Quick Stats: Bret Michaels, singer-songwriter, Poison
Daily Driver: 2016 Mercedes-Benz S550 (Bret’s rating: 10 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: See below
Favorite road trip: California, Arizona, and Las Vegas
Car he learned to drive in: 1967 Ford Galaxie 500
First car bought: 1967 Ford Galaxie 500
In this fast-paced world, Poison lead singer Bret Michaels finds driving on road trips to be therapeutic. And he often takes them in his beloved 2016 Mercedes-Benz S550.
“My philosophy is that a long drive and good music is great for the soul. I drive on the good days, it makes them better, and on my bad days, it makes them great,” he tells Motor Trend. “If you listen to my music like ‘Driven’ or ‘Riding Against the Wind,’ [driving has been a part of] a lot of great things in my life—or problems I’ve had to overcome and think through. … It frees my soul.”
He says he’s had a Mercedes since he could rub pennies together. “It was one of the first vehicles I ever bought, back when it was just the S500 and S600. Then I got the S550, it’s just an amazing vehicle,” he says. “Everything is laid out in that car like a cockpit. It’s a big car, so you can take a bunch of people with you, or you can punch it into Sport and just haul ass in it and have a great time.”
Michaels likes everything about these perfect-10 cars, adding that they hold up years later. “They’re like a good-fitting pair of jeans, I can’t give them up. I buy them outright,” he says. “I’m not one of those guys who every other day I’m trading it, I’m a long-haul guy. But this car has such good memories and I feel connected to it.”
He loves the S-Class so much, Michaels drove his 2009 S550 until it reached 160,000 miles. And he still has it.
2009 Mercedes-Benz S550
Michaels lends this car to relatives to drive. “When I say I’m a driver, I drive the bejesus out of these cars, and I love them. It’s never really let me down,” he says. “I have a place in L.A. and a ranch in Scottsdale, and I drive back and forth a lot, and I love it.”
2010 Bentley Continental GT
Some days it feels like a Bentley Continental GT type of day. “That is just such an amazing, amazing vehicle. Besides the speed and the handling, it feels a lot like a muscle car,” he says. “I just put good music in there and sometimes punch it up.”
He likes that the Bentley is a heavy car, as well. “It’s got this growl to it, yet it’s a luxury car. It’s a win-win.”
2016 Nissan Titan
A few years ago Michaels did a Nissan campaign. “I bought the Titan truck, it’s the Heavy Metal Edition … and it’s amazing. I’ve beaten that thing up, and it just comes back for more,” he says.
He says the truck is great for hauling his dirt bikes, as well. “On my property, I have a full-on Baja dirt kart track,” he says, with a laugh. “When I say I love to drive, I take my kids out on it, we race all the time.”
1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS
With his love for muscle cars, Michaels added this customized Camaro for weekend rides. “That one is a 10, with a lot of elbow greasing and cursing,” he says. “When you have a muscle car, anyone who owns one 1,000 percent understands it’s not going to be your daily driver. A lot of fun for maybe a road trip up to the mountains and back. But, [it] looks amazing.”
Michaels loves working on old muscle cars, and he’s been through a few over the years. “You can buy an updated version or a clone, but it just doesn’t have the same feel. Having the real deal, it never fails if you have the authentic real deal. I love it.”
Car He Learned to Drive In
Michaels bought an olive green 1967 Ford Galaxie 500, with a vinyl top, from his dad for $200, with money from odd jobs such as working at a music store at the mall, being a busboy/cook, and being part of the maintenance crew at a local resort.
His dad taught him to drive in the Ford “He was teaching responsibility. Then I had to put fuel in it myself. I had to get insurance. Good things to learn.” Michaels would also later learn on a manual-transmission Opel.
When his dad taught him on the Galaxie, they would get in the car and drive just outside of their small town, where there were farm fields. “There was lots of back dirt roads, roads that ran down by the Susquehanna River. And that’s how we learned to drive,” he says. “One of my favorite drives was driving up Route 322 along the Susquehanna River up to Penn State or State College with my dad, and there were certain parts where he would let me drive up there. We had an old hunting cabin up there and we would just drive up to that, and it was some of the best days or nights of my life. My dad made a road trip an adventure.”
