James Hetfield of Metallica lends cars to museum in Nebraska

KEARNEY, Nebraska – Less than a week after changing its name and launching a new business model, The American Automobile Experience – formerly the Classic Car Collection – has opened a new exhibit featuring custom-designed vintage Ford and Lincoln cars from the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

Heavy metal artist James Hetfield of Metallica owns the six cars on loan to the Kearney attraction and personally oversaw their customization.

“Mr. Hetfield wants his cars to always be on the road, just like a band,” said Kelli Callahan of Kearney’s BluePrint Engines. “Hetfield said the cars are another way for him to express his artistic passion.”

2022 Metallica concert at Highmark Stadium

James Hetfield of Metallica sings as the lights at Highmark Stadium change from blue to red.

Minh Connors / Buffalo News

The six vehicles arrived in Kearney, Nebraska, last week and were unloaded from an enclosed Intercity Lines trailer at the American Automotive Experience on Tuesday. Intercity transports Porsches and McLarens. In the past, Intercity has transported cars owned by television star Jay Leno, said Lisa Durbin, one of the two drivers who brought the Hetfield cars to Kearney.

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These loaner cars will remain in the Kearney showroom for one year and will then be replaced by a new car display.

The six vehicles are currently the main attraction in Kearney and could draw many enthusiasts during the Cruise Nite car festival in Kearney from July 16-21.


Earl Joy, board member of The American Automobile Experience, carefully dusts off one of six specialty cars loaned to him by heavy metal rocker James Hetfield of Metallica. The cars are collectively valued at $1 million and will be on display for the next 12 months.


Norris Marshall, owner of BluePrint Engines, arranged for the Hetfield cars to be brought to Kearney. Marshall sits on the board of The American Automobile Experience and said at the grand opening of the redesign last week that the Kearney attraction introduces a new business model for cars and car collections.

Callahan said the business model of temporarily loaning high-interest exhibits has a number of advantages, including making unusual and historic cars available to the public.

“There will be new cars and new experiences,” Callahan said.

“We have a strong car culture in Kearney,” Callahan said, and the exhibitions could spark interest in cars among young people.

Most of the 130 cars on display at the American Automobile Experience today were loaned by their owners who live in the Kearney area, but today marks the first time in the attraction’s 13 years that a celebrity has loaned cars to the American Automobile Experience.

Marshall is a new member of the Auto Experience Board. Other members include Chairman Brad Kernick, Vice Chairman Jeff Knapp, and Jackie Purdy, Gene Beerbohm, Steve Mercer, Earl Joy and Bruce Schanbacher.