Music & cars are two of the biggest passions for Nick Mason, the legendary Pink Floyd drummer. The former is his profession, but one that’s allowed him to satisfy his passion for the latter. His collection safeguards several automotive treasures. For starters, he’s been the proud owner of a Ferrari 250 GTO for the last 40 years.
Nick Mason, the drummer for Pink Floyd – the band that virtually revolutionised music forever – says, “I’m not a collector, I’m an enthusiast.” As a young boy, Mason used to watch professional car racing. As he grew up – and became famous – he started surrounding himself with the very same cars he’d always dreamt about. Today, looking at them, his eyes shine with admiration. At the very first handshake, he makes two points very clear – he wants to be addressed informally, while he also reveals that his love for motors come first over his passion for music. Quite a revelation, isn’t it? We immediately asked him to give us some background, but not before also cheekily asking if he would take us for a spin in his 250 GTO. While being non-committal on the latter, he began by recounting the story of his father and a 4.5-litre Bentley from the 1930s.
Forty years together : Nick Mason, born in 1944, drummer for Pink Floyd and racing enthusiast, is proud of his 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO. He purchased it in 1977 for 35,000 pounds, thanks to the royalties obtained from the sales of the albums The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here.
Son of art
“My dad was a documentary director, and he was shooting for Shell. Cars were his real passion. In 1953, he took part in the Mille Miglia – so that he could shoot a movie about it.” Nick wasn’t even 10 years old then, but he remembers everything like it were yesterday.
“My dad took part in different races in a 1930s four-and-a-half-litre Bentley. I followed him wherever he went. We would carry spare tyres and other replacement parts. And, after the races, we’d get into the car and head back home. That Bentley – which I still have – was already a historical vehicle, and for that very reason I can say that I grew up having direct contact with not just average motors, but ones with racing pedigree. The whole idea that ‘old’ cars are much more fun than new ones has always made sense to me.” Nick’s abode, lost in the countryside and English fog, is a two-hour drive from London. The place hosts cars of every generation, ranging from a Panhard B1 of 1901 to a hybrid Ferrari of today. Between a Bugatti and an Aston Martin of the pre-war era, there’s a 1957 Maserati 250F – the same car with which Fangio won his fifth F1 word championship. That’s not all – there’s a Ferrari 250MM, which took part in the Carerra Panamericana in 1953, and, “the one and only,” the 1962 250 GTO – one of the only thirty-six samples ever produced. Among others, a Jaguar D Type, a Maserati Birdcage, a Ferrari 512S, 512BB LM and F40, a McLaren F1 and a 2003 Alfa Romeo 8C are some of the other marvels that grace Nick’s garage. “I like modern supercars, because it’s easy to drive them at very high speed. But, technologically, they’re too complicated. If anything goes wrong, you’re forced to take them to a mechanic. That’s why I love vintage cars, because they’re relatively easier to understand and I can look after them by myself.”
Five 24 Hours of Le Mans
Among the supercars and vintage vehicles that Nick owns, he likes to make one point very clear, “this is not ‘my collection,’ but rather a mix of models which reflect my passion and my interest in racing.” Most of the racing cars in his garage catch our attention for one particular thing. On the doors and fenders of these machines are the names of Mason’s family members. “We’re all enthusiastic about cars, and my kids have got racing licenses as well.” Holly, his daughter, got married to Marino Franchitti – younger brother to Dario Franchitti, and a professional racing driver himself (in 2016, he raced a Ford GT at the 24 Hours of Le Mans). Even Nick has had a go at many racing events. He even took part in five editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans himself – between 1979 and 1984.
The Ferrari connection
Nick’s cars are mainly Italian and British. And this is not a mere coincidence. “I’ve always had a weakness for Aston Martins, and I love Jaguars that participated at Le Mans. But the history of the British car lacks continuity, while Ferrari has never interrupted its connection with the racing world. If we talk about cars, Italians are the best in the world – always a step ahead in terms of design and technology. The history of Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Ferrari is a clear example of that.” For the last forty years, Ferrari and Nick Mason have formed an inseparable bond. Credit for this must be given to the 250 GTO (chassis 3757 GT), which the Pink Floyd drummer purchased in the seventies. It’s like a member of his family, he claims. He’s taken part in several races with it, and it’s even accompanied his daughter to the altar.
Enthusiast: Mason defines himself as an enthusiast. His cars are not a ‘collection,’ but rather the result of his deep interest in cars and car racing. As a racing driver, he’s taken part in five editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans between 1979 and 1984 (excluding 1981).
