Quick Stats: Darius Rucker, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter
Daily Driver: 2018 Mercedes G 550 (Darius’ rating: 9 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: See below
Favorite road trip: Columbia, SC to Key West
Car he learned to drive in: 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass
First car bought: 1995 Ford Explorer
Cars come and go, but Darius Rucker’s 1964 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia is the kind of car he plans on keeping forever. It’s also the car he drives when he feels like “having a lot of fun.”
“A Karmann Ghia has always been my dream car. Ever since I was a kid, I just thought they were the coolest things in the world. When my second single went to number one, my manager found one and had it redone and gave it to me and I just love that automobile,” the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter tells Motor Trend.
His manager gave it to him after his single “It Won’t Be Like This for Long” went to number one, and his third single, “Alright,” from his 2008 country debut album Learn To Live, was moving up the country charts.
“[My manager] had ‘Alright’ on the license tag, and that was pretty cool. I still have that on the front of the car. It’s a beautiful machine,” he says.
Rucker’s manager for more than 20 years surprised him when Rucker was in Nashville. “I see this great-looking car parked out front of my hotel, and I go, ‘Man, that’s an awesome Karmann Ghia.’ I walk up, and he’s standing outside and he said, ‘It’s yours!’” Rucker says, laughing. “I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ It was pretty awesome.”
After it was presented, it was delivered to Rucker’s home, where he then got to take it for a spin. “It’s such a great car to drive. You put the top down and just drive around,” he says. “For me, it’s everything I want in a car like that, a little sports car that I can drive around. I feel free. I like to drive the beaches when I’m in that car. I love to drive anywhere near water and turn the music up and just enjoy it.”
Rucker rates the manual Karmann Ghia a 9 on a scale of 10. “I had some back seats put in it, but I never put anybody back there. It’s always just me and maybe somebody else. Usually I drive it by myself. It’s my go out and chill and relax and have a good time car. When I’m in it, I feel 23. I don’t know why,” he says with a laugh.
Karmann Ghias are a rarity on the road, so when he drives it, it turns heads. “It’s red, and when you’re in it, people do look at it,” Rucker says. “For me, when I was a young kid, 10, a couple times I saw the Karmann Ghia, and I just went, ‘Man, that’s the car I want.’ I love the sleekness of it and the classic design. I always wanted one.”
With the Karmann Ghia as an exception, Rucker isn’t a car person. His daily driver is his 2018 Mercedes G 550 SUV.
2018 Mercedes G 550
“I love this automobile. I had a deal with Mercedes, and they asked me what car I wanted. I’m not a car driver, so I wanted a truck and the G wagon. I love it.”
He loved Suburbans and drove those for years. “I’m a big truck kind of guy. I drove a pickup for a while and the Suburban. I need a place to put my golf clubs,” he says, laughing. “Having three kids, when we’re all getting in the car, it seems to be comfortable in a big Suburban, but the G wagon is comfortable also.”
The only thing that he dislikes about the G 550 is that it doesn’t have a push-button start. “With the Suburban, I’d gotten used to the push start, and I really liked it,” he says. “That’d be the only thing. But everything else, I love it. It drives great, good gas mileage. It’s one of those cars—I sit in it [and] I feel comfortable, which is important to me with a car.”
Car he learned to drive in
Growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, Rucker’s mom taught him how to drive in her 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass.
Although learning to drive the Cutlass wasn’t difficult, parking was a bit of a challenge. “It was a big car,” he says. “Parking these cars these days is easy because that car was so big. Parallel parking was always an adventure.”
They only had one car, so Rucker drove it to work and to school, as well. “It was my baby, I love that car. That’s the car I took to prom twice,” he says. “That was the car that was everything to me, so I loved it. … We called it the ‘Cut Ass’ because the ‘L’ was missing on the ‘Cutlass’ badge on one side. Eventually the ceiling just started to fall in with that felt cloth, and the window wouldn’t open, and we couldn’t put the window down.”
The Cutlass was also the inspiration of his song “Radio.” “It was about the car because the whole gist of the song was that I didn’t care what the car was like, as long as it had a great radio,” he says. “And it did have a great radio.”
