The Collections of Jay Leno


Jay Leno is one of the most famous comedians and presenters in America.

From 1992 until 2009, he presented The Tonight Show. During his 17 years the show won the ratings battle for 11 consecutive seasons and Leno missed only two nights through illness. He now presents The Jay Leno Show.

James Douglas Muir Leno was born in New York and brought up in Massachusetts. Despite recommendations from his guidance counselor that he drop out of school (possibly relating to Leno's dyslexia) he went on to achieve a bachelor's degree in speech therapy from Emerson College, where he also set up a comedy club and his career took off from there.

During his time as The Tonight Show host, those appearing on the show included Arnold Schwarzenegger, who used the slot to announce he was running for governor of California, and President Obama.

Jay Leno Barack Obama
Jay Leno with Barack Obama

One of the most memorable editions was during California's famous rolling blackouts in the year 2000. Leno hosted a show lit using only flashlights and candles.

Leno is known as a car and motorbike obsessive. He owns dozens of cars alongside a large number of motorbikes, not to mention a fire engine. He has sold three of the motorbikes for the benefit of the victims of 911, the Boxing Day Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, raising a total of $2.72m.

Some of the cars are actually steam-powered, including two Stanley Steamers, whilst Leno also owns a century-old electric car (Baker Motor Vehicle), which in Leno's opinion "looks like a telephone booth" and runs on batteries designed by Thomas Edison.

Jay Leno Hispano Suiza
Jay Leno in his Hispano-Suiza 8
(Click to enlarge)

Leno is rumoured to have been caught speeding in one of the Steamers, (none of his cars are kept without the intention of taking them out for a spin sooner or later) which as the car is from 1912 would make it the oldest car to receive a speeding ticket.

Leno doesn't believe he collects with a theme, but he does like cars which are ahead of their time. The Baker Motor Vehicle is perhaps the classic example of this, but others, such as his Duesenberg Js, with which he won the Pebble Beach Concours. fit too.

They were built to achieve speeds of 120mph when the speed limit was 45mph.

Leno does like powerful cars, and is particularly gushing about his 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II with its Merlin V-12 engine, which generates over 1,000hp.

Leno's collection also includes a 1913 Mercer Raceabout, two Bugattis and a number of Bentleys.

Perhaps the idea of being advanced for their time also applies to Leno's handful of modern cars. These include a a scary, skeletal, Ariel Atom which was built for speed alone and looks like no other car on earth.

Altogether, Leno's vehicles require 3 full-time employees to maintain them, though Leno is more than happy to pitch in himself whenever he has the time.

He is rarely happier than when driving, working on, talking or writing about an exquisite car.

"There's a sense of history to all this stuff." he once commented. "We don't really own these cars, we just keep them for the next owners."

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