A Visit To Jay Leno’s Garage

Returning from the CCI Dealer Show and 40th Anniversary Celebrations in San Jose, CA, made a stop in Los Angeles. Had to switch from a Cisco Burger lunch with Jesse James to one with dear friend Brenda Fox (after a 2-year absence, she is back full time in our biz). Took me on a very short notice to visit Legendary George Barris from Barris Kustom City in North Hollywood (story in a next post) and then to in Burbank (Jay not present because at show taping.) Although bitching at the slow pace of the LA freeways and at the “direction little lies” given by the car GPS lady voice, finally arrived on time at the gate protecting the 4 buildings where is housed one of the most beautiful and valuable collection of vintage cars and motorcycles. Warning, don’t even think rushing there. Leno’s Garage is not open to the public, and you must have some credentials to be admitted for a personal tour with Big Dog Garage General Manager Bernard Juchli. (Qtip, Brenda’s movie star Maltese dog, as you can see, got all the credentials…)

So, what did I learn? That struggling comedian Jay Leno moved to Los Angeles in 1972.  That he immediately bought the silver 1957 Buick featured above, deciding at the time that it was big and comfortable enough to be his hotel room at night, with the car parked in Comedy Theaters alleys. He got quite a few tickets for vagrancy, I guess now collectible items… It’s with this car that Jay Leno really started his collection as soon as his income increased.

Jay  doesn’t have much interest for today’s one-off custom motorcycles built from the ground up, although I saw in his garage the 50th Anniversary Custom Bike offered to him by S&S Cycle.  His interests reside in rare pieces of automotive history, whatever the number of wheels, their brands, their nationality, and propulsion: steam, fuel and now electric. Everything goes. At this date about 200 vintage cars, 100 motorcycles and a very complete machine shop with 7 full time employees  fill up all the space. Jay just bought 2 new adjacent buildings along the Burbank airport to house all the new rare pieces found or proposed to him on a weekly basis.

Everything has to be authentic or restored with original pieces or in extreme cases be re-fabricated from scratch following the original drawings or sketches. Bernard Juchli told me that there is nothing that they cannot machine inside the Big Dog shop. There are so many cars and motorcycles coming in that even if Jay would stop buying anything (of course, it’s not going to happen) all work to be done could not be completed during Bernard’s lifetime…or Jay’s. Asking if the intention was to turn this exceptional collection in a public museum, the answer is no. Jay likes it this way, very private…The visit was quite overwhelming. Too much to see and to learn in a couple of hours. I want to come back, several times. And of course I could not leave without posing next to one of his Bugattis. .

8 Responses to “A Visit To Jay Leno’s Garage”

  1. 1 Mar 17th, 2010 at 7:28 am

    Nice, very nice! Jay more than likely has the best all around collection of automobiles and motorcycles in the world.

    Boss Hawg

  2. 2 Mar 17th, 2010 at 8:24 am

    Cool pics. Jay has good taste. Restoration is an awesome task in it’s own rite. A guy really has to respect those guys who want to take an 80 year old pile of parts and turn it into the motorcycle or car it was on the day it rolled off the showroom floor. Mike Tomas of Kiwi Indian, creates some excellent examples of resto parts for Indian motorcycles. Until I spent some time with Mike, I never realized all of the time and engineering that goes into recreating some of these old parts. Thanks again for the pictures and a great story.

    P.S. I would have posed with the silver Norton……..really cool ride.

  3. 3 Mar 17th, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Bernard is 1 of the most talented all around guys I have ever come across who can create anything. Brilliant and humble.

  4. 4 J Mar 17th, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Drool….. Best toys ever…. ’55 Buick tho- Roadmaster restorod

  5. 5 Shifter Mar 17th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Lucky Cyril. Got a lot of valuable connections!

  6. 6 Mar 17th, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Thanks for the post, Cyril. I would love to see the ’66 Toronado with a twin turbo ‘Vette engine in person. (better yet, drive it)

  7. 7 Robert Barreca Jul 22nd, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    I was wondering if there is a way that someone could pay to visit Jay Lenos garage to look at and talk to the people.
    Thanks and Regards
    Robert Barreca

  8. 8 Robert Barreca Jul 22nd, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Is it possible to visit Jay Lenos Garage

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