If, like this author, most of your time in the Midwest is spent in Michigan, you might come to think that the Buckeyes are a beastly, cultureless people, their native Ohio a fetid hellscape. After all, they managed to set a river on fire a few times, and that takes a measure of doing. Michiganders, basically, are a sound bunch. But as my only memorable experience with Ohio had been the actual fetid hellscape of the state’s turnpike, I thought it best to explore the place for myself.
The order of the day was a museum-to-museum run from the edge of Lake Erie down to the flats of Dayton. The museums in question? The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. The Hall of Fame opens at 10 a.m., the Air Force museum closes at 5 p.m. Just over 200 miles separate them. If I were to see both—and do so in proper style—I’d need a steed to fit the mission. Something fast, glamorous, and a little preposterous—preferably with some semblance of aviation history. The Mercedes-AMG S65 cabriolet fit the bill nicely, a four-place convertible with a V-12 and a quarter-million-dollar price tag.
The Rock Hall, mostly, is a monument to its own desperate desire for importance. Sure, Cleveland’s Alan Freed was the first big DJ to spin rock ’n’ roll records, but Ohio’s best rock ’n’ roll came from the margins. Akron’s Chrissie Hynde, living as an expat in London, founded the Pretenders. One of America’s earliest hardcore bands, Maumee’s Necros, spawned the vital independent Touch and Go Records and contributed Andrew Wendler to the C/D staff. Rocket From the Tombs, from Cleveland, split up, resulting in both Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys. The latter’s “Sonic Reducer” was sampled by the Beastie Boys. If there was a monument to the late Stiv Bators in the Rock Hall, I missed it, but the Beasties at least got a little kiosk up in the rafters. Honestly, the best thing about the place was that Billy Gibbons’s Eliminator coupe was parked in the basement. A perfect execution of the early-1980s full-fender style before things got too pastel and smooth, the red ’33 Ford still commands respect. I snapped a photo of the coupe and headed for the door. I hadn’t seen everything, but I’d seen enough.
The second-coolest thing in the Rock Hall was the custom Hamer Special guitar that Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen gave to John Lennon not long before the Beatle’s death. Nielsen surreptitiously cribbed some measurements from Lennon’s Rickenbacker, sent them to Hamer’s Jol Dantzig, and had him gin up an instrument built to have a similar feel. According to Dantzig, “The whole thing happened pretty fast—it was always that way with Nielsen. ‘Oh, and I need it in 10 days,’ was usually the instruction.” The guitar featured DiMarzio pickups wound specially for Hamer, and a thinner neck than a production Hamer Special, so that it might play more like Lennon’s Rickenbacker. Nielsen came up with the “Rick N” truss-rod cover, making the headstock read “Rick N Hamer” if one squinted hard enough. Apologetically, car-enthusiast Dantzig noted, “Sorry I don’t have more interesting details and specific skidpad figures and zero-to-60 times, but I can tell you that the Special trail-braked well and fit into a Les Paul parking space.” Complete review on www.caranddriver.com, by Davey G. Johnson and the Manufacturer