22 Songs about Cars and Driving to Get Your Pistons Firing

For many of us, our car is much more than a vehicle to take us from A to B. It’s a trusted friend and companion. We’d be lost without it.

So, it’s no surprise that cars and driving are a common theme in countless songs. Learning to drive (and getting your driver’s license) is also a big part of growing up.

So, here for your listening pleasure are some of the best songs about cars and driving you’ll ever hear.

You’ll hear everything from The Beach Boy’s ‘Little Deuce Coupe,’ to Wilson Pickett’s soul classic ‘Mustang Sally’, to Prince’s raunchy ‘Little Red Corvette.’

So hit cruise control, and enjoy the ride 🙂

‘Mercury Blues’ by Alan Jackson

A song here about the Mercury line of cars made by Ford Motor Company that were made from 1939 right up until 2010.

The tune dates back to 1949 (when it was called ‘Mercury Boogie’). Alan Jackson dusted it down and released it in 1993. And boy was he glad he did, as it peaked at #2 on the country charts.

There’s a few versions of this song, including a great one by the Steve Miller Band.

James Dean drove a Mercury Eight model in the iconic movie Rebel Without a Cause.

‘Highway Star’ by Deep Purple

This blisteringly fast song is about a guy and his love for his high-powered car. It was so influential, it even spawned a sub-genre known as ‘speed metal’ (with bands like Motörhead).

It’s also one of the most famous driving songs (along with Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to be Wild’) and probably responsible for more speeding tickets than the entire Fast and Furious movie franchise put together!

The song is also notable for its blistering guitar solo played by Ritchie Blackmore (in Guitar World magazine’s 2008 list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos, it ranked position #15).

‘Cadillac Ranch’ by Bruce Springsteen

As you’d expect, Cadillacs crop up in a lot of songs.

The Cadillac Ranch (or was, at least) an actual place near Amarillo, Texas, where 10 Cadillacs are buried hood-first in a field.

Springsteen is no stranger to car-themed songs with mentions of automobiles and roads in the likes of ‘Thunder Road’ and ‘Racing In The Street.’

Alongside Burt Reynolds and James Dean, a certain ‘Junior Johnson’ gets a mention in the song. He was a champion NASCAR driver in the 1950s and early 1960s.

‘Long May You Run’ by Neil Young and Stephen Stills

Ever had an old vehicle that breaks down on you? You’ll love this car song, then.

This song is a tribute to the Pontiac hearse (that he called ‘Mort’) that Young drove down from Canada to L.A. in the ’60s to seek fame and fortune (which paid off, big time).

In fact, ‘Mort’ did break down at Blind River (in Ontario, Canada) though it was in ’65, not ’62 as it says in the song. After several failed attempts to fix him, Young was forced to abandon him and make his way to L.A by other means (“the last time I saw you alive”).

‘Mort’ was short for “Mortimer Hearseburg”.

‘Maybellene’ by Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry is arguably the godfather of rock ‘n’ roll and produced his fair share of car songs.

With its driving rhythm, ‘Maybellene’ was written and recorded in 1955 and sounds as fresh today as it did back then.

The words see Berry chasing a girl called Maybellene who’s riding a Cadillac Coupe DeVille) in his V8 Ford, which “nothin’ will outrun.”

John Lennon famously said of Berry: “If you tried to give rock ‘n’ roll another name, you might have called it Chuck Berry”.

‘Little Deuce Coupe’ by The Beach Boys

Surfing and cruising in cars were popular pastimes in Southern California.

This fun song is about the coupe model of the 1932 Ford Model 18 (the ‘deuce’ in the song refers to the year). These cars were popular with street drag-racing at the time, thanks to their beefy V8 engines.

There are various mechanical parts for the car nerd. A “flat head mill,” a “competition clutch with the four on the floor,” and “the lake pipes” all refer to bits on the iconic car.

“The pink slip” is a document that proves he owns the car.

In his autobiography ‘The Real Frank Zappa Book’, Zappa says one of the most exciting things that happened in “‘white person music'” was the V-ii chord progression heard in this song.

‘Hey Little Cobra’ by The Rip Chords

A hot rod classic here from 1963. This is a song about the iconic Shelby Cobra (which came with the classic Ford V8 engine).

Producers Terry Melcher and Bruce Johnston sang the vocals, and Johnston went on to join The Beach Boys.

Terry Melcher was the son of Doris Day, and went in to produce The Byrds, among others.

‘Mercedes Benz’ by Janis Joplin

With her remarkable bluesy vocal style, Janis Joplin was one of the best female rock stars ever to live.

She wrote this song with fellow songwriter Bob Neuwirth in a bar, inspired by beat poet Michael McClure’s song called ‘C’mon, God, and buy me a Mercedes Benz.’

Performed as an ‘a cappella’, the words are a clever rejection of consumerism and the notion that material things make you happy.

Despite the assertion that ‘all my friends have Porsches’, Joplin actually owned a 1964 Porsche 356 C Cabriolet that was painted in psychedelic colors.

‘Little Red Corvette’ by Prince

Prince’s raunchy ‘Little Red Corvette’ was released several times. First in ’83, then in ’85 as a double A-side with ‘1999’, and then again following Prince’s death in 2016.

According to pop mythology, the inspiration ‘Little Red Corvette’ came to Prince as he was making out with Denise Matthews (aka Vanity) on the back seat of his keyboard player Lisa Coleman’s 1964 Mercury Montclair Marauder car.

Despite having a sizable car collection (13 in all) (13 in all), Prince did not own a Corvette. Shame, really.

‘Mustang Sally’ by Wilson Pickett

First written and recorded by Sir Mack Rice in ’65, and then covered a year later by R&B legend Wilson Pickett (whose other hits included ‘In the Midnight Hour’ which, incidentally, we include in our songs about waiting for someone playlist)

‘Mustang Sally’ is a fun song about a guy who buys his woman a Ford Mustang but is dismayed when all she wants to do is ride around town (getting up to mischief, it’s implied).

The song was initially called ‘Mustang Mama’ but changed after Aretha Franklin suggested ‘Mustang Sally’ sounded better as ‘sally’ appeared in the chorus.

There was a brilliant cover of the song in 1991 for the movie ‘The Commitments’ (about an Irish Soul band) that helped to popularise the song for a new generation and Pickett’s music in general.

The first U.S. woman into space happened to be a certain ‘Sally Ride’ in 1983, which the press had a field day about with the headline ‘Ride, Sally, Ride’!

‘I’m in Love with My Car’ by Queen

Ever felt that you’re in love with your car? If so, you’ll love this song.

For the car geeks out there (I include myself in this camp), we hear about pumpin’ pistons, carburetors, gleaming hubcaps (car wheels), and squealing radials.

The song was dedicated to one of Queen’s roadies (a guy called John Harris) who drove a Triumph TR4 and was, according to Taylor in the sleeve notes, a “real boy racer.”

‘I’m in Love with My Car’ was the B-side of their magnus-opus, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

‘Get in the Car’ by Echo and the Bunnymen

A lesser-known song from Echo and the Bunnymen’s What Are You Going to Do with Your Life? album.

It isn’t really a car song at all, but it’s a pearl of a song, and I just had to add it.

The lyrics are about growing up when the future was ahead of you. The narrator reminisces about a time “when we were young / when everything was coming right.”

The lyrics could also be about songwriting. “Looking for satellites of love” could be about trying to write their own ‘Satellite of Love’ (the Lou Reed song)? Possibly.

‘I Drove All Night’ by Roy Orbison

There’s nothing worse than being miles away from your loved one. But, sometimes, a night drive is what it takes to see them again.

That’s the premise of this song, written by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, who wrote other ’80s hits, including ‘Like a Virgin’ and ‘True Colors.’

The late great Roy Orbison recorded the song in 1987, but it wasn’t released until after his death (it came out in 1992).

The song has also been covered by Cyndi Lauper and Celine Dion.

‘Drive’ by The Cars

In ‘Drive,’ the narrator worries about his girl. It doesn’t explicitly say what their relationship is (and if they were an item, who ended it), but he’s torn apart seeing her ‘go to ruin.’

The Cars frontman Ric Ocasek wrote this song, but it was, in fact, their bass player Ben Orr who sang it.

After the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997, XFM (the UK radio station) banned this song due to concern it that might upset people.

‘Chasing Cars’ by Snow Patrol

This love song by Scottish-Northern Irish indie rockers Snow Patrol was supposedly written after a lead singer Gary Lightbody had a session on the wine.

The story goes that he was infatuated with a girl. His dad told him his chasing was “like a dog chasing a car. You’ll never catch it, and you just wouldn’t know what to do with it if you did.”

Sage words, old man!

You might have heard it in the TV shows ‘One Tree Hill’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, as it features in both.

‘Drive My Car’ by The Beatles

Appearing on the fab four’s 1965 album Rubber Soul, ‘Drive My Car’ is written from the perspective of a young guy being asked to be a chauffeur by a woman who, according to her, is about to become a movie star.

Ironically, she admits she has no car. But she’s found a driver, and “that’s a start”!

