Wagtimes Newsletter text


June 22, 2009 By Wags

Kevin Kierce set this up and for that I am still walking on air with the memories I carried out of there. You know in life sometimes you get to do something very unusual and satisfying that is in the realm of your dream world. A place so unattainable, if it ever happens, you know you have hit the lotto. Getting to tour the famous Jay’s Garage was a million dollar ride for me.

The visit to Jay Leno’s Garage was unbelievable! Without a camera, I can only try to tell you a little about what I saw. Way too much data for starters, is what comes to mind. The garage is just a few hundred yards down the street from Kevin’s Bunker race shop and when you arrive, you see a compound of buildings with good security as you enter the electronic gate. We met Bob, our tour guide and set off to gaze like you can’t imagine. In the next 90 minutes or so, we went thru a number of different rooms that were each unique with the cars they enveloped as well as the background deco on the walls.

We were just getting started when Jay entered and mumbled something about never playing golf again. He came over to shake hands and say hi and we passed pleasantries. It was obvious he knew Kevin and it was too soon before he got on a motorcycle that had two front wheels and one back, and was gone. That was my moment of meeting the long time Tonight Show host who I had come to enjoy in my retirement because I stay up later, and will now miss him. So far, I am not sure about Conan.

Each room was unique, yet patterned the same. Walls had murals depicting a car in front of it and were created especially for that vehicle. They went floor to ceiling and were impressive in the content they showed off. They were all drawings of the car itself plus some other creative touches that would please the eye if they were the only thing in the room. Many shelves on the walls throughout held die-cast and plastic models of many things including some of the cars in the garage, plus some dragsters, motorcycles and other “toys”. There were some models bigger than normal probably made especially for Jay.

The tour included only occasionaly verbiage on the several hundred motorcycles in the garage, but the ones he did talk about were pretty unique. Like the Boss Hogg 427 Chevy powered two wheeler that would take a man to ride. Also there was a Chevy powered Bar Stool that looked way too menacing right next to it. That thing was "bad"! I bet Lealand McSpadden, who has been known to race bar stools from time to time, would find this one a little overpowering, even for him. How about a helicopter jet engine powered motorcycle, which was way too much. One thing I should mention here is Jay rides everything in his garage from time to time. Bob told the story how they had a camera on that jet bike showing it running over 280 MPH…….WOW, who would be crazy enough to do that? No way, but Kevin said SURE, he’d try it? There was one car that had a jet engine in it that left little room for the driver, but we didn’t do more than pass by, and I missed any comments on it because I was straggling behind on another hot car. Each section had the cars lined up to face the tour goers and you could get all around each car to see the special things Bob would point out as we went along. Jay literally has all kinds of cars in there, including many foreign types that I knew by sight, but some were just overwhelming in the stats spewed out by Bob about horsepower and speeds reached on some of them.

Sedans, sports cars, you name it, the Man had it. Like the 1954 Jaguars a pair, one hard top and one roadster. Both were XK 120’s, with the roadster looking just exactly like one I owned back in my youth. Many wild variations were spread out and what I learned about Jay was that he had cars that were one of very few manufactured, some that the serial number was # 000001 or not far from that, and some cars that were even given to him. Also, some were restored, some left original and some re done to his desired specs. One such redone car was an Olds Toronado from the 70’s I think, that was now rear wheel drive and sported 1100 horsepower. Wow. There was one of those little Japanese small 60’s roadsters that was originally a front motored 4 cylinder that was converted to a bigger faster rear engine. A more modern motorcycle motor was installed with one addition, NOS, nitrous oxide. Bob said that little thing would haul……

There were a number of Stanley steamers, some pristine, some in rebuild, but the most amazing comment on those was the long fire up time and the 30 mile max trip distance on a tank of fuel (water). I guess they traveled from horse trough to horse trough to fill up? There were several steam engines in one building that were not vehicles. One in particular was used back in the early 1900’s to run the Duesenburg car factory. The huge 15 foot long steam engine powered all the machines in the car factory by a band hooked-up to a spinning rod in the ceiling that then powered by bands down to the machines that ran off that. Anyway there was a picture of that scene when it was working, picture all the machines running off this one. Does that make sense?

There were a couple of recent additions in the garage, one being a Chrysler turbine car. It was one of 8 left and only two actually still run, including this one. Spooky looking car, but then to me all of the old Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge, Desoto cars were spooky looking. Also an old Mercedes Gull Wing car ready for restoring was in there. He had another Mercedes that was kind of plane jane, if that’s possible, and Jay uses it as his airport car, because it’s not flashy like most of his collection.

There was the Tank car that had to be 18 feet long with a silver metal body reminiscent of many of the 40’s race cars; it had that kind of look. The 12 or 16 cylinder (I forgot how big it was) the stats on weight, horsepower, and engine size all escape me, but they were all super size enormous. There was a 34ish looking street rod that was factory built looking smooth and sharp setting there. It was not a hot rod created by a hot rodder, but an actual factory mockup that featured Corvette running gear and an interior patterned after a Vette in looks. The blue almost silver paint job was smooth and the car was sharp. It made me want to hop in and take a spin!

In California they have the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, an annual car show that awards the big trophy to the very best each year. Jay has 8 of those winning cars!! They are all cars of the 30’s and 40’s (again I think that is what Bob says) and each winner is worth a fortune. He had more of those oldies with the rumble seats, the tops that slide back or open in one fashion or other, from Packard’s, to other specials of the day. There were several Hudson’s, one that was a restored race car from the early white lightning NASCAR beginnings.

He had some Corvettes, including the latest $120,000 model that was serial # 00000001. It is a pumped up Z06 that featured specially fabricated carbon fiber body panels with paint designed to resist the sun. Its top speed is beyond imagination for a street legal car. There were other Vettes of various years and models that were hot. One was a remanufactured; I guess that is a way to describe what the factory did after Jay sent them a new Corvette and it came back looking totally different and was a one of a kind, so it was really different.

My mind is still pulling out cars in the garage from my memory banks and even though some were not of my preferred types, he seemed to cover every style, and especially collected fast versions of some of the world’s fastest cars. Ferrari, Lotus and other well known speed burner’s graced the garage and there was so much I didn’t catch, it would take another visit to cover those he went too fast for me or, more likely, I couldn’t keep up on. It became overkill as we arrived near the end of the tour, and I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I would in fact, liked to have started over, like you would a good movie that the audience laughed on some of the good lines so you missed some of the content. It was that good.

There were a number of full time workers moving around the garage. One lady just cleaned all the cars, over and over, that was her job. Someone had to do battery maintenance. In one shop a lot of restore work was going on. There was a CNC machine to make things you couldn’t buy anymore. It was all special, and I can only imagine how fun it could be to be Jay long enough to drive all his cars. The workshop was busy restoring, rebuilding, remanufacturing and making things the way Jay wanted them to be. His toy box was stuffed full, and like a good man, he uses it all over time.

My thanks to Kevin for getting me in, to Jay Leno for allowing tours of his pride and joy collection and to Bob the tour guide, he acted like he loved what he does and made me feel welcome and answered every stupid question I had. It was a home run, a grand slam in my book, so what’s next? Whatever, it will be hard to surpass this Wags adventure.

7/1/09 - News flash - You can go to jaylenosgarage.com and see everything I saw!!!!!

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