I recently appeared on an episode of Jay Leno’s CNBC television show, “Jay Leno’s Garage.” This was tremendously exciting, largely because the experience involved me getting blindfolded and driven around Burbank in several members of Jay Leno’s car collection. This is how everyone should get on television.
Here’s what happened. A few months ago, I got an email from the producers of “Jay Leno’s Garage” asking me if I wanted to come on the television show. So I said yes, because of course I wanted to be on the show, but also I really wanted to see Jay Leno’s car collection. The man has a McLaren F1. When you’re offered the chance to see a McLaren F1, you do not say no.
So the people in charge of the show flew me out to Los Angeles, and they put me up in a hotel in Burbank, and then I drove over to Jay Leno’s garage to film my segment. When I arrived, they had lunch set up. Here’s how lunch went: There were a bunch of normal-looking people; people who look like you and me. And then there was also Jay Leno. He was just standing there, making sure the crew got sandwiches. Then he came and sat down next to me.
Now, initially I thought I’d be highly intimidated by my Jay Leno experience, but the truth is that when he sat down, he just wanted to talk about cars. He had recently seen a video I did with the outgoing Ford GT, and he told me he read some of my columns and he thought they were funny. He told a hilarious John DeLorean anecdote. We were just a few car enthusiasts, talking, not too different from the many other car enthusiasts I meet when I visit peoples’ garages and review their cars.
Then it came time to set up for the show, which meant I had to stay in Jay’s garage work space while his crew readied all the cameras on the cars we’d be driving. I had to stay separated from the cars because the segment we were filming was titled “Stump a Car Nerd,” and the way it works is Jay puts a blindfold on you, you both get into whichever member of Jay’s collection he’s chosen, and then you try to guess what car it is. And there was no TV magic here: I really had no idea what cars I’d be getting in.
I’ll let you watch the show so you can see what happens next, but the basic gist is that I had a hard time guessing the cars — largely because they chose older cars, which I’m not accustomed to. The segment took longer than I expected to film, and we finished around 6:00 p.m. — after which the garage doors were opened, and I was finally allowed to check out Jay’s full collection, with Jay walking around next to me, giving me a personal tour.
There are a lot of great anecdotes I took away from this tour, but the very best was the sheer quality of everything Jay owned. I go to a lot of garages for my car reviews, and I meet a lot of interesting collectors with vast collections, but Jay’s was different in one specific respect: When you see a Ford GT at Jay’s garage, Jay casually mentions, Oh, that’s Ford GT number 12. When you see a Corvette ZR1, Jay says it’s the first ZR1. Jay has some of the same cars as other people with amazing collections — but he always seems to have the best examples.
I was very curious about a few specific Jay-related topics, and I made sure to ask him enough to satisfy my curiosity. For example: What is Jay’s daily driver? Although he does regularly use virtually everything from his collection, the car parked nearest to the garage door — and the car he arrived in that day — was a Tesla Model S. Jay always seems to be working; after we filmed our segment, he was headed off to San Antonio to do a stand-up comedy show. Jay told me he doesn’t like “do-everything cars” — a car that can be a sports car, and an SUV, and a family vehicle, all in one; instead, he told me he prefers cars with a purpose. Jay prefers the manual transmission. And, most importantly, Jay really is one of the most genuinely nice car enthusiasts I’ve ever met. He took the time to talk with me while we were waiting between takes, to show me around, and to ask about my family. But he was most excited and engaged when we were simply discussing cars.
If you want to watch the episode in the future, check out “Jay Leno’s Garage” season 3, episode 2. I haven’t seen the clip yet — I’ve been too busy to watch it! — but I’m going to check it out in the next day or two and probably cringe until it’s over.
Maybe next time I’ll get to ride in the McLaren F1. Find a car for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.