15 Interesting Facts From the Jay Leno’s Garage Season Finale
A two-hour melange of sleepers, celebs, and all other sorts of coolness.
Earlier this week, the second season of Jay Leno’s Garage closed with a double header of impressive sheet metal, interesting profiles—and some proper knowledge bombs. For example, did you know jazz icon Herbie Hancock is the longest original owner of an original AC Shelby Cobra? Or that some hero is converting a ‘59 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud into a 750-horsepower, paddle-shifting beast? Below, check out a few more of our favorite revelations from Leno’s season finale.
Anthony Kiedis is a dresser guy. When the Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman turns up to meet Leno at custom bike builder Roland Sands’s shop, it’s atop on a custom Harley-Davidson dresser bike that Sands modded for him. We always pictured Kiedis as more a cafe racer or bobber fellow.
Gene Winfield is 88 years old—and working more than ever. If you don’t know the name, perhaps you’ll recognize the custom hot rod builder’s most famous work, the Jade Idol—a 1956 Mercury with Chrysler tailfins. That very car got Winfield started with custom faded paint jobs and brought him national recognition. Back in the ‘50s, Winfield chopped five or six cars a year; these days he’s up to 10 or more, globetrotting from job to job.
Leno thinks Aston Martin is among the cooler auto manufacturers. He cites James Bond and the DB5, but the segment where Leno races a DB11 Prototype against ex-Stig Ben Collins in a Vantage S helps hammer his point home.
Sometimes, drawing on cars turns out well. Case in point: Chris Dunlop, a Sharpie artist who shoots completely from the hip. Dunlop doesn’t use guides or masking tape when he applies a heap of permanent ink to a vehicle, and never sketches anything beforehand. Mistakes are replicated to become a pattern and look intentional. Afterwards, his work receives a clear coat to preserve the ink. A few of the finished cars are, uh, interesting, but the graffiti racing stripes on this Camaro look pretty slick.
Leno’s 650-hp 1955 Buick Roadmaster could fetch six-figures at auction. So says Donald Osborne during an installment of Assess and Caress. Leno, who bought the Buick in 1972 and slept in it for a while, restomodded it, giving it a Corvette suspension and a 572 motor good for 650 snorting horses. He even custom-milled his own wheels. Osborne claims it could go under the hammer for $180,000, should Leno ever want to part with it.
The Mercedes-Benz that Porsche built is a good investment. That would be the 1994 500E. There are few subtle cues that this is a high-performance machine, including slightly larger tires and front fender flares. But the real shocker here is that Porsche made these Benzes. Porsche's factory was going through a tough patch, so Mercedes convinced its competitor to build the hot model. The tear to 60 was in the five-second range, thanks to a naturally-aspirated 5.0-liter V8. Five years ago, the car was worth about $10,000, Osborne says. Now? $50,000.
Enzo Ferrari didn’t give Henry Ford a 1952 Ferrari Barchetta. Contrary to the popular story, Ferrari wasn’t that benevolent, and couldn’t afford to give away any 2.7-liter V12 coupes if he wanted to keep racing. Apparently, Ford’s brother bought the prancing stallion in question. That car, incidentally, served as the inspiration for the ‘55 Ford Thunderbird, right down to the long wheelbase, white wheels, and exhaust pipes running through the bodywork.
The Cadillac Ghia Series 62 is unbelievably gorgeous. Seriously, just look at this stunner. Italian coachbuilder Ghia only made two of these beauties, based on the 1953 Cadillac Series 62, and the one in Leno’s garage was for Rita Hayworth’s husband Prince Ali Salman Aga Khan. However, Hayworth picked up this perfect mixture of Fifties Americana chrome and Italian detailing in the divorce.
Herbie Hancock credits a jerk of an AC Shelby Cobra salesman for his best purchase. When Leno and Hancock cruise in Hancock’s 1963 Cobra, the jazz great mentions getting a $3,500 check for his smash hit “Watermelon Man.” Then 23, his roommate mentioned an American car that was beating all the Ferraris, so Hancock went into the dealership, casually dressed in jeans. The salesman ignored Hancock until he said, “I’m going to buy this.” The salesman scoffed and asked if he could afford the $6,000 car. Hancock returned the following day with the cash. “That guy has no idea what a favor he did me,” he tells Leno.
Hancock’s Cobra is quite rare, due to its engine. Only 75 Cobras have the 260-c.i. V8, while the remainder of the 1,000 or so produced have a 289. Hancock’s also features a two-barrel carb and a generator in place of an alternator. It’s all original, which is incredible considering Hancock daily drove it for years, only stopping “once the value started going up.” Presently, it has a few hundred thousand miles on the odometer.
Miles Davis lost a drag race to Hancock. Davis, a car guy who owned plenty of Lamborghinis and Maseratis, offered Hancock a lift home after a gig. “I declined and said I drove,” Hancock recounts. “Miles looked at my car and goes, ‘Cute.’ He was driving a Maserati. We ended up at a stop light. It turned green and we both floored it. I get to the next light with enough time to pull out and light a cigarette before Miles arrives.”
Tim Allen’s Ford Club Coupe sleeper is mighty smooth. Challenged to a re-match of a drag race by Leno, both are to bring stock cars. Leno turns up in his 1966 Dodge Coronet, with that delightful 426 Hemi. Allen’s 1955 Ford Club Coupe is packing a little extra under the hood in the form of a Ford GT engine—the 5.4-liter supercharged V8 with 550 horsepower. It looks, and sounds, sublime.
The 850-horsepower Toyota Camry from SEMA absolutely rips. Not to be outmatched, Leno swaps his Dodge for the ultimate sleeper, a shell of a Toyota Camry atop a tube frame that’s affixed to a blown Tundra engine. That 5.7-liter supercharged V8 offers 850 ponies at the ready, and the only external giveaway is the slicks on the rear. Accordingly, Allen is left in the dust during the race.
Whoever is restomodding a ‘58 Rolls-Royce with Jonathan Ward is a goddamn champ. Leno picks up Ward, the founder of Icon and Derelict restomods, in one of his own creations, a rustbucket of a 1950 Buick Roadmaster with a 7.0-liter LS7, good for 505 horses. When they get back to Ward’s shop, the real hidden gem is the shell of a 1958 Silver Cloud. It’s awaiting an Art Morrison chassis, a blown 750-hp LS9—the 6.2-liter supercharged V8 from the Corvette ZR1—and paddle shifters. The Brits may cry sacrilege all they wish. Our cheering will drown them out.
Sean Penn had a Buick Grand National. With nitrous. This story comes from David Spade, who bought his own Grand National after Penn sang the praises of his own gas-huffing Buick. Spade’s Grand National is in a bit of disarray, with a cracked front fascia and paint chips, but that 3.8-liter turbocharged V6 still gets the comely coupe moving.