Pretty much everyone knows that Jay Leno is a car guy.
There have been plenty of articles and TV programs devoted to his car collection. Jay even has his own website giving us normal folk a peak at what happens when automotive fanaticism meets a big checkbook. But what makes Leno’s collection different, and frankly, makes Jay different, is that it’s all about the drive. His cars aren’t trailer queens. Leno owns them so he can drive them.
A few months ago, I had a chance to spend about an hour with Leno in Las Vegas. We were there for the Barrett Jackson auction. Justin Bell (part-time racer, great TV guy and a part of our SPEED broadcast crew) knows Jay well from working with him on the now defunct prime time Leno show. Justin managed to get our crew invited not just to watch Leno’s stand-up routine, but also to spend some time with him beforehand.
When we walked in, Jay had a motorcycle book open on the table. But he wasn’t looking at the pretty pictures, he was buried in the technical specs pages in the back.
We talked about nothing but cars for the entire time. (After all, what else did we have in common?) Jay was obviously interested in what was selling at the auction. As we talked about various cars, his reactions were usually built around one theme: how did it drive? It wasn’t enough that the car was beautiful or rare, Leno wants cars that are worth the drive. That doesn’t mean it’s the greatest driving car on the planet. After all, he still owns the 55 Buick that he drove when he arrived in LA. He wanted a drive that meant something.
I see plenty of cars cross the auction blocks at lots of auctions with ridiculously low miles. I remember one a few years back that had just nine miles on the odometer. It was wheeled around on small dollys to prevent the odometer from clicking into the double digits (heaven forbid!).
It reminds me of a comment I recently read. Owning a spectacular car and not driving it is like being married to a super model, but not touching her because you’re saving her for the next guy.
Jay Leno isn’t saving his collection. He’s driving it. Because it’s all about the drive.