By Merryl Lentz

AC/DC’s music may have broken the sound barrier, but it didn’t break Brian Johnson’s eardrum. Common assumptions attributed the 69-year-old powder keg lead singer’s nearly absolute loss of hearing in his left ear to AC/DC’s thunderous sonic assaults. However, it was Johnson’s love for all things automotive that dealt his hearing a savage blow. Eight years ago, at New York’s Watkins Glen International Racetrack, Johnson neglected to insert earplugs, and noticed an ominous pop in his ear that foreshadowed his hearing loss.

The incident eventually led to Johnson’s unfortunate departure from AC/DC last year, but it has not extinguished his passion for cars. He has an extensive collection, and he takes each one out for a spin at least twice a week. Thankfully, none have been driven on the Highway to Hell.

Petty Garage Mustang GT

Johnson loves horses, too — the kind that gallop under the hood. And the machine he owns that has 627 of them fiercely thundering unreined is his Petty Garage Mustang GT. His introduction to American Muscle, this Mustang was Johnson’s first vehicle manufactured under the ol’ Stars and Stripes. Johnson grabbed his car from a limited production run of 43 Ponies, for a very reasonable (well, by rockstar standards) $92,210. This masterwork came to life in Petty’s Garage in Randolph, North Carolina, owned by NASCAR racing legend Richard Petty, along with a little help from the Ford Motor Co.

Rolls Royce Phantom

“I’m rollin’ thunder/Pourin’ rain/I’m comin’ on like a hurricane.” This line from AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” wasn’t written about a car, but it perfectly describes Johnson’s Rolls Royce Phantom. Don’t let its elegant hood ornament and subtle, refined lines fool you — it can be gunned beyond 60 MPH in five seconds. Handmade, the Phantom was Rolls Royce’s most expensive car in 2015, with a price tag of $533,000. It boasts the successful fusion of seemingly disparate art deco and techno elements. The last of these babies was produced this year, with Rolls Royce issuing a statement published on Automobilemag.com that the heir to the Phantom’s throne “will advance the standards set by its illustrious forbears [sic].”

Photo courtesy of www.netcarshow.com

Ferrari 458 Italia

No rockstar’s car collection would be complete without an iconic supercar. And Brian Johnson’s choice was an ember-red Ferrari 458 Italia with a bloodstream-jolting 640 HP engine that blasts off from 0-60 MPH in 3.0 seconds, and rips up the quarter mile in 11.0 seconds. The tale of how Johnson acquired his Ferrari unfolds like a story that’s uniquely rockstar, as well. While in New York City, Johnson’s limo cruised past a Ferrari dealership. Spotting a stunning white specimen, Johnson inquired about its availability, only to learn it was wait-listed.

Photo courtesy of www.netcarshow.com

However, when guesting on Chris Evan’s “Breakfast Show, he mentioned his unrequited love for the vehicle. Evans merely made a call on the spot, ordered a red Ferrari 458 Italia for Johnson and had it driven from Switzerland to the musician’s London home. Apparently, Johnson has the starpower of a supernova!

Jaguar F Type Project 7

If you want to meet Johnson, you may encounter him on Florida’s State Road 64 between Bradenton and Sebring — if you can catch him. That’s the route he enjoys catapulting his ferocious Jaguar F Type Project 7 through. With a monstrous acceleration arsenal of 575 HP, 0-60 MPH in 3.5 seconds and maximum speed of 186 MPH, this metal gladiator can nimbly carom over Route 64’s obstacle course of twists and turns, dips and rises, and sudden straights. Johnson came out on the lucky side of Jaguar’s limited run of 250 of the vehicles (out of these, only 50 were designated for sale in the U.S.), priced at $165,925. And, in case you’re wondering, it was dubbed “Project 7” after the seven times that Jaguar has won the world-famous Le Mans race.

Photo courtesy of www.netcarshow.com

Mini Cooper

Like Johnson, himself, his Mini Cooper is small, iconic, and enduring. Thriving on driving cars on racetracks as much as on the open road, Johnson bought the 1968 Mini Cooper he owns after racing it at Brands Hatch Speedway in Kent, England. He loves Coopers’ aura of versatility: actors can careen around in them in movies, and moms and dads can zip to the market in them. Not just another race face, the 60s Mini Coopers were designed so that 80 percent of their interior could be used for passengers and luggage. Between 1959 and 2000, over 5.3 million of these distinctive vehicles were produced, making the Mini Cooper the most popular British auto in car-making history. Good choice, Brian — a small and mighty car for a small and mighty man!

Photo courtesy of Brian Snelson