Jay Leno has more cars in his garage than 25 people will ever own in a lifetime. The talk show host owns approximately 130 vehicles and even more motorcycles. He owns a ton of cool cars, and any performance enthusiast would like to own just one from his private collection. Like his 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe with a split rear window, Maserati 3500 GTi, 1986 Lamborghini Countach, 1963 Jaguar E-Type Coupe or his $1.2 million McLaren F1 with a top speed of 240 mph to name just a few.
The climate-controlled warehouse Leno owns even has a staff of four full-time mechanics who keep the cars in good working condition. Amazingly, every one of his cars and motorcycles are licensed, street legal and a key sits in every ignition. Leno can fire any one of them up and head out on the streets of Burbank where he lives.
Many stories have been written about the coolest cars in the Jay Leno garage, but what about the weird cars he owns? Leno has a number of strange cars that you’ve never heard of and probably wonder why the car collector even has them. When you have that kind of money, and have a warehouse to store them, why not?
Here’s a list of 10 that will make you scratch your head and wonder why you would even waste your time owning one of these strange machines. Leno owns them because he can. Cars are an obsession for Leno, maybe even an addiction. Check out some of the weirdest cars Leno owns.
10. Fiat 500
This one is weird because why would Leno even want a car that is not even collectable? Leno will buy a car just because it’s unique or different, and in the case of this Fiat 500, it was the second one off the assembly line coming to the U.S.. Leno says he didn’t get the first new one produced because it was snatched up by the President of Fiat. The Italian automaker brought back the 500 to the U.S. after a 29-year hiatus and Leno wanted to own one of the first.
Leno’s Fiat 500 didn’t stay in his collection long. He auctioned it off at a Pebble Beach charity event not long after he bought it before he could put many miles on the odometer. He even threw in a few perks to unload it that included a tour of his garage. He probably didn’t cry when this one left the warehouse.
9. Chevy Vega
This isn’t in Leno’s collection now yet it was a car he wished he’d never purchased. According to Leno, it was the worst car he’s ever owned. If you know anything about the Chevy Vega, it was a car that rivaled the Ford Pinto as the worst car ever built by any American automaker. It was the car that started GM into a downward spiral and, decades later, they went into bankruptcy.
Leno told Vanity Fair, “I bought a Vega for $150. A horrible car. My favorite story about it is, my wife called me once, sounding panicked, and I said, ‘What happened?’ and she said, ‘I went around a corner, and a piece of the car fell off.’ Just a big chunk of the bumper. Clang! But I’m like Father Flanagan in Boy’s Town: There are no bad cars. There are just cars that need to be loved and taken care of.”
8. 1962 Volga GAZ-21
Why would anyone want an old Soviet Union K.G.B staff car that is one of the worst put-together cars on the planet? It must have caught Leno’s attention because it’s so weird that no one else wants one. He’s probably the only car collector with one in their collection anywhere in the world. It is strange.
It’s called a Volga GAZ-21 and they were mass produced starting in 1956 through 1970. Take a look at the standard features list. It came with reclining front seats, a lighter, a heater, 3-wave radio, and a windshield washer. It also came with extensive rust proofing likely to protect it from all that salt the Russians use in the winter in Moscow. It was powered by a 4-cylinder engine which was essentially a tractor-like engine. Why wouldn’t everyone want one of these?
7. 1966 NSU Spider
In addition to loving strange cars with airplane engines, which you find out about later, Leno also loves rotary engines. It’s what powers this NSU Motorenwerke AG car. The 1960s-vintage West German NSU Spider was the first car to feature the Wankel rotary engine. In fact, it’s the first car to ever have a rotary engine and be sold to the public. Jay calls the styling silly but sophisticated. We call it downright strange. The car seems to be a few sizes too small for Leno, who would be more at home in a Chrysler New Yorker.
The late night comedian seems to like quirky cars and this one definitely fits in that category. The NSU Spider was expensive in its day and went up against cars like the Porsche 356 for the same price. We can see why they never caught on except for collectors like Leno.
6. 1906 Stanley Steamer
Didn’t steam power go out with the locomotive? This car in Leno’s collection has more in common with a classic train than a vintage car. It seems the late night comedian has a special place in his heart for steam power. His 1906 Stanley Steamer seems to be one of his favorites. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s probably worth a ton of money.
