No ‘ridiculous’ self-driving car for guitarist and hot rodder Jeff Beck

Ross Halfin“I don’t understand taking away the general satisfaction of being in control, where the joy of driving is removed for some crikey circuitry,” he says. “And how does it know what’s going on? They already had a crash where a white van came in front of the car and it couldn’t see it. I don’t want to sit in one of those things.”

Beck’s referring to the May crash of a Tesla in which the car’s driver was killed. The car was operating on Autopilot and did not recognize the white truck that passed in front of the sedan as being a solid object and did not slow down. Regulators are investigating.

“Cruise control is bad enough,” says Beck, closing the matter. “If you can’t pay attention for long, you should not be driving.”

Self-driving car advocates argue that technologically advanced transportation will drastically reduce the country’s 33,000 annual traffic fatalities.

Regardless, Beck would indeed rather be at the wheel of any one of a dozen hot rods he keeps at home in England. He’s personally worked on at least half of them, ignoring pleas from friends and insurance adjusters alike that doing so could damage his Grammy-winning fingers.

“If I worried about my fingers I’d never pick up a pair of pliers,” he says with a cackle.

Although this weekend thousands of car aficionados are descending on the Monterey Peninsula for the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – essentially Paris Fashion Week for vintage automobiles that often cost tens of millions – Beck won’t be among them.

The guitarist’s car interests skew toward an era when cars were seen as mere starting points for imaginative garage tinkers who were interested in creating their own visions of automotive bliss, with a bit of whimsy and lots of horsepower thrown in. He recently chronicled that passion in a photo-laden coffee table book, Beck01.

The vast majority of Beck’s fleet consists of 1932 Ford coupes and sedans, the fabled Deuce machines that inspired plenty of ‘50s rock song. Beck became enamored early on with both American music and street racers, which today extends to a prized 2007Chevrolet Corvette he uses to tear across the rutted country roads near his English home.

For the proverbial record, Beck also owns two Land Rovers, one “outfitted like a police vehicle, so it’s great fun because people get out of the way,” and the other a “posh modern one for the missus, who also drives a PT Cruiser sometimes.”

But when the weather isn’t stormy, you’ll find Beck either in a hot rod or that Vette. “It’s like a hurricane on wheels,” he says with an evil squint. “It’s ridiculous.”

Beck likes to tell the story of when fellow guitar ace and country squire Eric Claptonharassed him years back for his love of a ‘30s Ford.

“He was mocking me, and said, ‘Do you want to see some real cars?’ So I went round his place, he opened a garage and there were two Ferraris, and I said, ‘Where are they?’” Big laugh.

Photo: Ross Halfin.

Source: USA Today.