Jay Leno Helped Kendall Jenner Buy This Immaculate ‘56 Corvette
10 surprising facts from the production of last night’s Jay Leno’s Garage.
Last night on Jay Leno’s Garage, our favorite denim-ensconced host pitted old school against new school. We see a C1 up against the C7 Grand Sport, a Galaxie 7-liter versus a new NASCAR Ford Fusion, and a Tesla Model S opposing the original vision for autonomous driving, GM’s 1956 all-titanium Firebird II. We talked to Jay Leno’s Garage producers to bring you some tales from shooting the episode, things that you didn’t see on TV. Below, the most interesting stories from behind the camera.
Joey Logano couldn’t resist going 100+ mph in a ‘63 Galaxie, even after producers warned him not to.
The first film sees Leno bringing a ‘66 Ford 7-liter to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California to meet up with NASCAR’s youngest driver, Joey Logano. “We wanted Joey to test a piece of racing history,” a producer tells The Drive. “We were able to get Leonard Wood, a NASCAR legend, to bring us a 1963 Galaxie that’s a replica of the car that won the Daytona 500 in ‘63. It’s a four-speed with no power steering or power brakes and about 425 horsepower. We gave Joey the car and told him don’t go faster than 50 or so, because the tires are 50 years old and there’s no safety equipment in the car. I emphasized it over and over, but when we’re out on the track, we just know he’s going to roast it. Sure enough, he flies by us, doing more than 100, a plume of burning oil smoke in his wake. That’s just Joey’s competitive spirit,” the producer laughs. “Later, Joey told me he wanted to go even faster.”
Leno had never driven a stock car before.
While Logano’s freaking everyone out by zipping around in a piece of NASCAR history, Leno’s driving a modern stock car. “Jay’s driven pace cars before, for the Daytona 500,” shares the producer. “But he’s never driven a proper NASCAR. We got this one from the Richard Petty Driving experience. It can get up to 750 horsepower, but I think it was de-tuned a bit. Still, he loved it. He said you don’t notice differences between a stock car and a regular, high-horsepower car until you’re doing over 100.”
Leno helped Kendall Jenner get her pristine C1 ‘Vette.
“Jay’s known Caitlyn Jenner for many years, from car circles,” says the producer. “When it came time for Kendall to get her first car, she wanted something classic, so Caitlyn brought her Jay’s garage for some ideas. Jay showed them around and warned Kendall about classic cars being worrisome both in terms of safety and expensive upkeep, but she was set on vintage. Jay had just bought a C1 and it was sitting smack in the middle of the entrance to his collection and Kendall couldn’t stop staring at it. She fell in love on the spot. Another producer on the show is a buyer and seller and found her a proper one. Jay called them up and Kendall bought it, with her own money.”
Kendall’s Corvette is a 98-point, matching-numbers restoration.
This car was restored by a member of the National Corvette Restorers Society and when the project was finished, it was near perfect.
Kendall won’t let anyone else drive it.
Not even Caitlyn. Leno points out that Caitlyn has a proper racing pedigree, having led at the 24 Hours of Daytona for 23 and a half hours before having a malfunction, and having raced in a number of other famed series. Leno jokes that Caitlyn should now try the Trans Am series, which gets a solid laugh from Caitlyn. “Jay’s a comedian,” says the producer. “He’s always trying to find the right joke, no matter the audience. Of course he’s gonna slip that in. Caitlyn was really nice and cool with everything and very gracious and welcoming. Kendall was as well. Very down to earth.” Unless you want to drive her car. “Kendall isn’t kidding when she says only she gets to drive the Corvette, so we didn’t even ask,” says the producer.
Keeping Up With the Kardashians was shooting at the same time as Jay Leno’s Garage.
“Kendall and Caitlyn would shoot a little with us, then we’d need to set up for a different shot and they’d go and film elsewhere on the property with the E! crew for Keeping Up With the Kardashians. You’ll see some of us in the background that show,” chuckles the producer.
Kendall loves classic sheet metal, so long as it’s got four wheels.
Leno inquires what kind of car a guy should drive to impress Kendall more and she immediately says it would have to be vintage. “I’m surrounded by fancy Lamborghini guys. It’s way cooler to have a classic car,” she says. But she does appreciate some modern sports cars. Off-camera, a producer asked her which modern exotic she’d most want to own. “She said a 458 Speciale immediately, which was impressive,” says the producer. “I asked her about motorcycles and she shook her head. ‘My dad told me never to get on the back of a motorcycle so I won’t,’ she said.”
Riding a motorcycle in a Wall of Death is no joke.
“When we did the film with the Revival Cycle guys in Austin, Texas, they invited us to see the Wall of Death at the Handbuilt Motorcycle Show,” says the producer. “It’s a 17-foot tall silodrome, built completely from wood and when you’re running it, it’s a beautiful synergy between man and machine. But I was genuinely concerned for the riders’ wellbeing. We had to shoot multiple shows to get the right amount of footage for this. After the first show, we moved the cameras and were ready to go again. I went to find the performers and they’re all behind the Wall, ripping cigarettes, downing coffee, and these guys are legitimately shaking. It’s so intense they’re actually rattled. This is so brutal on the riders and they do get hurt sometimes and there’s no insurance for the because no one will cover them. There’s a hat that goes out to collect money which goes directly to help offset medical expenses for the guys who have fallen. It was a sobering moment.”
General Motors tried like hell to get the 1956 Firebird II running but it wouldn’t cooperate.
For the segment on autonomous driving, Leno shows off his Tesla Model S before meeting up with Ed Welburn, former GM Vice President of Global Design, and General Motors’ first crack at the future of driving, the 1956 Firebird II concept. This is the only car with a completely titanium body, and it was meant to run autonomously on a highway system controlled by towers. (See the incredible original vision here.) “We wanted Jay to drive it,” says the producer. “But it wouldn’t start. The guys from GM were literally working on it all night, but it’s a turbine concept car that’s been sitting in the GM Heritage Center forever without being run. It was a bummer, but they tried everything. That segment was also hard because Ed, a friend of the show who has moved heaven and earth for us every time we asked for anything, told us during the shoot he was retiring. That got us down even more.”
Leno’s 1906 Stanley Steamer is quite tricky to film.
“You can’t idle that thing for any amount of time,” the producer laughs. “We wanted to close with the steam car, but you have to be driving that thing always otherwise the unburnt fuel starts to build up. Jay got ahead of our camera car and pulled over to wait for us and that was it. The buildup started and then it just all went downhill. Many times we were just on the side of the road, watching flames shoot out of the side of this thing. People are stopping and waving at us and taking pictures and we’re just trying to make sure this thing doesn’t blow up. Fun times.”
And now, today's episode of Drive Wire: