News Culture

An Idiot Tried to Race Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld and Blew His Engine

13 Surprising facts from the production of last night’s Jay Leno’s Garage.

We love recapping Jay Leno’s Garage on CNBC. Leno and his producers manage to cram a ton of neat tidbits and factoids into each episode. Obviously, plenty of interesting things happen during filming that are off-camera or end up on the cutting room floor, so we asked the show’s producers if they’d be open to sharing some production stories with us. They readily agreed, so get ready for a slew of behind-the-scenes tales and facts that you won’t see on TV.

Last night, Leno dove into the trend of unrestored and original cars spiking in value. “The Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach recently made ‘unrestored’ a new class and barn finds are hotter than ever,” a producer told The Drive. “Couple that with the fact that Jay’s been a long time supporter of leaving things as he finds them and that’s how this episode was born.”

Credit an earthquake for preserving Leno’s 1927 Duesenberg Model X.

Leno opens with a jaunt in one of his dozen or so Duesenbergs. This particular one was the last model X brothers Frederick and August Duesenberg built. The fellow who bought it in 1945 put in a locked garage. An earthquake happened and the garage shifted and wouldn’t open until it was torn down in 2005. Leno bought the car, redid the engine and the brakes but left everything as it was.

Jerry Seinfeld bought his first collector’s Porsche while in Leno’s kitchen.

Sort of. Leno invites Seinfeld to bring three 356 Porsches (a ‘56 European, a ‘59 Carrera, and a ‘58 Speedster) and while they’re talking about Seinfeld’s obsession with the German manufacturer, Seinfeld tells Leno his first old Porsche was a ‘58 Speedster. “I bought it in 1991, after looking through a Hemmings magazine in your kitchen, in the same how you’re in now. I bought it because I thought it was pretty. All Porsche is about is minimalism. There are no stupid lines on a Porsche. Everything is there because it makes sense.”

Leno is also responsible for Seinfeld owning the ‘59 Carrera.

If Porsche made a supercar back in the Fifties, this was it. The specs the owner chose for this very car were all performance-based. It boasts a Speedster seat only on the driver’s side, RSK brakes and wheels, a special air intake and more. Despite all that, it was barely used, with a mere 13,000 miles on the odometer. The sole owner eventually called Leno when he was ready to sell. Leno knew Seinfeld would love it, so he called Seinfeld.

Leno cracks wise about his chambray wardrobe.

After Seinfeld says gets plenty of people asking when he’ll restore these 356s, he says there’s “value in a car that hangs around as it was. Much like you. You’re original and unrestored,” motioning to Leno. “I’ve been wearing these clothes for more than 30 years,” Leno retorts. “That’s what keeps my value.”

The producers saved the perfect road for two years for Seinfeld.

“We’ve all wanted to use Jerry forever,” a producer tells The Drive. “Jerry and Jay have been friends for three decades and Jerry had Jay on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, so we wanted to return the favor but it had to be perfect. We knew Jerry just bought the Speedster last year, and we thought this could be a good fit. We’d been saving this beautiful stretch of road near the garage just for Jerry.”

“It’s called Little Tujunga Canyon Road. It’s a bunch of great curves and switchbacks through a forest, which means it’s more expensive to shoot on, because you have to get the California Highway Patrol and Forest Rangers involved and pay to close the road. But it’s Jerry Seinfeld. We wanted to go all out. When we drove it in Seinfeld’s Speedster, it was absolutely perfect. We had the magic hour in the afternoon with this golden light. Both Jerry and Jay say in the episode a few times how perfect everything was. It all happened to align. A few months later, there was a huge wildfire and that whole area was scorched to ash. The road’s now closed, so we’re pleased to have gotten one last hurrah on it.”

A moron in a tuned Lexus tried to race Seinfeld and Leno and blew his engine.

“After we wrapped with the police, we were on our way back to the garage and Jay and Jerry are talking in the car when all of a sudden a tuner in a slammed Lexus comes flying up and hammers by Seinfeld’s Porsche,” the producer laughs. “He’s egging them on for a second then just blows their doors off. Within a few hundred yards, there’s a huge noise and a massive cloud of smoke and that was the end of this tuner. We passed him moments later on the side of the road, hood up.”

Seinfeld thinks cars will go the way of the horse.

“Another couple of decades and it will be pod modules moving [us] around,” Seinfeld says. “Cars will be like luxury items, like horses and riding.”

A 1969 Dodge Daytona rustbucket that hasn’t run since 1974 may be a good investment.

Down in Orlando, Leno meets Dr. Jim Norman, a collector who shelled out $90,000 for a rotted ‘69 Daytona. Everything is original, from the 440 Magnum engine, to the hoses and clamps to the weathered Seventies Penthouse magazine under the seat. There’s even lichen on the spoiler. However, Norman thinks the value can only go up.

Norman begged the garage keeping the Daytona before the shoot not to clean it.

“First, I should mention Dr. Norman’s daily driver is a McLaren MP4-12C. How badass is that?” the producer tells us. “When we were getting ready to shoot, we had his Daytona stored at a nearby auto body shop and Jim had to give very specific instructions when dropping it off not to clean the car. He’s terrified they would wash it and the value would drop,” laughs the producer. “On-camera, Jay makes a joke about a piece of Bondo and picks up a flake of it. Jim is sitting there, sweating a bit about it going back in the right spot.”

Patrick Dempsey gets to (gingerly) push a 1973 Porsche Carrera RS 2.7 around Willow Springs.

“That Rennsport was on loan from a private collector, which is partially why Patrick wasn’t going hard,” says the producer. That and the fact that the 210 horsepower, all-original Carrera RS is tricky to put on the edge. Dempsey calls out a spot of understeer after wheeling the one-million dollar car hard around a corner. “That’s why I don’t like to race the vintage ones,” Dempsey grins.

Nicole Weingart/CNBC

Dempsey, in a 2016 911 GT3 RS, scared Leno’s camera guys.

Dempsey has raced professionally, and owns a Porsche team which saw a podium at Le Mans last year. “The guy can drive,” the producer says. “Our camera car is a Ford Expedition with a camera mounted in the rear. Patrick has this flat-six hauling. That rear wheel steer is helping him flick around corners. Now, the best driver on-camera we’ve ever had was Mario Andretti. We asked Mario to speed right up to the camera and pass. He nailed it every time. We do the same thing with Patrick and he got even closer than Mario did. Our camera guy actually says ‘Oh my God,’ because he thinks he’s about to get hit. We left that in the episode.”

Returning from shooting, Dempsey toyed with the production crew in his 911 Turbo.

“We’re on the way back from Willow Springs and I’m with another producer in a hybrid Lexus SUV and we see Patrick come up in his 911 Turbo on the highway,” says the producer. “He played cat and mouse with us the whole way back to Los Angeles, weaving in and out traffic a bit. Nothing dangerous, but we certainly had fun.”

The tale of the ‘Lady of the Lake’ Bugatti is incredible.

The Mullin Museum houses the largest Bugatti collection in the world. The most prized Bugatti on display? A 1925 Type 22 Brescia that spent 75 years at the bottom of a Swiss lake. In 1934, this car was owned by Rene Dreyfus, a famous race car driver who had a penchant for gambling. He put up the car to cover a large bet and sadly lost. The winner takes the car and heads home. He’s stopped and it’s discovered Dreyfus never paid taxes on the car, and the amount owed was greater than the value of the car. The rule in Switzerland at that time was if the taxes due outweighed an item’s value, the item must be destroyed. Thus, the car was sunk in a nearby lake where it remained until it was salvaged in 2009. Bidders wanted to restore it. Peter Mullin saw the car and said no way. He paid $366,667 to buy it and keep it just as it is.

Correction: Thursday, July 28, 2022, 10:40 a.m. ET: An earlier version of this article called Seinfeld’s ’58 Speedster his first Porsche, but Seinfeld later noted having a couple 911s prior to the Speedster in an interview with the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Seinfeld does credit the ’58 car with kicking off his Porsche collection, however. The Drive has since edited the copy above for clarity.