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“I can barely see the road from the heat coming off it,” purrs Eddie Van Halen during the bridge of his band’s iconic song “Panama.” The energy is pent up—a checkered flag could be waved at any moment. The electric guitar idles on one chord progression as an engine revs in the background.
Then the song transitions back to the chorus and it’s like Van Halen has sped off in the car. This was not just a guitar: the famous engine sound came from his own Lamborghini Miura, one of several stunners in his personal collection.
Eddie Van Halen was a legendary guitarist
Eddie Van Halen, who passed away in October of 2020, was known for his staggering talent with a guitar. He and his brother Alex were born in the Netherlands to a Dutch father and Indonesian mother, and were immediately introduced to music.
The family journeyed to the U.S. when the two children were young and paid their way by performing in the boat’s band, according to Rolling Stone. Once settled in Pasadena, California, Eddie and Alex spent their time playing with model cars and honing their already formidable musical skills.
By the time the two brothers were in their early 20s they had formed several predecessor bands to the one that stuck: Van Halen. Eddie’s capabilities on a guitar were so spectacular that Rolling Stone calls him “the last great guitar superhero.”
The speed and intricacy of his solos are matched only by the likes of Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. Many of Van Halen’s songs are classics now, and if you’ve ever heard that unholy solo on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” you know who was responsible.
His vehicles were also showstoppers
Car and Driver reported that Van Halen was a guitar hero with a thing for cars. He owned a Panama Lambo and a few Ferraris too. Van Halen told Car and Driver about his Porsche 911 GT3 RS, which impressed him with its handling and drifting capabilities. “It’s the first time ever I’ve been able to four-wheel-drift a Porsche. Every other Porsche I’ve ever had, I’ve spun them all,” he said, granting us an interesting window into his driving life.
Asked about a memorable drive, he told a story of getting a speeding ticket in his wife’s Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG while they were driving up to the Sonoma Raceway to test drive a V-10. They had apparently been going about 95 in a 65 zone. When they returned, they had a letter in the mail saying that they no longer had to pay the ticket. The police captain of the area had put his foot down. “You don’t give Eddie Van Halen a ticket,” he said.
Remembering a legend
Eddie Van Halen was larger than life. He was a guitar legend who left an indelible mark on music, and he drove fabulous cars. Though he will no longer be revving up his Lamborghini Miura, posterity can listen to “Panama” over and over again and imagine him sitting in the driver’s seat, ready to rocket off into the sunset.
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