Jay Leno honored to be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame – Press and Guide
Late night TV legend and car enthusiast Jay Leno doesn’t have a favorite car.
âIf I had one favorite, I wouldn’t have all of these cars,â said Leno, 71, of Los Angeles.
Leno – the former host of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” – owns one of the largest car collections in the world, which included 200 registered cars and 168 motorcycles at his last count. His cars include a 1913 Mercer Raceabout, a 1955 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing CoupÃ©, a 1963 Jaguar XK-E, a 1963 Corvette Stingray Split-Window, a 1967 Lamborghini Miura P400, et al.
Currently, host of “Jay Leno’s Garage”, winner of an Emmy on CNBC – which highlights classic cars and delves into automotive history – Leno will be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame Based in Dearborn on Thursday, July 22 at 6 p.m. at ICON in Detroit (Riverside).
âJay Leno is inducted into the Hall of Fame – the most prestigious award given to an individual in the mobility industry,â said a Hall of Fame spokesperson.
The association, which celebrates pioneers in the automotive industry, will host the induction and awards ceremony for 2020 and 2021. The 2020 ceremony was postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Leno is one of the seven inductees.
âYes, I’ve been wearing this tuxedo for two and a half years now. It’s getting a little gamey, âLeno joked.
Leno confessed to being surprised when he learned of his enthronement.
âIt’s pretty excitingâ¦ it came out of nowhere. I got a call one day. It’s quite an honor, âhe said. âI am deeply honored, I am deeply flattered. I never would have looked for it myself because I don’t think I did anything to be worthy of it compared to all the breakthroughs and famous names that have come out of Detroit. It’s nice to be in this business, even though what I’m doing is completely different.
A native of New York, Leno – the younger of two – grew up in Andover, Massachusetts. He spoke about what inspired his love of cars.
âI grew up in a rural area of ââBoston, about 20 miles from the New Hampshire border. When I was a kid, you were expected to know how to repair snowmobiles, tractors and go-karts. It was our way of getting around. You could walk through the woods in an old car without a license and no one would disturb you. These days, I don’t think kids – especially boys – are supposed to know how to fix machines. But when I was a kid, it was just obvious, âhe explained.
In his teens, Leno worked at car dealerships.
âI realized you can’t afford any of these cars while working there,â he said. âIt wasn’t just my interest, automobiles, but it was a huge interest. I was never good enough to be a real engineer or mechanic. I seemed to have a knack for acting, that’s what I did, you know?
A graduate of Emerson College in Boston, Leno entered showbiz as a stand-up comedian. In fact, he made his debut on “The Tonight Show” in 1977, doing his comedic routine. This was one of the many appearances. In 1986, Leno was Johnny Carson’s regular alternate host on “The Tonight Show”. This generated controversy as David Letterman, host of “Late Night with David Letterman,” was expected by many to be Carson’s successor – even Carson himself. This became the subject of the 1994 book, “The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno, and the Network Battle for the Night” by Bill Carter. It was later adapted into an HBO movie of the same name in 1996 with Daniel Roebuck (“The Fugitive”) as Leno and John Michael Higgins (“Happily Divorced”) as Letterman.
âI was just a comedian who was lucky enough to have a TV show,â Leno said. âAs a stand-up comedian, you can do it until you’re 80 if you give yourself the beat and play it well. I was lucky enough to have a show. I love to be a stand-up comedian.
Mark Ridley, owner of Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak, recalled when Leno first performed there.
âI brought Jay Leno over the 1983 Labor Day weekend. He and his wife Mavis stayed in an apartment I rented for comedians in Birmingham city center. I remember Jay as a very funny comedian who did a great job. Our paths crossed over the years and each time he remembered my name. The last time (I saw Leno) was three years ago when he and Tim Allen (‘Last Man Standing’) came to Comedy Castle while they were recording a segment of ‘Jay Leno’s Garage’. Once again, although very busy, he recalled playing at the club decades before and asking about the young comedians in the making. Jay is one of the best comedians and a good person, âRidley said.
Leno wrote the foreword to two of Metro Detroit author Steve Lehto’s books on the automotive industry: “Chrysler’s Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit’s Coolest Creation” and “Preston Tucker and His Battle to Build the Car of Tomorrow “.
âJay is one of the nicest people I have ever met. Real car guy – called me up to congratulate me when he heard I bought a Viper! Lehto said. âPeople ask me how different he is from the person we see on TV. I tell them, ‘This nice guy? NOT an act. Just as friendly talking about cars with a guy from Detroit as he was interviewing a Hollywood star on national television.
According to Leno, the funny thing about automobiles as a hobby is that there are a lot of books on the subject and it’s fairly new as opposed to Egyptology.
âWhen you study Egyptology, you have to go back 5,000 years,â he said. âWith cars, there are enough people around and enough old books, so you can have the full rangeâ¦ It’s just something that has always interested me. My career in show business has allowed me to start the YouTube channel and let me share interesting things with people.
Leno continued, â(If) you like automotive history, you just go back and forth. As a kid, I loved muscle cars, all GTOs and Mustangs. what happened before that? Oh, the Chrysler Seleta cars of the 1950s – they were muscle cars but in a full size car. What happened before that? The Buick Straight 8 – c “was pretty powerful. Then you had the Duesenberg before thatâ¦ Before that, you had the Mercer. Before that, you had the Stanley Steamerâ¦ You go back and forth.
Leno has a great affection for Detroit.
âI like Detroit because it’s not cavernous. Most buildings are 4 to 5 stories high and sunlight hits all of them. I like the fact that there are still flea markets and flea markets. King’s Bookstore (in Detroit) couldn’t exist in New York because someone would tear it down and set up a condo thereâ¦ I love the old school vibe of Detroit. It used to be called the Paris of the Midwest, âhe said. âI love Detroit coming backâ¦ Seeing it coming back and getting more high-tech is fun. I like this. I like this feeling. I like that it is a truly integrated city. I like the fact that the buildings don’t dominate the streets; you’re not in the shade all the time – it’s open and the weather is nice.
For questions or more information about the Automotive Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Ceremony or to purchase tickets, call (313) 240-4000 or visit https: // www. automotivehalloffame.org/ceremony/2020-induction-awards-ceremony/.