A friend of mine, Jessica, called me asking for a favor.
Jessica is an awesome host and one of my closest friends.
She wanted me me to be her car expert.
Jessica told me she was going to interview Jay Leno in his Big Dog Garage about his new show: “Jay Leno’s Garage” on CNBC.
I’d been wanting to go to the Big Dog Garage for years.
Jessica even asked if we could take the 55.
The Big Dog Garage is in an industrial area in Burbank, right next to the airport.
I could tell we were getting close.
As we got off the freeway I pointed out to Jessica the skid marks all over the streets around to and leading up to his compound.
Probably testing I told her.
Once we got there we pulled up to the front gate, pushed a button on the intercom, told ‘em who we were, and the gate slid open.
It was actually happening.
We drove in to meet her crew and the main entrance to the garage just happened to be open.
I slammed on the brakes and before Jessica could tell me to calm down and catch my breath I spurted out: “McLaren. McLaren. McLaren. McLaren. Lamborghini. Lamborghini. Lamborghini. Lamborghini. Lamborghini.”
We parked the 55 and met her crew, they told us they were still setting up, so we had time to look around.
When we went back around to the entrance this is what we were greeted by:
On the left a bright yellow McLaren P1 – the first one in California, a burnt orange McLaren MP4-12C, a black McLaren F1 and a silver Mercedes McLaren SLR.
On the right, a bright yellow Lamborghini Miura, an orange Lamborghini Miura, a red Lamborghini Countach, a blue Lamborghini Espada, and a red Lamborghini Espada.
Beyond the Lamborghinis are the motorcycles.
Lots and lots of motorcycles, Norton’s, Triumphs, Harleys, Indians, Ducatis…
And it’s not only about the cars, almost every inch of wall space is covered with automotive art; from tapestries to advertising.
Parked in front of the motorcycles and away from the rest of it’s fiberglass brethren is a super clean 57 Corvette – silver with a red interior.
His other Vettes include a sweet silver 63, C5 ZO6, a C6 ZL1, and a fire-breathing, E85 burning, 600hp beast built by Pratt & Whitney that runs an all aluminum 500 cubic inch block (8.2L) built by Katech: The same guys that build the engines for the Corvette racing program.
In front of the Vette and next to the motorcycles he’s got a few Corvairs including a Corvair ramp-side truck and a rare Corvair Yenko Stinger.
Then the Blastolene Special – or Jay Leno’s Tank Car.
It’s about 21 feet long and it’s powered by a Continental AV1790 V-12 engine, used to power an M47 Patton tank, with twin turbo-chargers and produces about 1600hp.
The thing is amazing.
And he drives it.
He’s even got a turbine car – 1963 Chrysler.
What I didn’t know was that all but nine turbine cars were destroyed.
Three of them are in running condition – Jay’s is one of them.
He’s got about a half-dozen Duesenberg’s ranging from a bare chassis all the way to a Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance Best of Show winner.
He’s got Bugatti’s and Jaguars.
His 1913 Mercer Type-35 Runabout looks like it just got done being restored.
The one car I didn’t get to se was his 427 Shelby Cobra.
Across from the main garage is a whole other workshop/restoration center.
It’s even got a steam room, which isn’t what you think it is.
It’s a room full of old steam powered cars like the Stanley Steamer.
He’s got ‘em and he drives ‘em.
Then Jay rolls in driving a Mazda Miata.
Yeah… A Mazda Miata.
But it’s not your ordinary Miata – it’s a Monster Miata.
They shoehorned a 5.0L Ford Mustang engine into the little Miata and made it into a beast.
After he parks, he makes his way over and introduces himself to Jessica the crew.
Since I’m tagging along, I hang back and mind my own business.
But I notice Jay keeps looking over at me.
I think it was my Hot Rod Staff shirt I was wearing.
Thanks Clarence Barnes!
Jay walks over to me and actually introduces himself.
I’m not quite sure what happened next, it was all a blur, but Jessica tells me we spent the next 45 minutes talking about cars while he was getting his make-up done for the interview.
Jessica interviewed him in the Duesenberg room.
After the interview she asked him if he’d mind doing a walk & talk.
She asked him what his favorite car was, and he said he didn’t have a favorite car.
I see Jessica look back at me, and without hesitation I tell her to start back at the un-bodied Duesenberg and walk their way through them.
“It’ll be a Doosey.” I said.
Sorry… I couldn’t resist.
As we’re walking over to the un-bodied Duesenberg, Jessica says to Jay:
“By the way, Jeff’s got a really nice 55 Chevy.”
Then Jay Leno turns to me, smacks me on the shoulder and says:
“Oh yeah? What’s it got in it?”
Jay Leno asked me what engine my 55’s got in it!
That’s the stuff car-guys dreams are made of.
After Jessica’s walk & talk Jay and I continued talking about cars until he had to go on to his next interview.
Jay Leno is a car-guy in the truest sense of the word.
Not only that – he’s a super nice guy who knows about and drives all of his cars.
What a day.