Jay Leno and his 1916 Simplex. Click image to enlarge
By Peter Bleakney
1. Jay Leno – Probably the world’s most famous car nut, Leno keeps his eclectic collection of nearly 200 cars and motorcycles in a sprawling warehouse complex in Burbank, California. He possesses a thorough historical and mechanical knowledge of each one. There’s no real rhyme or reason to this collection. He buys what ever strikes his fancy – be it a priceless pre-war Bugatti, a Stanley Steamer or a turbo jet-powered motorcycle.
A few years ago I had the good fortune of spending a few hours with the comedian/talk show host in his magical playground. He took me for a spin in a 1909 Baker electric car, an elegant and whisper quiet 1924 Doble steam car, and then we tore up the freeways in a dead stock (looking) 1955 Buick Roadmaster sitting on a Corvette chassis with a Chevy 572 crate motor kicking out 620 healthy ponies. Leno has a full time staff of four mechanics/fabricators and a complete workshop. He’ll call ahead to have his boys ready one of the vehicles which he picks up on his way to the TV studio. If he had to pick a fave, it would be his 1995 McLaren F1. “I believe we don’t really own these cars,” he says. “We just keep them for the next owners.”
Jay Leno driving his 1925 Doble (top); Jerry Seinfeld in a 1970 Porsche 908 (photo courtesy Porsche). Click image to enlarge
2. Jerry Seinfeld – Still making gazillions of dollars from his TV show “about nothing” that ran from 1989 to 1998, Seinfeld certainly has his priorities straight. A Porsche collector extraordinaire, his assemblage of Zuffenhausen’s finest, with a value of over $10 million, is said to be the world’s largest outside of the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart.
Notable residents include a 1955 550 Spyder (similar to the one in which James Dean met his fate), a 917 Le Mans racer, the “ahead of its time” 959 (one of only 337 built), a 1970 908/03 and a Carrera GT. His first Porsche was a 911 Carrera, bought new in 1988. While much of this collection resides in California, he built a $1.5 million garage in Manhattan to house a handful of his faves.
3. Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, who is a fixture at the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed, has a penchant for exclusive vintage racing cars and, not surprisingly, the wherewithall to pursue this passion. Selling over 200 million records will do that. He keeps his collection of about 50 vehicles in a hangar in the Cotswolds. They are of the very highest quality and span all eras from the turn of the century to almost the present day.
An accomplished vintage racer in his own right (he’s raced at Le Mans five times), perhaps his most well-known possession is a priceless 1967 Ferrari 250 GTO. Other jaw droppers include a 1927 Type 35 Bugatti, 1955 D-type Jaguar, Maserati 250F and Birdcage, 1990 Porsche 962, McLaren F1 GTR, Gilles Villeneuve’s 1978 Ferrari 312T3, a 1931 Alpha Romeo 8C 2300, and the requisite Ferrari Enzo.
Mason says, “These cars only achieve their true beauty being driven near the limit of their potential.”
A few years ago, Mason decided his cars should earn their upkeep, so to speak, making them available for hire for videos, movies or promotional work through his company Ten Tenths. Not all are priceless icons – he also has a Trabant and an original Model T Ford gag car owned by Coco the Clown.