Matt Dusk is one of Canada's great crooners and, at 31, is a rising star on the international music scene. The sultry jazz singer's voice is unique and distinct.
Just like his cars. The first one he bought - and still owns - is a 1974 Bricklin SV-1.
"I'm a car nerd and I like really unique, weird things," Dusk says. "Back in my teenage years, I wasn't responsible for much, so I could put my hard-earned money towards crap or a piece of Canadian history, so I chose the later and I bought the only Canadian car ever invented, I guess you could say.
"My dad told me about it. He owned one, but he would never let me drive it. So I bought my own. It's awesome," says Dusk, interviewed at an event in Toronto in aid of Haiti relief, sponsored by Infiniti.
"I am a gear head. I totally gutted it, reupholstered the furniture and did the carpets. Back then, you could fix a car with a half-inch wrench and a Phillips screwdriver. Nowadays, you can't do anything. For me, it was all about getting dirty under the hood."
He paid $8,500 for the Bricklin and has invested thousands more into its restoration.
"I've lost count. These are money pits, right? You buy them to enjoy them. You don't buy them to sell them," says Dusk, who recently released his latest CD, Good News and is kicking off a tour next week with stops in Poland, Dubai, China and Egypt.
In winter, Dusk drives his other car: a 2005 Volkswagen Phaeton. "I wanted an all-wheel-drive car and the Phaeton was a Bentley-light. When they made the Phaeton, it was the predecessor to the Continental GT, so most of the parts came from that," Dusk says. "When I was in Vegas, I was driving a Continental GT, so when I came back home to Toronto, I thought, here's an inexpensive way to enjoy the same amenities without having 500-plus horsepower at your disposal. It doesn't get great gas mileage, but there's more room in the back than there is in the front."
In summer, Dusk drives a 2000 Volkswagen Golf, but it's no ordinary Golf.
"When I bought the Golf, it had 150 horsepower, but by the time I got through with it, it's got over 400 hp! But it looks stock," Dusk says. "I would go to Shannonville on quarter-mile races and I could beat Vipers at the time. Nowadays, station wagons have 400 hp. Back in the day, it was fun, and the VW community is a bunch of young kids who like to tune up their vehicles and have fun.
"A buddy of mine was like 'Dude, I love your wheels.' I was like, 'Yeah man, it's a stage three plus kit.' It's a front-wheel drive, and one time I'm driving, I take the corner, but stupid me accelerates out of the corner too soon. I hit the curb and did a nice little number on my rims," Dusk says. "I was trying to show off my new car in a parking lot and I cork side my rim and look like a complete loser. So straight line only now unless I'm at the track."
Dusk was a speed demon, but one too many tickets put an end to that.
"I learned. Insurance is expensive. … I think I went to court 11 times and I said enough is enough. I'm done. I won 10 out of 11 times. But it's not worth my time any more to go and spend half a day in court," Dusk says, adding: "I haven't had a speeding ticket for 7-8 years."
Of cars, he says, "It's not about spending money. It's about how do you accessorize? I'm wearing a black suit, but I accessorize it a certain way - I wear certain cuff links, I wear a certain watch, I wear certain shoes. As is a car. You buy a car - you might lower it, you might put on rims, change the interior or have a different sound system. That's what, for me, makes owning a car because I think it's very expressive of your personality," says Dusk, an alumnus of Toronto's renowned St. Michael's Choir School. He also studied under jazz-piano legend Oscar Peterson at York University. In 2007, his single Back In Town hit No. 1 on Japan's pop charts - he's the first male jazz singer to ever top the charts there.
"I'm kind of a James Bond nerd. I have my Phaeton. I can press the buttons and all the vents go up, it massages your back. I have everything sans a missile launcher," Dusk says. "At the end of the day, a vehicle should be enjoyed - that's what they're for. That's why I can't get rid of mine because I've had too much fun in all of them - too many memories. … It's not about spending money; it's more about what you enjoy.
"My favourite car of all is the Aston Martin DB9. If I could feel comfortable throwing away that amount of money, I would."
On the Infiniti Essence concept car on display at the charity event, he said: "It's beautiful and sexy. I got a great life, but I can't afford $2.8-million on a car."
Not yet, anyway.
Correction: Matt Dusk's favourite car is the Aston Martin DB9. The spelling has been corrected above.