Volkswagen, for putting in that easy ignition thing that you just take a screwdriver or anything, shove it in there, and turn it right and it turns on. That was pre- ’64 VW Bug.”

McKagan and his friends continued on that path of picking up other people’s VW Beetles for a while, until he was 14 and in his first band that played gigs. That’s when he pooled his money from two paper routes with his friends to buy his first car.

“My buddy Andy and I were 14, the guitar player was 16, and we bought a car for $100. It was a 1963 Impala,” he says. “I lived with my mom. So the times when I got the car, I’d have to park it a block away from the house.”

First car bought

McKagan would later spend $300 to buy his own car at age 16—a red 1971 Ford Maverick, which had 200,000 miles.

When he was 15, he worked construction, which was how he earned the money for the Maverick. “I was the guy who dug the ditches. I was the grunt,” he says. “But I got a job where I was making six bucks an hour under the table. Back then that was a lot of money for a young kid. I had just moved out of my mom’s house with a girlfriend and moved into an apartment. I bought the car from some old man in south Seattle.”

The old man patiently taught him about everything in the engine. “Nice, nice old guy. He’d had the car forever,” McKagan recalls. “He said it’s got 200,000 miles on it, but the slant-six engine can go forever if you just keep oil in it. The slant-six engine is really clean, you can just see everything. Back when you could work on cars, I did. I had to learn how to work on that engine.”

When the brakes went out, McKagan went to the junkyard to find another Maverick for a master cylinder.

“I thought you could just change it out, I didn’t know you had to have that s–t under pressure,” he says, laughing. “So I took out the master cylinder. First I discovered what a master cylinder was. But you have to keep those things under pressure when you change them out, which you’ll find out pretty quick because s–t comes spraying all over you. All the brake fluid.”

McKagan learned a lot about cars by working on the Maverick. He learned how to change plugs, change oil. And how an engine works.

In addition to teaching him about cars, the Maverick also got him to his next chapter, which would become Guns N’ Roses. “That’s the car I drove to L.A. when I moved there when I was 19. Great engine,” he says.

“I got that car to L.A. That was my car in Hollywood. I finally got hit at Highland and Hollywood [because] my brakes went out. It was morning rush-hour traffic,” he says. “It was ’84, I was going east on Hollywood Boulevard and through Highland, and people were flying through. I got hit by five cars and that car was done.”

In Seattle, McKagan had worked in restaurants and become a pastry chef, so when he moved to L.A. he had a good résumé.

Guns N’ Roses and first splurge car

After McKagan started making money in Guns N’ Roses, he bought a Corvette for $25,000. “It wasn’t really a splurge, like other rock dudes were getting Lamborghinis and crap,” he says. “I got a Corvette because my family, we didn’t come from any of that stuff. I’m like, ‘I’m buying a f–kin’ Corvette. ‘”

The band started touring Europe, where he got a taste of German engineering. “In the early ’90s this promoter took me out in the BMW 740Li on the autobahn. I’m like, ‘Oh, this is next level.’ So I went through a BMW phase through the ’90s,” he says. His stable of BMWs included his own 740Li.

“We had kids. But we got a big Ford Expedition. And we loved that car. Then I bought a ’95 Bronco and I’ve just loved bigger cars. I’ve had some nice, fancy BMWs—740s and 750s—but the Ford Bronco and the Expedition, we just were like, ‘These things are so solid and so cool.’ I just have this connection with Ford,” McKagan says.

He also didn’t love BMW’s heftier price tags. “If something goes wrong, it’s going to cost you three grand, no problem. The Bronco—I can still work on that engine if I needed to,” he says. “But, for me, the Fords are just dependable. The Jag with the Ford engine in it, it’s super dependable. Super fast, good service. I’m not trying to pimp out Ford, I have no commercial interest with them. It’s just of all the cars you would think I could probably get, I keep it basic.”

Favorite road trip

“The road trip that made our band, we hitchhiked from Bakersfield to Seattle, 1,000 miles with five guys. It was probably my least favorite road trip, but it did solidify our band,” he says of the trip that started when the band’s car broke down. “It’s a well-documented story, called ‘The Hell Tour. ‘”

But McKagan’s favorite trips are the ones to his cabin. “It’s just me and my family going over the Cascade Mountains. You go over the 90, we stop in this town called Cle Elum, we go to the Dairy Queen, we get ice cream cones,” he says. “We go up over Blewett Pass, beautiful pass. We have to go over two mountains. And you get out onto the 2, you get to the high desert, and suddenly the air becomes hot, and we roll down the windows and it’s 95 out, and we know we’re getting close.”

He also crosses a bridge over the Columbia River. “We start getting very excited because we’re 5 miles from our place. That’s always been my favorite road trip,” he says.

Tenderness and the country’s current state

McKagan toured the U.S. this year with producer Shooter Jennings to promote his new album, Tenderness.

“We’re doing a really nice campaign around it. There’s a tent behind the record with homelessness and mental illness and suicide prevention and rehab, because it’s a topical record. It’s a beautiful record, and Shooter did an amazing job producing it,” he says.

McKagan wrote all the music on the album over a period of two and a half years while he was on the road with Guns N’ Roses. He was a columnist for the Seattle Weekly and has written a couple of books. Instead of a third book, he says, he wrote this album.

He says he bought into the popular conception of a divided country—culturally and politically—at first, until he realized both sides have a lot to gain to keep the country divided.

“I read a lot of history, I read a lot, and since I’ve been sober 25 years I’ve read hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of history books,” he says. “But when you read a lot of history, especially American history, you see these trends and these things that come and go. I’ve been traveling America since punk rock bands, so ’82, and this divide thing they were talking about—I got sucked down like everybody else probably, all the cable news networks, on my Twitter, I started following and I did all the wrong things.”

Things changed for him on the road. “I was like, ‘This divide, I’ve never seen this travelling America.’ And I talk to a s–t ton of people. And we went on the road, I turned off the cable news, I muted everybody on Twitter, and just went back to the Seahawks and the Mariners, the reason I got Twitter in the first place.”

He went out and talked to people on the road and went to cool, historical places across the U.S. “I go to all these nerdy places. I go see Little Bighorn, Monticello, the alligator guy on the airboat in Louisiana,” he says. “I just was hanging out and seeing these crowds who came into our shows. The divide was not there, and I realized, ‘Oh, this is another tool.’ But it’s a little bit more dangerous now because of social media, and there’s all this cable news. They see what sells ads, and right now fear is selling ads, and politicians use the divide to get people on their team.”

So McKagan hopes his music would be something to help bridge the divide. “It will pass, and the overarching theme of the record is ‘Hang on. We’ve done this altogether before, gotten through things as a country, we’ve gotten through things having each other’s backs,'” he says. “When 9/11 happened, we had each other’s backs, that was neighbors checking on neighbors for a solid month. At grocery stores, somebody would stumble, and you go, ‘Are you OK?’ You remember that?”

He says with disasters like fires in California and school shootings, people have come together. “And nobody asks who the f–k you voted for. In a couple of years from now we’ll be pissed off about something else, so don’t worry about it,” he says with laugh. “I just made these observations. It was going to be a third book, but I made it in this austere record with Shooter.”

On December 3, McKagan released a music video for the single “Cold Outside” that speaks to the homelessness crisis in the country and shows him in “The Jungle,” one of the largest homeless encampments in America.

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Source : Erika Pizano Link

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