Even though the Cutlass got Rucker through high school, when he went to college, his mom bought him a 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit. “That just died. It died six months after we got it,” Rucker says, laughing. “It was bright yellow, and that was a fun car while it lasted. I was shocked. The pump went out, and it would have cost more to put the pump in than to get a new car, and of course I didn’t have any money to fix the car back then.”
First car bought and Hootie & the Blowfish
When Rucker first made it in the music business with Hootie & the Blowfish, he bought a 1995 Ford Explorer.
“When the first album hit, the first two things were pay off my student loans and buy me an Explorer,” he says. “That was the car that turned me into a truck guy, because up until that point, I loved cars. I got the Explorer, and I really haven’t driven [any cars] except the Karmann Ghia.”
Rucker loved the size of the Explorer. “Maybe it’s just me, but when I’m in a truck, I feel safer. When I’m driving the Karmann Ghia, I’m so looking out for everybody around me,” he says, laughing. “That car is a small car. When I’m in these trucks, you just feel safer.”
Photo Credit: Steve Lowry
Rucker kept the Explorer for a couple years and then got an Expedition. “When I got the Explorer, I lived in Columbia, South Carolina. About a year after I got it, I moved to Charleston. That was how I moved and how I got everywhere,” he says. “Those cars were so good to me. I only made one trip with my clothes.”
The Explorer was also great for carrying music gear. “When you go to the studio and some local gig, you just throw your amp in the back and you go play. That was perfect for being in the band,” he says. “When I got the Explorer, it was, ‘Wow, I should have had one of these for a long time.’ It was a great vehicle for what I needed.”
Favorite road trip
Rucker has many favorite road trips, including one with roommate, best friend, and bass player Dean Felber. “We took his old blue Ford station wagon to High Point [North Carolina], and we got eight guys in that car,” he recalls.
Another favorite trip was spring break during college when he drove from Columbia, South Carolina, to Key West. “We had a little two-door Hyundai, and we had five guys in there, 5-foot-11 or over, a couple guys were 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5, and all of our luggage.”
Although Rucker says it was a “very uncomfortable time,” he still has fond memories of that stage of his life. “We were in college,” he says. “We didn’t have a place to stay in Key West; we basically slept in the car. Five great friends who were doing one thing—just trying to have a good time, and we did. It was Mark and Dean, the bass player and guitar player of the band, and a couple of other guys from college.”
It was during his sophomore year in college, and what made the trip special wasn’t the scenery outside; it was what was going on inside the car. “It was bonding, and we had the luggage in our laps in the back seats the whole time,” he says. “Everybody’s complaining but having a blast. It was just one of those memories that you have and you think about years later and you smile.”
The When Was the Last Time Album and the “Summer Plays On” Tour
Rucker went on tour yesterday with Lady Antebellum on the “Summer Plays On” tour. He’s also supporting his new country album When Was the Last Time.
“I think it’s the best record I’ve made,” he says. “For me, it’s always about the songs. You make a record, and it’s doing great for me; I’m still loving country music.”
Photo Credit: Steve Lowry
He still plays up to six shows a year with Hootie & the Blowfish, most of them for charity. “But I’ve always been a huge fan of country music, and said, ‘Someday, I’m going to get me a country record, and [I] finally got to do it,” he says of his crossover into the country genre.
Rucker’s show on SiriusXM’s PGA TOUR channel
In another unique crossover in Rucker’s career, last year he became a radio host of his own monthly radio show on golf. For as long as he’s been a musician, Rucker has also been an avid golfer and fan.
“The president of Sirius was a fan and knew about my love for golf and said, ‘It’d be a great idea if we did a golf show,’” Rucker says.
It took Rucker some time to finally decide on doing the show. “We went around about it for about a year, like, ‘I don’t know.’ And finally, it’s been a blast,” he says.
Rucker’s enjoyed having guests such as Steve Stricker and the legendary Jack Nicklaus. “It’s a challenge. I’ve got to get up there and talk for an hour about golf. But I love the challenge of not doing music, even though I have all kinds of music guests on the show, but we talk about golf.”
For more information on Rucker’s album and tour dates, please visit DariusRucker.com.
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