by Kara Bishop, VMD Staff Writer
Started playing music at six years old. Started playing nightclubs at 12. First record deal at 18. First No. 1 record at 22—“(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection.” It may be big news to us, but to Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, it’s just family tradition—oh, and luckily for us, they’re car fanatics.
It started well before they were born with the good genes of their grandparents, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, who starred in the television sitcom, “Ozzie and Harriet.” Of course, Ozzie and Harriet had a son named Ricky, who just happened to be a famous Rock and Roller. He passed the talent genes on to his twin boys—in fact, the Nelson family is in the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the only family with three generations of No. 1 hit makers—and the rest is history.
However, music isn’t the only thing in the Nelson’s lives; they care deeply for their family members—some of which have V8 engines.
“I absolutely love cars and am very passionate about them,” Matthew said. “If I wasn’t making music, I would be working in the automotive industry.”
Cars are personal to the brothers and represent much more than just transportation.
“I’ve been into cars since I was a little boy, and one of my fondest memories still to this day is of my dad and his awesome Pantera,” Gunnar said. “This car was way ahead of its time, and when I went to bed at night, I couldn’t fall asleep until I heard my dad’s huge V8 rumble into the garage, because then I knew Pop was home.”
The twins don’t just look alike. They’re also on the same page when it comes to their vehicles and the maintenance of such.
“A car has always been much more than a car to me,” Gunnar said. “I took three years of auto shop in high school and had learned to tune up a car by the time I was 16 years old. My main motivation for this was the fact that when I turn the key, I want it to start. The biggest drag in the world is having a big night planned, getting into your car and it not working.”
Automotive maintenance became an even bigger deal when the brothers started racing competitively. (Oh, did I forget to mention that? They’re both licensed Sports Car Club of America race car drivers—I don’t think they get much sleep.)
The brothers were invited to the Long Beach Grand Prix; a Toyota celebrity race. Before the race, they went to racing school to learn the ropes of racing, which helped them hone their automotive maintenance expertise, as well.
“In racing, everything depends on maintaining the car and making it run at its absolute best,” Matthew said. “Losing one pound of pressure per square inch in your tires will make a huge difference in the way the car handles. You have to understand every component under the hood of that vehicle, and fluids, motor oil, brakes, everything can be the difference between winning and losing. You don’t go racing until you can pay for the maintenance that it requires. Racing requires the best maintenance and the best crew who really know what they’re doing. I think that’s where I learned how to maintain a car and the importance of taking good care of it.”
Matthew took this discipline he learned from racing and applied it to his street vehicles, as well.
“I really don’t skimp on maintenance for my street vehicles,” he said. “Even if the car just needs a wax compound for the exterior, it gets done. I’m one of those guys who gets an oil change well before I’m supposed to.”
He uses heavy weight synthetic motor oil in his high-performance Corvette and still changes the oil every 1,500-2,000 miles!
“I own a Corvette C06, which in my opinion, is just a brilliant piece of machinery,” Matthew said. “To me, cars are art; they have history and deserve the absolute best care, and as someone once told me, if you can’t afford to maintain your car, you can’t afford it.”
The brothers had some advice to share in the maintenance category, as well.
“Your car is your friend,” Gunnar said. “Read the owners manual, even if you’ve had the car for a long time, break it out of the glove box and peruse it. You’ll find out a lot of cool things about your car and feel confident, knowing what it needs to function optimally.”
Matthew is impressed with the modern vehicles of today and doesn’t see how anyone can skip out on maintenance with the nice reminders today’s vehicles give you.
“What’s nice about modern vehicles is there are so many warning signals and lights to remind you of required maintenance that there is no excuse for not keeping up with your ca
r’s needs,” he said. “Your car is yelling at you so often that there’s no reason in the world why your car shouldn’t be running. A light comes on and tells you what to do! Growing up, I had to guess when my car needed care and really make an effort to stay on top of it, but that’s no longer necessary. When people tell me that they are just a point A to point B type of person and don’t really care how their car functions as long as it gets them to where they need to go, I always say that if you don’t maintain your vehicle there will be no point B.”
So, how important is automotive maintenance to you? Do you love your car?
“Your car is, in large part, just as important as your home,” Matthew said. “It gets you to work, to family events, and for people like me, it’s fun. I spend all of my time on stage, and when you play music, it really is a team sport. You’re communicating with the audience, and it’s very much a communal effort, but
when you’re in your vehicle, it’s solitude, and it’s communion with that machine. It’s individual. It’s a very zen experience, and I think that’s why, beyond the freedom it’s provided me in my life, that I love my car so much. The more energy you put into your car, the more it will put into you. It’s a love affair.”