With the recent billion dollar lottery craze going on in North America, it’s been hard not to do a bit of ‘what if’ daydreaming ourselves. I didn’t purchase a ticket myself, but my wife has an office pool every single week, so I guess you could say I contracted a little bit lottery fever by association.
In essence, what you are buying when you get that ticket is a fun little fantasy. Winning the big one is unlikely to happen, but that’s the whole point.
So what did I dream about? Having the ultimate hobby shop of course. Automobiles are a way of life for me; they’ve shaped my career and they’re what I enjoy in my free time.
I always say that a life playing with cars is a life worth living, and Jay Leno is a perfect example of someone living that life to the fullest.
I’ve always wanted to visit Jay’s world famous garage, and seeing that it’s not all that far away from where I live, I figured it was only a matter of time before I got the opportunity.
Although, it’s not open to the public, so I never really got my hopes up, even though Speedhunters’ own Keith Charvonia has had two cars featured on Jay’s show.
But lucky for me, my friends at Ctek were able to make it happen. There are almost 300 vehicles in Jay’s collection, over half of which are cars, and all of them have draining batteries when not in use.
My buddy Andreas Naeslund figured this was a problem that he could help Jay solve. At the same time, I figured I’d tag along to check the iconic garage out.
Jay ideally wants to be able to ride or drive any of his vehicle at any given time, so Andreas shipped a pallet-load of chargers over to him.
By the time we got there, around half the cars were already plugged in and ready to go. Which was perfect, because it gave me time to explore the rest of the shop…The Ultimate Hobby Shop
While there are so many shop and garage tours of Jay’s place on the internet, including what you can see on his own show, I wanted to try and convey what it’s actually like, along with my personal thoughts on this magical place.
I actually consider Jay the ultimate automotive journalist. I’m probably going to shoot myself in the foot by saying this, but you really have to take what journalists (myself included) say about cars with a grain of salt.
It may sound simple and stupid, but most car journalists are not able to own many of the cars they test and review.
Because of that it’s too easy to either be very critical or fall in love with a car without real reason, despite not actually being able to own one in the first place.
I don’t mean financially either, because there is the upkeep factor as well as the storage space.
But with someone like Jay it’s different. He reviews new and used cars, and is in a position to own any that he really likes. And that he does.
Because if you truly love something, you would want it for yourself, and if you don’t want it, then you don’t have to buy it. This is the case with Jay.Behind The Scenes
So what exactly is the ultimate hobby shop? What kind of facility do you need to keep almost 300 cars and motorcycles in running condition?
This is where all the magic happens. While Keith gave us a look at some of Jay’s favorite cars, I want to show you guys where the work gets done in the shop.
While the rest of the collection is almost a full city block-long of industrial buildings, the workshop portion is only a few buildings.
It’s here you’ll find projects of all shapes and sizes in different stages of completion.
Everything needed to restore a vehicle from the ground up is here; this shop has it all.
Tools old and new; it’s absolutely endless. It also makes me wonder how those that work in here can find anything at all.
If it looks like they’re pushed for space, you would right. The garage is expanding, which of course means more room for projects and memorabilia.
The vehicles are the stars of course, but I couldn’t help but stare in amazement at all the awesome things Jay has collected over the years.
In the shop the shelves are filled to the brim with tools and useful things, while the rest of the garage would turn into a tidal wave of all things automotive if there were ever an earthquake.
I couldn’t help but laugh at this sign. There is just so much to see that the moment I made a mental note of something I wanted to take a closer look at I was distracted by something else.
Those of you who follow Jay on his YouTube channel probably know that he used to work at a Mercedes-Benz dealership as a young kid; he always wanted one of these 600 Kompressors.
One of the cars being restored in the workshop was this 1914 Detroit Electric. A modern driveline is being fitted, which of course means an electric motor and batteries – some items of Nissan Leaf origin.
Apparently this Willys Jeep is a brand new project, and the boys have had no chance to tear into it yet. It’s cool to see such a variety of vehicles being worked on and restored at the shop.
Parked next to the Jeep was a 1971 Porsche 911T. Up until being offered this one recently, Jay didn’t have any classic 911s in his collection.
The guys are currently cleaning up a bit of surface rust and getting the car back into running order.
Apparently it has been parked since the ’90s, so there are a few things that need to be addressed before it can hit the road once again.
