Ask any car guy about the vehicle that means the most to him, and it probably won’t be the most expensive or powerful vehicle in his garage. It’s more complicated than that. But gearheads aren’t exactly known for baring their souls, so getting the deeply personal, nostalgic and sometimes even tender story behind a man’s favorite car isn’t easy.
That didn’t stop Matt Hranek from seeking them out for his new book, A Man & His Car. It’s a follow-up to his 2017 tome A Man & His Watch, but instead of getting never-before-told stories of timepieces, the founder of WM Brown Magazine schlepped a black backdrop across the world to photograph the prized vehicles of celebrities (Jay Leno, Snoop Dogg), tastemakers (Ralph Lauren, Marc Newson) and leading car designers (Tesla’s Franz von Holzhausen).
The stories are all firsthand accounts, which makes for intimate reading, but also means Hranek didn’t get the chance to insert his own thoughts on the cars, the people and the relationship between the two. So we asked him for the scoop on Shaq’s truck, Kevin Costner’s Bull Durham Mustang and more.
Matt Hranek, John Deere Gator
“When we bought our house Upstate, all my neighbors were like, you need a John Deere Gator! What happened was, after 9/11, John Deere gave all these Gators to the disaster site. When they were done being used, they brought them back, overhauled them and sold them. My neighbor was like, ‘They have a whole bunch of these that came out of the World Trade that they’ve reconditioned, you should go buy one.’ I’ll tell you, I couldn’t live up there without it, I couldn’t have built my house without it. We have the most fun. I’ve taught my daughter how to drive with that thing.”
Franz von Holzhausen, Tesla Model S Prototype
“My brother works for Tesla, he’s a designer. He and Franz went to Syracuse together. Franz is such a generous guy, but the biggest challenge was being able to get onsite at Tesla without some top-secret something-or-other going on. I was snuck in to shoot this when they were rolling out [the Cybertruck]. I had to walk through the hangar blindfolded. My brother was like, ‘Put this on.’ The reality was, this thing had been falling apart — it’s made for like a one-time showing at the auto show, essentially. I said, ‘You guys have got to get this thing together.’ They finally did.”
Matt Farah, 1988 Lamborghini Countach LP5000QV
“As a kid of the ‘80s, there are certain iconic cars that just speak to you of that period. For me, the 911 is one, the Ferrari 308, but this Countach, which if you’ve ever sat in one, it’s like sitting in a living room — it’s huge inside. When Matt [Farah, host of The Smoking Tire podcast] pulled up with this in red, I just thought, wow, this is epic. A bunch of cars — like Spike [Feresten’s] car and [Paul] Zuckerman’s car and Matt’s car were all shot out at the Santa Monica airport where these guys all have hangars full of cars.”
Martin Logé, Maserati 450S Recreation
“It’s the same as with the watch book — I got called out because one watch was a refinished dial. All the hardcore watch guys were like, That thing’s a fake! If somebody’s in love with their watch and has a connection — that was their grandfather’s or somebody’s — and it’s ‘fake,’ I don’t give a shit. That’s not the point of the book. The point was what objects do these guys have intense emotional connection and dedication to? That’s what I felt about this recreation. It was Martin’s passion project. The amount of time and effort and energy that went into it was really impressive.”
Guillaume Pourcher, 1962 Jaguar E-Type
“I just love this car. Guillaume is this heart surgeon living in Paris, but his real passion is getting behind the wheel of this hot, smelly, fast, fantastic car. It was pretty much all original and not over-restored. We’re driving around in this thing in the south of France together — hot south of France, no A/C — and it was magical. I drove in this one with Guillaume in this car rally there and spent a couple days in this car with him.”
Shaquille O’Neal, International CV Series 6.6
“I got the impression that [Shaquille] was a big Rolls-Royce fan. I know he had big ones built — I mean, he’s a big guy, they fit him. And then when we dug deep, it was like, no, Shaq loves trucks. I used to own an International years ago, so to see this version of it was like, holy cow. I said, ‘Which [truck] do you think best embodies who you think you are?’ And he was like, without hesitation, ‘It’s this International.’”
Kevin Costner, 1968 Shelby Mustang GT350 Convertible
“Costner is my buddy’s neighbor. I always see him driving around in some little BMW or this crazy, pimped-out Nissan or Toyota all-terrain truck that he goes fishing in. Costner was like, ‘What are you up to nowadays?’ I said I’m doing this car book. He’s like, ‘You know I’ve got the Bull Durham Shelby Mustang sitting in that garage over there.’ So we go into his garage, there’s a washing machine and dryer, and we peel back the cover and there’s this ‘68 Shelby Mustang. It was the prop car that he somehow convinced the producers to sell him. He was telling me that he always keeps some souvenir out of every movie. And this is what I love about car guys — he just hands me the keys to the car: ‘Just park it and cover it when you’re done.’”