First car bought and Judas Priest's early years
Right after passing his driver's test, Hill bought his first car, a used 1965 Hillman Imp with a manual transmission. He'd just graduated high school and had been working at an auto parts shop, delivering parts to customers, for two years.
"I knew what I wanted to do; obviously, I wanted to be a musician. I was just looking for something to keep me going until it started to get on," Hill says. "So I went to work for a little place in West Bromwich called Regent Spring, which did basically springs and exhaust systems for cars."
The Hillman Imp was an integral part of Judas Priest's early years. "Ken and I formed Judas Priest in 1969 - in fact, I must've bought the first car in 1969 because that's how we got about," Hill recalls. "We were only playing bars and clubs and things like that, and we could cram bits and pieces in the back. We didn't have great big amplifiers then, they were small."
After a few years with the band, the original vocalist, Al Atkins, wasn't earning enough money to support his wife and child so he quit. Hill is credited with finding the band's singer Rob Halford, who's since been dubbed "Metal God" and has a near-four-octave range. Hill was dating Halford's sister at the time.
"I was going out with Sue. I think I met Sue -- it must've been 1970 or 1971. She recommended Rob, and we went to have a meet with him. He came down the stairs of his house -- I think he was humming harmonies to an Ella Fitzgerald song that was on the radio," Hill chuckles. "That was impressive, you know in those days - harmonies."
Hill ended up marrying Sue Halford in 1976, and they had a boy, Alexander, in 1980, but divorced in 1984. Hill jests, "I've had as many wives as I've had cars."
Hill jokes that he lost his old car collection in his divorces over the years as well as most pictures of them. As soon as the band started making it big and he had some money, Hill began buying cars.
"I went through several cars," Hill says. "My first special car was a 1969 Jensen FF. Like an Interceptor, but it's got a four-wheel-drive system on it." Hill bought the car, fittingly, right after Judas Priest's classic 1980 "British Steel" album came out. The used car was a nostalgia buy for Hill.
Hill's Jensen had a Chrysler TorqueFlite automatic tranny and a Chrysler engine. He used to see Jensen employees drive these cars past the auto parts shop where he worked.
"Jensens were made in the town where I was born. They're handbuilt cars, and they used to send the test drivers up to our place. I was always amazed with the cars. It was one of the world's first four-wheel drive cars with anti-skid brakes. It predated the Audi quattro by about 12 years," Hill notes.
"Alex was born -- in fact he cut his teeth on the dashboard. I could have killed him," Hill laughs. "That was before seatbelts - he'd sit between his mom's legs chewing the leather dashboard. He was just bored. So it must've been about 1980. I've had new cars but nothing really special. I'm sort of more of a classic-car buff than anything else. I've had quite a few classics over the years."
Two albums after "British Steel" came 1982's "Screaming for Vengeance," the band's breakout album, with the track "You've Got Another Thing Coming." Priest is credited for being one of the first bands to wear leather and studs, spawning that biker look among metalheads. They were broadcast heard on AM radio and seen on the fledgling MTV cable network, began playing major venues, and have since sold 35 million albums.