It’s so cool to see another example being restored, and you can guarantee that it will soon be put to proper use.
Jay went over all his current projects, including this Cunningham, in his most recent restoration blog video.
In the 1950s, Mercedes-Benz’s Formula 1 team used a custom-built transporter with a 300SL Gullwing engine called the Blue Wonder. Although this is not the original – that was crushed in 1967 – it’s a pretty neat replica.
It was built in Sweden but not really finished, so Jay’s team have been working on it ever since it came into the collection.
Here is Per Blixt, Jay’s paint guy, showing us the motor. Jay was actually shooting his NBC television show in the garage around the same time as our visit, so we didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him.
Per really has his work cut out for him as there’s always an endless amount of things do. With two paint booths in the shop he’s a busy man to say the least.
Once the transporter is completely finished it would be so awesome to see this 300SL race car on the back, don’t you think?Jay Leno’s Garage
As Keith mentioned in his article, Jay doesn’t really follow any guidelines in terms of what he builds. All that matters is being happy and at the same time staying safe.
Many of the older cars have updated brakes among other reliability mods. Because what is the point in going fast if you can’t stop?
A lot of the mechanical know-how comes from Bernard Juchli, the general manager at Jay Leno’s Garage.
Bernard is big into racing, and when we were there he was working on one of his personal projects, this insane scratch-built sidecar bike.
Right next to it was his open-wheeler; Bernard runs this one in vintage races.
It’s awesome that Jay lets his guys work on their personal projects in the shop as well. It’s truly a motoring heaven.
The difference between Jay’s garage and a car museum is that the cars and motorcycles here are kept in a way that they can be pulled out and driven on the street in a matter of minutes.
The thing is, you don’t actually realize how large the place is until you have the opportunity to walk around.
Let’s just say that it’s massive enough to easily get lost if you’re not careful. Not that it would be a bad thing.
This particular room was filled with many of Jay’s most prized possessions, and they’re all steam powered.
How about a road-going train/car. You can check out this impressive machine in this video.
I don’t normally get starstruck, but when I do it’s because I’m in the presence of a famous car. After seeing so many photos and videos of them, it was so cool to see some of these builds in person.
One of my favorites was this 1966 Lotus Elan 26R, which I followed the build of.
There are so many wacky things around the place too, like this V8-powered bar stool.
And this electric car charger from way back when.
I’ve realized that even if I did win the lottery, I would not know where to begin in terms of having the ultimate hobby shop.
It really takes a special kind of person to take their love for things that “roll, explode and make noise,” as Jay so eloquently puts it, to the next level; a level that is basically unimaginable.
What really makes me feel good is knowing that a place like Jay Leno’s Garage actually exists in the real world.
I’ve visited some of the world’s greatest shops and collections, but those are businesses that have to make money.
And this is why all the mechanics who work for Jay call it the “ultimate hobby shop.” Because that’s exactly what it is.
I want to thank my buddy Andreas from Ctek for inviting me out, and also Bernard and Per for showing us around. Most of all, I want to thank Jay for being the ultimate car guy. I hope you guys don’t mind all the bonus pictures in the chapter below!
I'm trying to reach Jay Leno about a 1929 Lincoln LS originally was owned by the Capone family it recently came into my possession and from what I understand Kama he was interested in the car he looked at it several years ago in Pennsylvania, I can be reached at 941-666-2964 and my name is Douglas terlecki
@Will_Geog It's quite the collection - tremendously eclectic. How's things with you?
@jeckythump things are going okay, trying to finish methods chapter this week. Speedhunters is distracting me though. You?
@jeckythump congrats! It's looks good I can't wait to see mine like that...how do I fast forward?!
@Will_Geog If there is a fast-forward button, I didn't find it ;) Just keep on keeping on, you'll get there!
@FormulaOneWorld I'd work for Tecate there Jay!
@FormulaOneWorld Jay Leno for President!
@FormulaOneWorld was ist das, Pontiac?
@FormulaOneWorld!!! 😜der Freund meiner Freundin hatte sowas ähnliches... Dachte Pontiac... Da hatte ich nie richtig draufgeschaut.. 😮
@FormulaOneWorld First - Miura, second - Countach ?
@vladko35 Then Espada?
