“When they shot smoke, the crowd went wild!”: Dusty Hill’s Hot Rod car bass, custom built by Wayne Charvel for ZZ Top’s Eliminator tour, hides a few secrets beneath the hood – now it’s up for auction

Dusty Hill Wayne Charvel Eliminator Hot Rod car bass
(Image credit: Aaron Rapoport / Getty Images)

Dusty Hill, ZZ Top’s iconic bearded bassist, passed away in 2021 and now his estate is selling off a host of his most eye-catching custom builds, including the Hot Rod car bass from the Eliminator tour cycle.

Like the fur-clad Legs bass that we recently covered, the Hot Rod car bass dates back to 1983’s Eliminator album and is listed as part of a sale taking place via Julien’s Auctions. It is expected to fetch an estimated $40,000 to $60,000. 

The bass guitar is distinctive for obvious reasons: namely, the custom hot rod body shape, inspired by the Ford coupe on the cover of Eliminator – and the fact it shot smoke out of the tailpipe...

Perhaps less obviously, though, it also marks a piece of guitar history, as one of the early personal builds from Wayne Charvel (founder of the Charvel guitars brand). 

The listing for the bass doesn’t state the material used for the body, but does note it features a maple neck, rosewood fingerboard and a single EMG pickup. 

Flip the guitar over and you can see that the rear of the body carries a neck plate engraved by Wayne Charvel with the serial number 143 – as well as Charvel’s P.O. Box details at the time!  

Writing around the time of Hill’s death in 2021, Charvel’s son, Michael, recalled his father’s work on the instrument.  

“The most memorable bass that my dad built for Dusty was in 1983 for the Eliminator Tour,” wrote Michael Charvel. 

“He made a Car Guitar and a matching Car Bass for Billy and Dusty. The instruments were made to match Billy's 33 Ford 3 window coupe, known as ‘The Eliminator Coupe’ The knock-offs on the wheels were the volume and tone control, and the tailpipes blew smoke.

“Those were some great memories; I remember Billy calling my dad at three am in the morning. ZZ-Top was on tour in Germany. Billy said the guitars were well received, and when they shot smoke, the crowd went wild!”

Dusty Hill Wayne Charvel Eliminator Hot Rod car bass

(Image credit: Julien's Auctions)

The bass saw use at the band’s 1983 set at Monsters of Rock in Donnington, UK and featured in numerous publicity opportunities around the time. It also spent some time under glass, on display at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The auction runs December 8-12, 2023. For more information and to take part in the bidding, head to Julien’s Auctions

If you have the spare change, you might want to pick up the Hill’s Legs bass, too.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.