He tells us that he was able to buy it – for 35,000 Pounds in 1977 – thanks to the royalties obtained from the sales of The Dark Side of the Moon, the famous Pink Floyd album that was released in 1973, registering a sale of 50 million copies, and Wish You Were Here in 1975. During his research, his financial advisor suggested that he should buy another interesting car, in case the seller of the GTO would have preferred an exchange of models. He chose a Jaguar D-Type, “A marvellous car, but the guy who sold me the GTO needed money to start a new venture, and that’s the reason why I still own both cars today.” But there’s more. Nick adds, “During the tour of A Momentary Lapse of Reason, in 1987, there was a dispute with Roger Waters (bassist, vocalist and co-founder of Pink Floyd – he had left the band three years before). So, to ensure that the band had enough money for concerts in Europe and America, the payment guarantee was indeed my 250 GTO.” Sounds like something out of a film.
Family passion: Above on the left, next to the 1962 250 GTO, is the last model purchase by Mason – a blue LaFerrari. Below that are the names of Nick’s children on one of the family’s racing cars. They’re all enthusiasts.
And speaking of film, the one related to Nick’s 1970 Ferrari 512S is none other than the racing epic Le Mans, starring Steve McQueen. The script called for the car to perform a stunt via a radio control system, which was to set fire to car partially. But something went wrong and the vehicle got fully burned. “I bought it a few years later from a garage in Paris, and started to look for its parts to rebuild it while we were in America during our tour of The Wall in 1980. It took three or four years, but that restoration awakened a huge passion in me.”
Ferrari, first of all: On the left is the Ferrari 250MM that took part in the Carrera Pan-Americana in 1953; the Jaguar D Type purchased in the seventies, slightly before the GTO; the 512S used in the movie Le Mans – which was destroyed during the shoot, but completely restored by Mason in the early eighties.
The GTO, a family member
The moment had come. “Should we go?” he asked. We most certainly should. How can you even think of refusing the chance to jump into a legend?
The familiarity that Nick has with his 250 GTO is the kind that a driver has with his everyday vehicle. The only difference here is that that each square millimetre of the GTO – from the aluminium used for the engine, the material used for the seats, and literally every single component – is a masterpiece. The shape, the sound, and the smell – everything is simply perfect and fulfilling to all the senses. If it’s legitimate to consider a car an artwork, the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO is it. It leaves you absolutely speechless. With a flick of the gear lever, Nick says, “Thirty five thousand pounds was a lot of money in 1977, but when I went to see it for the first time – for the sake of the seller – I didn’t even try to negotiate. I said to myself, ‘Yes, I want it!’ At the time everybody considered me a fool, but, today, I can state that it was the best, and the biggest, deal of my whole life.”
Over the last three years, other Ferrari 250 GTOs have been sold for between 38 to 52 million dollars. And since we’re discussing its value, our next question was inevitable. Would Nick ever sell his GTO? “When I bought it forty years ago, I was a rich boy, today I am an old owner. This car is a part of me. It’s like a puppy, your favourite pet, it’s not something that you can sell. I would do it only if I had to afford expenses, like medical treatment for one of my children, else I don’t need the money.” Nick pushes the accelerator, we make eye contact, and he says, “I’d rather be the guy who’s got the GTO, rather than the guy who sold the GTO.” He smiles like a kid does in front of his favourite toy.
The manager’s car: The green Ferrari 512BB LM is a car with which Steve O’Rourke, manager of Pink Floyd and gentleman driver, took part in the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans. During the race, he was forced to replace the hood with a red one he borrowed from another garage. Today, the car belongs to Mason.
Music & Motors : Whenever asked if there was any influence of jazz music in his style as a musician, Nick always replied that he would have liked the idea, but ‘playing jazz’ required a different technique and a lot of practice, and he rather preferred to dedicate his free time to cars. Born in 1944 in Birmingham, Nick Mason is considered a living legend within the world of music and motors. Drummer for Pink Floyd – the most revolutionary rock band in history – he owns some of the most valuable cars ever produced. He boasts the record of having been the only one among the five members of the band to have been a part – from 1965 till today – of every album and to play at every concert. In 1985, he founded Ten Tenths, a company and a racing team for the management of his cars. “Driving and playing music,” he said “are the two passions that complete each other for me. But I’ve always been paid to play music, which is the reason why I could get into car racing. I consider myself very lucky for this.”