@DNAofMotorsport a nice read indeed\U0001f44c\U0001f3fc\U0001f3c1
Although my dream car collection wouldn't contain the same cars, the way Jay Leno has his cars housed is EXACTLY how I'd like to do it! Love the range of cars he owns and how everything is prepared to be driven, not just a museum piece.
Great article Larry!
I wouldn't call Leno the ultimate journalist. That title to me has to be someone who can do it all behind the wheel with tremendous experience at the limit.
Martin Brundle is second to no one IMO when it comes to journalistic integrity and automotive understanding. Leno is a collector at the end of the day. A fortunate one, but I think it's important to distinguish that.
Fantastic photos and write up. Looks like a fun day!
I want to know how to get a job working for him! That would honestly be equivalent to winning the lottery to me!
Larry can you ask Jay if he has room for another mechanic/mechanical engineer? haha!
Awesome article Larry! An unofficial visit to Jay Leno's Garage is pretty close to winning the lottery. Jay is preserving a big chunk of automotive history for generations to come and the best thing is, he's not hiding it away. :)
Larry, we have seen an awful lot of photo tours and videos from Jay's colossal garage, but nothing has managed to capture both the grandeur and scale of the place while also revealing so many of the wonderful and engaging little details that happen away from whatever camera is rolling. For a simple little tag along, you did what no-one else has done before - you opened the darkened corners up and brought them into the light. Thank you for showing us all how that place ticks.
All of this made me drool. This is what I call a hell of a collection, from old Bugattis to modern-day McLarens, this man' got it all!
Holy Jeebus. I knew the place was huge and filled with a world class collection...but I didn't know it was this huge.
The coolest thing about his collection is that even the relatively "normal" cars get the same level of attention and car as some of the priceless machines.
@Michael Atwell That is a great point. In essence even these normal cars become something special over time as less and less of them are around.
This is the rich guy enthusiast equivalent of the 1% owning more than the remaining 99% of us mortals combined...his collection never ceases to impress. #Jaydoescarcollectingright
If I had the money my garage woukd be this size just full of Evos, Old school fords and stuff like that
@greenroadster it does look like a real racer but it's a Volvo 142 not a 242, cool none the less as I've never seen one with a american name on the window.
how does one actually inventory a collection like this? not just the cars, and the associated parts, but the memorabilia??? Christ, I couldn't even keep track of all my CD's back in the day......... some "friend" would borrow something and there it would go, never to return
Jay must have more than just a mechanic - he must have a crew to categorize this stuff.......... I mean eventually, your going to forget the things you have! I can't even keep track of my old hot wheels cars! LOL
While I say that it is not a business, but a hobby shop, that does not mean there is not a full time staff. There are many people who keep this shop running. It's actually cool to watch.
While I do understand what Jay Leno did for the car culture and appreciate the way he's promoting it, one thing really threw me off watching him. It was when he did an overview of a 1966 GAZ-21 "Volga". He literally turned it into a joke, laughing about everything he could and topped it off by sprinkling it with untrue facts. Maybe it wasn't up to par with it's "modern" contemporaries over the ocean, but then again, it was built for a completely different market and environment. Our family's GAZ-21 was passed down from my grandpa (who bought it new in '62) to my dad in '88 and the car was finally sold to someone else in '98, simply because my dad could continue fixing the 36 year old car all the time lol. That car roadtripped around USSR when my grandpa was young and continued doing so when my dad was it's helmsman.
Thanks, Larry, for a great walk-through of Jay's Garage. It was a much appreciated angle that departed from all the usual stories/videos I've seen.
Truly a memory-maker, I'm sure.
I already know that Jay is the luckiest guy in the world. I wonder if he knows... But man, that Panhard and those classic bikes....just wow.
And Larry, if you are such a great fan of Jay and car culture, how about that line "he always wanted one of these 600 Kompressors". You know that model didn't exist? Jay just added the label on the boot lid because he added a kompressor on the engine. That is really cool Larry.
I have seen a lot about this garage. This has to be one of the coolest articles given the kind of, "majestic feel" of the images. I would take a pay cut just to be a lot attendant there, screw it even to just clean side mirrors lol.
Oh man, I have read and looked multiple tours of his garage and there are gems everywhere. You could dedicate at least 10 articles about this place and still haven't covered all of it. Jay is a lucky man to have this, ofcourse he did start it. But to end up with this collection is awesome. I mean, the Ford Festiva Shogun was a car I've never heard of or seen before. I know it now...