Because Leno actually drives every one of his cars, the steamer had some serious issues and needed help. Leno’s crack team of mechanics included a few goodies to make it a bit more enjoyable to drive. They customized the Stanley and gave it a new set of brakes from a Jaguar XK120 replacing the scary manual drums on the original car. They also replaced the acetylene headlights and oil tail lamps with electric units. They put in a bigger boiler and basically turned it into a hot rod Steamer. Strange but true.
5. 1937 Fiat Topolino
Topolino means little mouse. And apparently little mouse means little gas. You wouldn’t think Leno is worried about gas mileage, yet he bought this weird looking Fiat Toppling because it gets 50 mpg. The car was Fiat’s answer to the Volkswagen Beetle and it appears they struck out. The real reason he keeps the strange car is because Leno says women tear their clothes off when they see the car. “Women can’t resist you in this thing,” Leno said on his Jay Leno’s Garage show. Now it makes perfect sense why he would own it.
It’s one of the only cars in existence where the generator is bigger than the whole engine. It only can manage 13 1/2 horsepower yet it has a top speed of 65 mph. The engine is so small it takes up no room leaving room for tall 6 foot drivers. Maybe it’s all that room inside that Leno likes after he picks up the women chasing him?
4. 1963 Chrysler Turbine Car
There are only two of these cars left out of 55 originally built and guess who owns one. This car shows what a car fanatic Jay Leno really is. When he was 14 years old, Leno went to the World Fair specifically to see this car. How many boys that age could give a rats ass about this crazy Chrysler Turbine car? Most kids wanted to see the new 63 split window Corvette coupe (which he also owns).
A 22,000 rpm jet turbine is what powers this crazy car. This Chrysler can be fueled with anything from Mexican tequila to Channel #5 perfume. Anything that burns with oxygen. The fifty-five units were built in Ghia of Turin, Italy, shipped to the U.S. and then later completed in Detroit, Michigan between 1962 and 1964. Leno bought the car from Chrysler and it’s a one-owner car. Pretty amazing.
3. The Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic SC
When you think of Bugatti cars today we think of the super sleek and powerful 1,000 horsepower Veyron. Leno’s replica 1937 Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic is an early example of what Bugatti was up to when they first started building super cars. The house of Bugatti is known for producing some of the fastest, most exclusive cars on the planet. When Ettore Bugatti started out, he earned a reputation for advanced engineering and avant garde design, despite a lack of formal training. Only five cars were built in the company’s first year, but by 1911, Bugatti began its domination of the racetrack, winning the first ever Monaco Grand Prix.
Jay Leno’s replica of Bugati’s design was built from 1934-1940. Only 710 were ever produced and today only two are believed to be in existence. What would this car be worth if it was an original model? About $30 million. Leno drives this one on the street, too.
2. 1931 Shotwell
Have you ever heard of a Shotwell car? Don’t be surprised because no one else has either. There’s only one in existence and it’s sitting in Leno’s garage. Where did he get the strange three-wheeled car? He got a call when he was doing the late night show from the guy who built it asking him if he wanted it. The car was built by a 17-year-old kid, named Bob Shotwell, in 1931. His dad wouldn’t buy him a car and said, “If you want a car, build one yourself.” So he did. He took parts off an old Model A Ford and even put an Indian motorcycle engine in it.
Bob and his brother put 150,000 miles on the home-built car and even took it to Alaska. When Leno got it, it was worn out. Leno’s four mechanics got to work and restored the Shotwell to its original glory. It’s weird but not as strange as the next one.
1. Blastolene Special
This one we saved for last. It’s called Jay Leno’s Tank Car. You can call this a tank engine car. That’s because it has a massive 990-horsepower engine from a WWII Patton tank powering this machine. Leno doesn’t drive it too much, maybe because it only gets about two miles to the gallon? But when he does, the Blastolene Special gets plenty of attention from anyone who sees it. The thing is huge and has a 190-inch wheelbase. Try parking that in the grocery store parking lot.
This monster was originally built as a show car by Randy Grubbs. Leno bought it and of course tore into it and made it street legal. Leno is working now on putting in an Allison transmission from a Greyhound bus so he can squeeze out another 1/2 mpg. It’s only got an 80 gallon gas tank, so he needs the extra fuel efficiency.