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Frank Ocean is obsessed with cars and that is also reflected in his car collection, the way he uses them lyrically in his music and also how many visuals of cars he includes in his videos. Because I’m a fan of his music and a petrolhead, I wanted to know more about the Frank Ocean car collection, what he drives personally and the things he says about cars in his music. And of course one of the best places to listen to music is a car and for him a car isn’t just a means of transport. For Frank, cars carry a deeper meaning and are twined into his repertoire. He binds vehicles with memories and makes them a part of his storytelling.
“Raf Simons once told me it was cliché, my whole car obsession. Maybe it links to a deep subconscious straight boy fantasy. Consciously though, I don’t want straight—a little bent is good. I found it romantic, sometimes, editing this project. The whole time I felt as though I was in the presence of a $16m McLaren F1 armed with a disposable camera.”
-Frank Ocean (Boys Don’t Cry magazine)
The first cars of Frank Ocean car collection
The first car Frank bought from his music money was a BMW 550i but Frank started off like any other teenager driving cheap beaters. The first car he had was a stick shift Acura Integra with tinted windows and a loud exhaust. The Acura had a sad fate, Frank crashed it into water when he fell asleep while driving. But he did name a song after his first car in which you can also see an Acura/Honda NSX with pop up headlights driving in the night. After that he bought a 1991 Civic for a grand and after that a 2002 Nissan Maxima. As a fun fact at least in the beginning years Frank also used to drive around and listen to his music while he was making new songs to get a feel of how his music sounded in a car.
Nostalgia Ultra Car
Frank is also a big fan of BMW having included an M3 on the cover of Nostalgia Ultra and owning multiple beemers. The story of that cover photo is also worth mentioning. The car on the photo actually wasn’t his and neither was the picture. The picture was taken by a BMW enthusiast who goes by the username Dricebrug and was an active member in bimmerforums and he also owned the car at the time but has sold it by now. Dricebrug said that Frank Ocean never contacted him about using the image as the cover of his mixtape and said he has tried to contact Frank himself but it’s not known if they got in touch or not.
Frank Ocean’s later cars
After the success of his mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra and first studio album Channel Orange Frank Ocean could finally afford to buy some cool rides for himself. The BMWs he got were the E30 M3, E90 M3 (which he crashed at one occasion) and an F10 M5. He also finally had a orange M3 built for himself that looked like the one on the cover of Nostalgia, Ultra album. The small difference in those cars are Frank’s painted mirrors (orange vs black).
Later he has also added more M3s to his collection like the E46 and some E30s, honestly it is quite difficult to keep track of all the BMWs he has. In 2013 He had five (5!) BMWs made for his European tour and some are used in his visuals like the Nike swoosh E30 and one which was in a giant life-sized toy car box also featured in the Boys Don’t Cry magazine. The golden E30 which he also uses in his magazine visuals belongs to the owner of Castro Motorsport who helped build Frank’s cars for the tour.
Some other modern cars that Frank owns are the Tesla model X, McLaren 675LT and a Porsche GT3. He has also said in an interview that he has an affinity for European and Japanese cars. For example he likes the Nissan Skylines, Mercedes-Benz CLK DTM, Audi RS4s and Subaru Imprezas and some bigger SUVs like the G-Wagon, X6 and Porsche Cayenne.
White Ferrari / Cars in songs
While there are no white Ferraris in the Frank Ocean car collection “White Ferrari” is still a big part of his repertoire. An anthem for all of us that wish to be a bit taller. All jokes aside it’s a song that belts you into the front seat of an emotional rollercoaster and ends in a weird catharsis. It’s a heartbreaking story of young lovers who were too afraid to share their feelings and then when they finally gather the courage to tell something it’s too late. The soft spoken nature of the song almost lifts the seriousness of love and makes it feel like a sad summer’s breeze so you barely notice the emotional heaviness of the whole song until it’s over. And it’s only then, after the song ends you understand that you are left empty and start to long for the feeling of listening it again… just like love.
“Mind on the road, your dilated eyes watch the clouds float
White Ferrari, had a good time”
The whole song is a story of love but these lines are a more obvious drug references suggesting that he and his lover were doing coke. Some other possible pop culture influences on the album that I found based on that were from a movie and a TV Show. Namely “The Wolf of Wall Street” starring Leo and the TV show “Miami Vice”. Miami Vice is actually a show that made Ferrari more popular in the 80s. The main characters used Ferraris and in the first 2 seasons they used replica Daytonas but Ferrari didn’t like that. They asked them to stop using the replicas and donated 2 white Ferrari Testarossas to them which instantly became synonymous with the show. At the time Miami was known for its drug use as well. In The Wolf of Wall Street Jordan Belfort referenced the TV show telling us how his Ferrari was white like in Miami Vice. The Wolf of Wall Street is also known for its heavy use of the drug Quaalude which Frank also mentions in his song Nights. To sum it up if we were to put a specific Ferrari model to this song it would most likely be a white Ferrari Testarossa from the 80s
“This feel like a quaalude”
There’s also a close up photo of a white Ferrari in his Boys Don’t Cry magazine so check it out if you have it. The magazine is filled with cool pictures of Frank’s favourite vehicles.
Here’s a list of some other cars (and car related things) Frank mentions in his repertoire:
- Lexus, Bugatti (Futura Free, Blonde)
- Honda, Porsche & Bugatti (U-N-I-T-Y, Endless)
- Xenons (a type of headlight for cars) (Endless)
“Xenons with the blue color
If that’s a lease, least it look cool on you“
- Mitsubishi Sony (Endless)
- Mercedes-Benz (Mitsubishi Sony)
“Big body Merc, LED lights and it’s all overprice“
- Lincoln Town Car (Swim Good, Nostalgia, Ultra)
- Mustang (American Wedding, Nostalgia, Ultra)
Blonde and racing
We only scratched the surface of Frank Ocean car collection and how he uses them in his songs. His garage is constantly evolving along with his music and it will be interesting to see what comes next for him regarding his rides. Also this is not an exhaustive list of all the cars he mentions in his songs and the stories and meanings go deeper, as mentioned before a lot of the cars he mentioned are tied to a precise time in Frank’s life. For example in Ivy which is a later song of Frank he mentions he had a BMW X6, that gives a better understanding of the timeline Frank is telling us about which would be around 2010.
Other examples of deeper connection to car culture include the fact that the blond logo is actually a modified Nascar logo.
And to shoot the Blonde album cover photo where he wears a helmet and a hoodie with the blonde logo he went to Fuji Speedway which is a racing track in Japan.
Fun fact: there’s also a radio station in Grand Theft Auto V called blonded Los Santos 97.8 FM featuring Frank Ocean’s own songs as well as songs like Chief Keef – Winnin ft. King Louie, Lil Uzi Vert – For Real, JME – Man Dont Care ft. Giggs and many others totalling over an hours worth of content curated by Frank.
I also played around a bit for fun and created alternative covers for Blonde and Nostalgia, Ultra. I used a white Ferrari Testarossa and a McLaren F1.
From Mustangs to Bugattis and Lonny Breaux to Blonde he has included automotive culture in his music as long as he has been making it.
Sources for this article were his songs, interviews: Garagisme (2013), New York Times (2013 & 2016), GQ (2012) and his Tumblr + Instagram.