The former host of The Tonight Show is returning to TV with Jay Leno’s Garage, premiering October 7 on CNBC.
Jay Leno described cars as “kinetic artwork that rolls down the highway,” and he was on hand at this summer’s Television Critics Association’s press tour to talk about his new eight-episode hour-long primetime series which covers all things automotive. The comic will feature classic cars, super cars, restoration projects, road tests, investments and the inner workings of the car collectors’ market. And he assured that—“no vehicles were harmed during the making of this show.”
Of course Leno will take us for a spin in some of the best rides from his collection, but he’ll also be telling great stories about the people and history behind some of his favorites. With a passion for the subject he explained, “When you look at cars, especially from the art deco period, from the ’30s and ’40s, it is artwork. It’s a kinetic sculpture. It moves and it rolls. When you see an art deco car parked in the museum and it’s got ropes around it, it’s certainly attractive. But when you see it going down the road interacting with modern vehicles, it really wakes people up. When you go down the road people literally drop their cell phones because they’re startled by this thing going by.”
Leno’s classic cars are not museum pieces, he likes to open them up on the road and sometimes he’s been pulled over by the cops. He sheepishly explained, “I have the oldest car ever and it was stopped for speeding. I was driving a 1906 Stanley Steamer on the 405 freeway, and it’s on fire. I was going 76 mph, and a cop let me go because I explained the Stanley Steamer sometimes catches fire, and it says in the manual—‘Increase speed until flames blow out.’ So if you go a little faster, it blows the flame out. There’s a lot more to driving older cars than there is to modern cars.”
Jay keeps acquiring more vehicles and has no intention of selling anything in his collection of “about 135 cars, and maybe 117 motorcycles,” but he is giving some away. Leno donates cars to raise money for Wounded Warriors, the USO, or other worthy veterans’ causes.
He said, “We do an auction for the veterans and 100 percent of the money actually goes to help the veterans.” He reported that people really step up their bids to help the veterans and cars have gone for as much as $700,000. This summer he donated his Shelby GT 350, and in January 2016 another will leave his collection. He said, “I’ve got the very first Ford Harley-Davidson truck that was ever built. They built it especially for me in 2000. I’m going to auction that one off, and we’ll help the veterans.”
Leno said he has always like fixing cars, a skill he picked up working at car dealerships when he was a kid. The comedian who still does standup gigs around the country is proud that he actually knows how to work with his hands. He said, “Comedy is subjective. Some people think you are funny, some not, and they are both correct. But, when a car is broken, and now it’s running, no one can say, ‘You didn’t fix it.’ It’s running. Plus, when you work with your hands—when you take a transmission out and you put it back in, your hand is cut up, and you only made $80, you really appreciate how easy it is to make money in show business.”
Jay Leno’s Garage on CNBC will have celebrity appearances. Set to go for a ride are Tim Allen, Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, director Francis Ford Coppola; Los Angeles Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson; comedian Jeff Dunham; and NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson, among others, mixing horsepower and showbiz in Jay’s garage.