Gay Heartthrob Tab Hunter, LGBTQ Icon and Car Lover, Dead at 86

Written by | Entertainment

tab hunter

Tab Hunter, who starred in classic films such as Damn Yankees and came out as gay later in life, passed away Sunday, July 8, 2018. Hunter earned many labels over the course of his career: movie star, recording artist, heartthrob, author, businessman, horse trainer, ice skater, partner. To that you may add: auto enthusiast.

“My first car was a 1936 Ford Coupe that I bought in 1949 or ’50,” Hunter told Metrosource. “It was the only thing I could afford and it smoked like Oscar Levant.” (Levant was a musician and ac-tor known for his cigarettes.)

Hunter didn’t have to drive the old Ford for long. He starred in his first movie, Island of Desire, in 1952 and would go on to appear in over 50 major motion pictures with the likes of Sophia Loren, Natalie Wood, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Debbie Reynolds, Kim Basinger, Michelle Pfeiffer and the one and only Divine. In addition to appearing on Broadway and TV and recording eight albums, Hunter and his partner of nearly 30 years, Allan Glaser, co-produced the movies Lust in the Dust and Dark Horse.

Befitting his popularity, Tab owned the best cars of the day. His first new car was a flamingo red 1953 Ford Sunliner convertible. Ready to spend some serious cash after releasing his first record, Hunter bought a 1957 Mercedes 220S convertible.

“I bought the Mercedes at the LA Auto Show and paid $6,000 — a lot of money back then,” said Hunter. “It was black with a red leather interior. I picked it up at the factory in Stuttgart, Germany with [my manager] Dick Clayton and drove it to Rome and the South of France for a month and a half. Later, I shipped it back to the States and drove it until ’59 or ’60. I really should have kept that car. It was nice.” Tab almost crashed that particular convertible the first time he heard his song “Young Love” on the radio.

Almost as much as he loved horsepower, Hunter loved horses — in fact, he’s trained and bred them for decades, and many of his cars (since the early ’70s) were purchased to enable this passion. There was an International Harvester, a Ford pickup and a succession of Chevy pickups. He has also owned three Mercedes wagons and bought new Range Rovers in 1988, 1992 and 1995. “When not in Hollywood, I spent time with horses and used to be concerned about what the vehicles could pull,” said Hunter of his pastime.

But with all these muscle cars and trucks, you may be surprised to learn what Hunter was driving less than a decade before his passing: a Toyota Prius. “Allan thinks it’s ugly, and hates driving it,” Hunter shared with Metrosource. “His Audi convertible is a selfish little car. Three or four of my friends had a Prius and told me to buy one. It is perfect — a little jewel.”

Hunter had a couple more great reasons to own a Prius — his dogs. “My car has dog pillows and blankets, electrical tape where they’ve chewed through the seatbelts. They’re damn expensive dogs! They jump in the morning, and before you know it, we’re off to the beach. Cars should be animal cars. The Prius is great for that — lots of [dog] room.”

Given all of the beautiful cars he’s owned over the years, we wondered what the star wanted next. “I like the Cadillac [CTS] Wagon. Cadillacs used to be land yachts — quite fabulous! I also like the SRX [crossover]. Both cars would be good with the dogs.” I suggested the 550- horsepower Cadillac CTS-V Wagon. “Who needs that much power?” Hunter asked. “My friend, [Indy Car legend] Andy Granatelli would like it. You should see his collection! But I just don’t need it.”

The ease with which Hunter listed not just the makes and models but the exact paint colors of his cars from decades ago made it clear that Hunter loved his cars. “I love getting behind the wheel of a car, driving back and forth to New Mexico, or going cross-country,” said Hunter. “By the time most people get started, they’re bored. I love it.”

For more on Hunter, readTab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. Thanks to Allan Glaser for his help with this story.

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Last modified: July 31, 2018