Jay Leno is an American comedian, TV host, actor, and philanthropist. After doing stand-up comedy throughout the '70s and '80s, as well as landing roles in several television series and films, in 1992 he replaced Johnny Carson as the host of NBC’s The Tonight Show. He left The Tonight Show in 2009, but returned in 2010, leaving for good in 2014.
Naturally, Leno has made tons of money thanks to his long and successful career. Though he gives plenty of money to charity, he still has a good amount left to spend on whatever he wants. Being a massive car enthusiast, he decided to start purchasing rare and interesting models. He currently owns at least 130 vehicles and countless motorcycles. It’s safe to say that he owns more cars than entire groups of people will in their lifetime!
All the vehicles and motorcycles are stored in a climate-controlled warehouse, and Leno has even employed four mechanics who work full-time in his garage to keep everything running smoothly. Each vehicle is also licensed and street legal.
Leno’s collection is pretty diverse, with many vehicles being the coolest ever, while others are more on the weird side. Keep on reading to discover the 15 weirdest cars in Leno’s collection!
15 1931 Shotwell
Does the Shotwell ring any bells to you? No? Well, don’t feel bad because nobody has heard of Shotwell cars. Actually, only one Shotwell car exists, and - surprise, surprise - Leno owns it! This car is one of the weirdest out there because it’s a three-wheeled car! It’s a shame it wasn’t mass-produced. Maybe Del Trotter would’ve liked one!
This car was built by Bob Shotwell in 1931 when he was 17 because his dad wouldn’t buy him a car and told him to build one instead. Bob and his brother then racked up 150,000 miles on the car, driving it all the way to Alaska at one point! When Bob wanted to get rid of it, knowing that Leno is into quirky cars, he called the TV host and said it was his if he wanted it! Leno’s mechanics then got to work and restored it to its former glory.
14 Blastolene Special
Ah, the Blastolene Special. Known as Jay Leno’s Tank car, and no, that’s not a figurative nickname – it’s literally powered by a massive 900-horsepower engine from a WWII Patton Tank! This massive beast of a car boasts a 190-inch wheelbase, but since it only gets maybe two miles to the gallon, Leno isn’t able to drive it all that often.
Originally built by Randy Gibbs as a show car, Leno purchased it and put his mechanics to work in order to make the car street legal. They succeeded, but it still needs some work done in order to be used more often. Leno wants to put in a Greyhound bus’s Allison transmission so that he can achieve extra fuel efficiency. It seems like a lot of work for one car, but Leno probably loves the attention he gets while driving it!
13 1913 Mercer Raceabout
Anybody who watched the British children’s show Brum about a small replica car with a mind of its own will instantly remember that show when they see the Mercer Raceabout. Let’s face it, it almost looks like Brum’s all grown up! It makes sense since Brum was an Austin 7 ‘’Chummy’’ convertible from the '20s, and the Mercer Raceabout is from a similar time period. However, the Mercer Raceabout was more often compared to the Morgan Aero cars from that same time period.
This sports car with a chunky design stands out from its contemporaries, making it a truly rare and valuable find. As everyone knows, rare and valuable finds are right up Leno’s alley! Leno is fond of it as it cruises alongside modern traffic with ease, though the rear-only brakes are terrifying!
12 1937 Fiat Topolino
Topolino is the Italian word for little mouse. When you think about it, this car does kind of look like something that Mickey Mouse would be seen in! Maybe the name of the model was chosen because it uses little gas, 50 mpg to be exact. Fiat produced this car back in the day as a rival to the Volkswagen Beetle, but it’s clear that Volkswagen won that round! This car is probably the only car whose generator is bigger than its entire engine. The tiny engine literally takes up no room, meaning that this petite car can be driven by really tall dudes.
Although its top speed is 65 mph, it can only reach ½ horsepower, which is probably one of the main reasons why it never took off.
11 1929 Duesenberg Chassis
Brothers Fred and August Duesenberg formed the Duesenberg Automobile and Motors Company, Inc., in Iowa. The company was known for producing luxury high-end automobiles and racing cars from 1913 to 1937. The self-taught engineers were recognized as talents when Eddie Rickenbacker came 10th in 1914’s Indianapolis 500 while driving one of their cars.
The Duesenberg Chassis made headlines back in the day thanks to its 142-inch wheelbase, making it almost 12 feet! It also produced an impressive (for its time) 256 horsepower. With less than 500 produced and only half of those remaining on the streets today, the Duesenberg Chassis is one of the most desired collectibles in the world. Since Leno has arguably the best car collection out there, it was only logical for him to add it to his collection!
10 1932 Morgan Three-Wheeler
Leno’s not one to pass on a truly unique looking car, and it doesn’t get much more unique than a three-wheeled car! This three-wheeler was produced by the Morgan Motor Company, the oldest British continuous automobile manufacturer, which was founded by H.F.S. Morgan in 1909. Morgan had purchased an earlier three-wheeled car and was inspired to produce one of his own. The Morgan Three-Wheeler ran on a 4-cylinder Ford Sidevalve engine, with a maximum speed of 80 mph, though it probably felt much faster than that due to its design being much lighter than its counterparts.
Leno describes this car as one of the oddest but fun cars that he owns. Of course, his mechanics put some work into it to make it as easy as possible for him to drive in today’s conditions.
9 1962 Volga GAZ-21
The Volga GAZ-21is an old KGB staff car from the Soviet Union, which was mass-produced from 1956 to 1970. It seems pretty weird that anyone would want to own a badly put-together piece of junk from the Soviet Union, but hey, Leno probably saw the appeal in the fact that he’d probably be the only person to have it in his collection because it’s so weird!
