Trucks that Rock: The DAF-Based Rolling Stones' Mobile Studio

The year was 1968. The Rolling Stones were making hits, taking psychotropics by the British stone, and generally saturating themselves with the full-on excesses that subsequent rock bands have come to know and love. And so it’s not surprising that in the midst of all this, the thought of a 9-5 slog in a regular studio setting made Jagger’s lips all pouty. The Rolling Stones Mobile Studio was born.

Sneering at the normalcy of a Commer van or some such locally produced nonsense, the Stones sensibly built their studio on a DAF chassis. The internetz are a little sparse on photos of the Mobile Studio, so that’s the best image I could find of the truck itself. Then they pulled together a bunch of top music production boffins and told them to outfit a sensibly excessive arrangement for mobile recording. Originally capable of handling 20 microphones, 8-channel recording, and at least several groupies, the modular and highly experimental van was continually changed and upgraded. At one point, Frank Zappa painted it in full camouflage and hid it in the trees, so as not to disturb the filming of “200 Motels” – a predictably insane and nonsensical film, given the creator.
While there’s no evidence that anyone was molested with a shark inside, it did record most of Led Zepplin’s III and IV albums, the Stones’ Exile on Main Street which included the track “Stop Breaking Down” (a reference to DAF’s legendary quality?), and was almost burned in the famous casino fire that inspired Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” That makes for possibly the highest concentration of ROCK ever channeled through a DAF truck. It currently resides in Calgary, Alberta, for reasons that are not entirely clear.
Wikipedia, Arcavit Systems


  1. I drive by that building just about every day. I suspect the truck is kept elsewhere, as it is in the heart of downtown, but I will make an effort to stop in and ask about it. Wow. Even gets a mention in 'Smoke on the water' – the stories that vehicle could tell…

  2. The truck broke down in a snow storm outside of Evanston Illinois. The electrical box on the frame was shattered by a rock or something and the entire system shorted. I drove it off the highway behind a semi-trailer rig to a hotel and we put it on that flatbed the next day. It was then (2002) hauled up to Calgary for eventual installation in the Cantos music museum where I was acting curator at the time. The intention is to install the truck in a new museum being built in Calgary. Some of the original equipment that was in that truck during it's heyday is now at the Audities Foundation museum, where I am currently curator and GM, in Calgary as well. It was originally a BMC chassis, changed to a DAF in 1973. The truck is in dire need of a mechanical restoration, it's over weight, the engine badly needs rings and it's generally under powered. I MIGHT have gotten it up to 40 mph with the right tail wind. Drives on the right, of course. NO fun to drive. It also has a very rare Helios mixing console installed that is an AWESOME sounding piece of audio magic.

    1. Hi My name is Dave Hawkins from London UK. I have a long history with the truck,if fact it was me who replaced the original BMC chassis with the then DAF chassis which I purchased new. I also modified the rear suspension to; part air using an American 'add on' system.
      I used to drive the truck in it's original form with the BMC chassis to various venues within the UK and also drove the truck on the Riga job without any major problems.
      I drove it around in my spare time on various recording sesions until it transferd to Bill Wymans AIMs project. The rest, as they say, is history.
      Cheers Dave
      You will have noticed
      I can only refer to the truck chassis details as the studio element is the jurisiction of the Stones and in particular Mick McKenna, the original engineer.

      1. How refreshingly pleasant to read facts from folk;s who really know ,because they were really there!! Does anyone know when the 3mM56-16track machine was upgraded to M79-24track? There still appears to be an M56 (If Ime not mistaken)next to the back door in a 1975 BnW picture on a site about the mobile. Does anyone know where that machine ended up or ANY of the 10 or less Series500 M56 -16track(Ime reliably told from a well respected UK 3m tech) Any information or spares regarding the Series500 M56-16/8 would be appreciated Steve (Foxy) Foxall

    2. Hi David thanks for being involved in the preservation of this HUGE part of British Rock n Roll history ! I find it somewhat ironic as well as sad that it has ended up in the USA . like so much of our grandkids heritage. That said Its suvival intact far out weighs its location and as I guess it was and still is a mobile! Ime personally interested in the history and where,abouts of the original 3mM56-16tracks that were imported to the UK as I am currently restoring one that appears to suvived particularly well,inc. heads ! but now minus its PSU. Other than that its fairly unadulterated,apart from a toggle switch on the left side of the front panel,dymotaped sync or on. Ring any bells out there guys? Any info appreciated Steve (Foxy) Foxall

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