The guitar solo was played by the multi-talented Paul McCartney, rather than lead guitarist George Harrison.

‘Always Crashing in the Same Car’ by David Bowie

It’s well documented that Bowie struggled to get his career off the ground earlier in his career (for more on this, check out his song ‘Changes’ that we feature in our changes playlist).

Here, ‘crashing in the same car’ is used as a metaphor, meaning ‘making the same mistakes repeatedly.

In a somewhat humorous image, the narrator is ‘making donuts’ in a hotel garage (driving at high speed in circles). He sings ‘I must have been touching close to 94’. I bet the concierge was happy!

‘Passenger Side’ by Wilco

Cars and driving are used a lot metaphorically.

In this song about trust issues, ‘riding on the passenger side’ is a metaphor for trusting in a woman but then realizing ‘they can’t steer’ (they can’t be trusted).

Here’s a great live version with the brilliant Nels Cline on lead guitar.

The lyric ‘roll another number for the road’ is a nod to Neil Young’s ’70s song from the album ‘Tonight’s the Night’.

‘The Passenger’ by Iggy Pop

‘The Passenger’ was written as Iggy Pop cruised around in the passenger seat of Bowie’s car (the mind boggles at those two having a ride out).

The words were also supposedly inspired by a Jim Morrison poem (of The Doors).

The friendship of Pop and Bowie is the stuff of music legend. They not only recorded some brilliant music together, but also shared an apartment in Berlin, Germany.

‘Cars’ by Gary Newman

The new wave staple released in 1979 was a huge hit for Gary Numan.

The song was inspired by a bit of road rage he was subject to while driving his car. To escape, in what sounds like something from a Die Hard movie, he stepped on the gas pedal and mounted the sidewalk.

The words equate being in a car as being safe, “here in my car, I feel safest of all.” In a later interview, Numan admitted he has Asperger syndrome (a mild form of autism), making it hard for him to relate to other people.

Numan took his surname from a plumber in the telephone directory called ‘Neumann Kitchen Appliances’.

‘Fast Car’ by Tracy Chapman

A song about a failing relationship from the perspective of a woman.

Her man is out of work and spends most of his time at the bar, seeing more of his barfly friends than he does his own kids.

The narrator reminisced about good times when they used to go out driving and when his “arm felt nice wrapped ’round my shoulder.”

Tracy Chapman shot to fame when she played this song at the Nelson Mandela birthday concert at Wembley Stadium in 1988 (she played earlier in the day, but was then asked back onto stage to fill in for Stevie Wonder who was having technical difficulties).

‘Driving in My Car’ by Madness

Before the ’80’s ska band Madness gained notoriety with a string of hits in the ’80s (including the song ‘Our House,’ included on our songs about houses playlist). They used to drive a white 1959 Morris Minor.

“It’s not quite a Jaguar,” sings lead singer Suggs.

For a brief time the band called themselves ‘Morris and the Minors’. Fortunately, they changed their name to ‘Madness’, a homage to the song ‘Madness’ by ska/reggae great Prince Buster.

More songs about cars and driving

  • ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’ by Charlie Ryan and the Livingston Bros.
  • ‘The Corvette Song (The One I Loved Back Then)’ by George Jones
  • ‘Hot Rod Heart’ by John Fogerty
  • ‘One Piece at a Time’ by Johnny Cash
  • ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ by Chris Rea
  • ‘I Can’t Drive 55’ by Sammy Hagar
  • ‘Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car’ by Billy Ocean
  • ‘Pink Cadillac’ by Natalie Cole
  • ‘Cars and Girls’ by Prefab Sprout
  • ‘Gold Trans Am’ by Kesha
  • ‘Slow Ride’ by Foghat
  • ‘Pull Up to the Bumper’ by Grace Jones
  • ‘So What’cha Want’ by Beastie Boys (the line “You scream and you holler about my Chevy Impala”)
  • ‘Ridin In My Chevy’ by Snoop Dogg
  • ‘White Walls’ by Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis (featuring Schoolboy Q & Hollis)
  • ‘Two Dope Boyz (In a Cadillac)’ by Outkast
  • ‘Chevy Spaceship’ by Tim McGraw

Photo of author

About Ged Richardson

Ged Richardson is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ZingInstruments.com. He has been featured in Entrepreneur, PremierGuitar, Hallmark, Wanderlust, CreativeLive, and other major publications. As an avid music fan, he spends his time researching and writing about new and old music, as well as testing and reviewing music-related products. He's played guitar in various bands, from rock to gypsy jazz. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, where he geeks out about his favorite bands.

Read more