What Willie drives

by: Anne Cavaciuti

Willie Nelson has driven a fleet of cool, collectible, and eccentric cars. Let’s take a look at the many cars the country outlaw has driven.

Country star Willie Nelson is best-known for crooning twanging tunes in his gravelly voice, crusading for the legalization of marijuana and, notoriously, getting busted for smoking pot in his car. Not just any car, mind you: that 1994 arrest happened in a Mercedes-Benz—that’s right, the outlaw, counterculture, balladeer-of-the-people Willie Nelson was driving not a pick-up, but an elegant Mercedes. He still favors the German brand today and has for decades past (in an interview with Texas Monthly, Nelson’s drummer Paul English remembers Willie pulling a trailer behind his little Mercedes coup way back in the 1960s). It turns out Willie Nelson appreciates not just a good toke, but also a fine automobile.

Or, better put, automobiles, plural. Willie Nelson has driven a fleet of cool, collectible, and eccentric cars. In fact, the man loves the auto industry so much that he’s created something of a second career for himself as a celebrity spokesperson in car commercials for manufacturers like Subaru and Volkswagen. And his passion is such that he’s even tried to change the industry for the better—Nelson made a splash in the media in the early 2000s for his investment in, and advocacy for, biofuel, going so far as to rely on biofuel for his tour bus and his new Mercedes (as well as his wife’s Volkswagen Jetta) and, in 2004, launching his own biofuel brand, BioWillie. Alas, that particular dream has already come to an end—withering due to high costs and waning consumer interest, BioWillie had to sell its fuel plant in 2014. But that doesn’t mean Nelson’s love for cars has died along with it.

Let’s take a look at the many cars country outlaw Willie Nelson drives and has driven, out on the road.

The 2006 Mercedes E-320

The 2006 Mercedes E-320 CDI runs, famously, on a turbocharged 3.2-liter, six-cylinder, 201 horsepower diesel engine, which barred this model of car from sale in at least five states when it was introduced to the US market, including New York and California, due to emissions regulations. But Willie Nelson doesn’t have to worry about that.

As the New York Times reported, the Mercedes Willie Nelson drives doesn’t emit noxious diesel fumes, but an entirely different intoxicating smell: that of peanuts. Or french fries. Or whatever he’s decided to load up the vehicle with—Nelson tricked out the once eco-unfriendly car to run on biofuel. Clearly, though, as much as he loves the environment, Nelson loves to drive a smooth, elegant, and powerful luxury car.

The Flashy 1967 Ford Mustang

The 1967 Ford Mustang fastback was once the star of Willie Nelson’s fleet of pony cars—that is, until the IRS seized most of the outlaw country singer’s personal belongings back in 1990, the flashy Mustang along with them. Of course, like many of the cars Willie Nelson drives, this one had plenty of custom work done: it was painted orange and black in honor of Oklahoma State’s colors, the exhaust ports were filled in the lower rear valance, and the front bumper fangs were removed, among many other modifications. It’s estimated that the car cost over $200,000 to build. Vicari Auction recently sold the Mustang to the highest bidder back in 2016.

The Rockin’ 1983 Tour Bus

Willie Nelson’s 1983 Eagle tour bus, affectionately dubbed “The Scout,” is definitively from his pre-biofuel days: the gas-guzzler got a whopping seven miles per gallon. But in keeping with the rest of his collection, the Scout had plenty of personal touches, including a leather-tufted dashboard, landscape murals painted on the sides, and a giant bald eagle painted on the rear; a sign in the front, where the bus’s destination would usually be placed, proclaims “We love Willie.” The interior, which sleeps eight, “depending,” according to the bus’s subsequent owner Tom O’Leary (who picked the find up on eBay, of all places) is fitted with stained glass windows and draped in red velvet. Dallas Morning News quoted Nelson’s former bus driver Johnny Temples as saying the country crooner enjoyed playing dominoes while comfortably ensconced in the Scout, which was one of four tour buses in his caravan back in the ’80s. O’Leary ended up selling this personalized monster on Craigslist for $80,000 in 2014.

The 1981 Rolls-Royce Golf Cart

And this brings us to perhaps the most custom, bizarrely modified, hilariously personalized steed in Nelson’s automotive stable: a 1981 golf cart decked out with Rolls-Royce trimmings. Willie named this prized position, as well, which he dubbed “The 19th Hole.” His ex-wife Connie gifted him the red-and-white electric golf cart, whose light aluminum frame was outfitted with a Rolls-Royce grille, white fiberglass top, full windshield, red velvet seats embroidered with his name, and a generous wet bar with buttons for various liquors (the “W” could dispense either water or whiskey). The golf cart was also seized in the 1990 IRS raid and came back up for auction in 2012.

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