The Galaxie was Michaels’ high school car, and it became helpful when he needed to drive his band around. “It was a great car because it [had] bench cloth seats, [and a] humongous trunk, so all my music gear, everything fit into it,” he says. “No matter where I was going, if I had the band with me, we could all fit. We could put the guitars in there, even sometimes the drums. So it worked out.”
When the car got too old, Michaels traded it in for a Wide Glide Harley, his first motorcycle.
First Splurge Car in Poison
Every rocker has their first splurge car, and Michaels bought a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette and a Ferrari 328 GTS at the same time. “We were one of the first independent bands to sell, our first album did 3 million records, which was unheard of,” he says. “In the beginning when all these bands around us were getting signed, we were playing all the clubs and no one was signing us; the record labels turned their backs on us.”
It was at some point after “Talk Dirty To Me” became a hit that Michaels bought these two cars. “That was probably ’88. The Ferrari was the ’89 GTS 328. And I went back to Pittsburgh and I was in love with this Corvette that our neighbor had in their garage, and I just purchased it,” he says.
Favorite Road Trip
Although some entertainers may not like the traveling part of the gig, Michaels isn’t one of them. “As a musician, I love traveling. My kids know it; they get in the car, I say, ‘Come on, we’re going to take a long drive up to the coast.’ They’re like, ‘Ah, no, here we go.’ I like having a destination, but sometimes that road trip is the destination half the time. I do it almost every day, my life is a road trip.”
His favorite road trip on the West Coast starts in Los Angeles. He travels up the coast to Santa Barbara and back down Interstate 10 to Phoenix. Then from Arizona, he’ll drive to Las Vegas and back to Los Angeles.
“There’s something when you get up and outside to some of these places, that makes you realize life is not as complicated as we have made it,” he says. “It’s pretty simple and beautiful up there. It’s good for the soul and good to clear your head.”
He does the drive in segments, staying at his ranch in Arizona and then getting up early in the morning to drive to Vegas and across Hoover Dam, before taking Interstate 15 back to Los Angeles, in a part of the drive in which he enjoys taking his car to its limits.
“If you’re heading east from L.A. to Arizona, once you get past Indio, and climb up the mountain, all the way to Blythe, it’s wide open. I may have been pulled over a time or two, but it was worth it,” he says. “It opens up. It’s a good day.”
On these road trips, Michael often plays music, but sometimes he likes to just listen to the road. “There’s no rhyme or reason. I’m looking around taking it all in, and I enjoy that. You listen to the road and the engine. There’s something very euphoric about it,” he says.
Poison and Other Projects
Michaels has been busy with various projects. He was just on fellow Celeb Drive Sammy Hagar’s Rock & Roll Road Trip on AXS TV, in an episode that just re-aired recently.
He’s on tour around the country with Poison now, with special guests Cheap Trick and Pop Evil. And he’s always doing his solo tour as well.
He also has a book Photographs and Memories and a video Roses and Thorns: The Story of My Life, both slated for the fall. “A lot of people write these biographies, and they’re amazing, but I want pictures, I want people to see this moment in my life and what was going on, so that there’s also proof with it,” he says. “You’re seeing a story taken in a moment in time, it’s a freeze-frame, and I get to talk about it.”
Michaels also has his Life Rocks Foundation. “Because I’ve been a diabetic since age 6, Type 1, I do the five injections a day,” he says. “I try to lead by example. We donate to not just diabetes—I come from a family of all veterans, so all politics aside, I support our veterans 1,000 percent, and my Life Rocks Foundation works with St. Jude [Children’s Research Hospital].”
Fans may also remember that Michaels had a brain hemorrhage eight years ago and had to be rushed to St. Joseph’s and Barrow Neurological Institute. He wanted to give back to the people who helped him as well as comfort those who will go through what he went through, creating the Bret Michaels Hospitality and Music Room in 2012 at the hospital. “They saved my life,” he says. “I built a room that is the most comfortable.”
For more information on upcoming tour dates and events, visit Bretmichaels.com.