Some of its features include a 3-wave radio, reclining front seats, a windshield washer, a lighter, a heater, and extensive rust proofing, the last two features being an absolute must for those extreme Russian winters where they have to use copious amounts of salt on the icy roads. It also has a tractor-like engine with 4 cylinders. It’s a bit difficult to imagine Leno cruising around sunny California in this!
8 1966 NSU Spider
When someone sees an old red convertible, they won’t give it much thought as most car enthusiasts own similar cars. This particular one stands out because it’s powered by a rotary engine! Leno is a sucker for cars with unusual engines!
The NSU Spider is a West German-produced car from the '60s, and it is not only the first car to be powered by the Wankel rotary engine, but also the first car ever to be powered by any kind of rotary engine and sold to the public! Back in the day, this car was as expensive as the Porsche 365, but it never really took off. That’s probably because of its engine as well its weird style. Ever the optimist, Leno will refer to a weird looking car as being silly yet sophisticated. As long as you like it, Jay!
7 1906 Stanley Steamer
This car isn’t just vintage, it’s literally ancient! Seriously, it’s probably one of the oldest cars anyone has in their collection! It’s basically a classic steam train on wheels as it runs on a steam engine, which isn’t surprising since it’s from the year 1906.
This car seems to have a special place in Leno’s heart as he’s put a lot of work into it in order to be able to drive it. Since it’s an old steam car, his mechanics needed to fix its many serious problems, but the talented bunch turned it into something that’s actually kind of cool, if quirky! They installed brakes from a Jaguar XK120 (as opposed to its original manual drums!), a bigger boiler, and put in electric units to replace the oil tail lamps and acetylene headlights.
6 1963 Chrysler Turbine Car
Now this car is definitely a true collectible! Only 55 models were originally built, and Leno owns one of the last two models that are left. Owning this car has been a lifelong dream of Leno’s. He went to the World Fair when he was 14 just because he wanted to see this car! He liked quirkier models even then, while most boys his age would have preferred the split window Corvette coupe.
What makes this car so quirky? Its 22,000 rpm jet turbine engine! It can be fuelled with anything, as long as it burns with oxygen, meaning that you can fuel it with your perfume or your bottle of tequila! Leno bought this car directly from Chrysler and it’s only been owned by him. Quite cool!
5 The Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic SC
Bugatti is known for producing some of the most exclusive and fastest cars known to mankind. Ettore Bugatti started making cars at the beginning of the 20th century, and despite lacking any kind of formal training, he quickly earned a reputation for producing cars with an avantgarde design as well as his advanced and revolutionary engineering. Bugatti won the first ever Monaco Grand Prix in 1911, thus beginning its long domination of the racetrack.
Nowadays, most people’s first association with Bugatti is their Veyron model, a sleek and powerful car with 1000 horsepower. The model Leno owns is a replica and provides a good example of Bugatti’s earlier work. Only 710 vehicles were built from 1934 to 1940, and it is believed that only two still exist. If this were an original, it would be worth $30 million!
4 1969 Lamborghini Miura S
The 1969 Lamborghini Miura S is probably the weirdest looking Lamborghini that exists. One could describe it as the result of cross-breeding a goldfish with a Transformer. Is there any surprise that Leno would want to add such a funny looking car to his collection! However, its engine is no laughing matter, as it boasts a 3929 cc V12 engine, giving it the perfect combination of quirkiness and power.
Leno first spotted this car in one of the many automobile magazines he used to read as a teenager and instantly fell in love with its unique design. To him, it was as if it came from another galaxy, especially compared to the plain car his dad drove at the time! To this day, Leno still gushes about the car, calling it one of the most beautiful automobiles ever created.
3 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado
The Oldsmobile Toronado is a personal luxury car that was produced from 1966 to 1992 by Oldsmobile. It was one of the more advanced cars of its time as it was the first front-wheel drive car that was produced after the First World War. It was also the only front-wheel drive car of that size. The contemporary look that it had back in the day is what drew Leno to this car all those years ago. Leno reckons it still has a ‘’new-age’’ feel, and that it is the perfect blend of vintage and contemporary.
The Oldsmobile Toronado had a 7-liter, 8-cylinder engine, which provided 385 horsepower. It could reach a maximum speed of 135 mph. Leno’s mechanics installed modern machinery and restored the body to its original condition to further highlight that blend of contemporary and classic.
2 Fiat 500
As seen from the photo, this particular model may not be as bizarre as some of the other ones on this list, but the reason why it’s weird is that it isn’t even a collectible! Most car enthusiasts will only purchase collectibles, but in Leno’s case, it’s enough for him to be intrigued by its uniqueness, and this model certainly does stand out! It didn’t even bother him that it wasn’t the first new model off of the assembly line that came to the US after a 29-year hiatus, but the second one. The first model was claimed by none other than the president of Fiat himself!
Leno, however, quickly changed his mind about owning it, and decided to auction it off at a Pebble Beach charity event soon after. One of the perks he threw in was a tour of his garage!
1 Chevy Vega
When people found out that Jay Leno the car enthusiast had purchased a Chevy Vega, they were puzzled to say the least. Why is that? Well, it is considered one of the worst cars to have ever been built by an American automaker, rivaled only by the Ford Pinto! The model was so bad that it caused serious financial troubles for GM, and at one point they declared bankruptcy!
Despite all of this, Leno bought the car anyway, claiming that there is no such thing as a bad car, only cars that need love and good care. He ended up regretting that decision after his wife called him panicking as part of the bumper fell off when she drove the car around a corner! Hey, at least it only cost him $150!