Wednesday 10 November 2010

Jay Leno’s Garage....

What seems like a very long time ago, when I was in Milwaukee, I met a guy called Jim, an independent TV and Film producer / director. He is into British motorbikes and we met at a meeting of the British Biking Cooperative. Jim told me about a film he is making about a drag bike called the Hogslayer and I wrote briefly about it on my my blog post about Milwaukee.

I told him of my tour plans and my route and he offered something very special to me....

Jim said he could arrange for me to see Jay Leno’s private car and bike collection. As he said it, there was a simultaneous loud clunk – that was my jaw hitting the floor.

Well, if you know about these things, you will know that this collection is getting to be very famous and I couldn’t wait to see it. The weeks went by and I wondered if Jim would be able to arrange this for me and a short while ago I contacted him with my dates for when I would be in the LA area. As good as gold, Jim got back to me very quickly and on Monday I rode to Jay’s Garage and had a two and a half hour tour of this very special collection of cars and bikes.

Jay doesn’t permit photos to be taken of the collection and so I had to leave my camera behind, but believe me, this collection is stunning and it spans over 100 year of automotive history. There are cars there that would make your eyes water, some wonderfully restored and others untouched since they were built. There are wonderful bikes, including some of the most iconic ever made. Some of the bikes and cars are very rare indeed and it was a privilege to see them. I was pleased to see that for one of the cars in his collection, I have exactly the same car!

I was taking around by Bob, who has worked with Jay for a long time and he knew the details of just about every car and bike there. His knowledge was incredible.

What really surprised me was after seeing the collection, I was taken into the workshop, which I didn’t even know existed. This place would rival many commercial workshops, with CNC machines, water jets, a paint booth and just about everything else you could imagine could be found in a workshop. I chatted with the team there who are all very enthusiastic car and bike people.

Jay is obviously very into vehicles of all kinds and I understand he goes to his garage almost every day, but sadly he was not there when I was. I would have loved to have met him.

As a real bonus, Jim had also arranged for me to get a VIP ticket for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which I went to on Monday. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the main guest talking about how he feels as he nears the end as his term as Governor of California. It was very interesting seeing the show recorded and I was surprised at how technical the show is and how stressful for everyone involved, especially Jay. He was getting briefings from a person who was either the producer or his assistant (I don’t know) during the commercial breaks and the pace was certainly fast. No wonder Jay has grey hair!

Overall, it was a FANTASTIC day and one I will remember for a long time.

Jim, thank you very much for arranging everything – you are a real star.

Jim is going to visit the UK soon. Jim, make sure you get touch with me and I will arrange some things for you in return – nothing on the scale of what you did for me, but I will do my best!

I am one seriously lucky guy!


Paul said...


Beck said...

WOW! You are a blessed dude! You just happened to meet this person, who made you a remarkable promise to view Jay Leno's collection and then kept it, plus a VIP ticket to boot, to view a show. Lucky you!

682202 said...

What an amazing opportunity! Congratulations!

iansolley said...

fantastic opportunity - well done!

Oz said...

That is so awesome! You hit grand slam on that one. Shame no pictures. Glad you got the opportunity to see his collection.

FLHX_Dave said...

Man, this has been hard to keep to myself. You know what is so cool about this Gary? What is so cool about this is that you are just an all around good guy, who had no chip on his shoulder, who took the time to chat it up with someone you just met. For being unassuming and genuine you gained access to something that almost nobody will ever get the chance to see.

Ok, the cars are great and all, and that's exciting, but what really trips me out is how you got there...a little luck, which seems to follow you continuously, also came into play but still...Wow brother! Now we have to talk to Jay about the camera policy...that blows!

Your journey is amazing to me in that aspect and gives validity to the whole "It's about the ride and not the destination." Love it, Love it.

Unknown said...


You lucky Duck ! Guess you've changed your idea of LA now, EH ?

I can only imagine how it was like in Jay's Garage. It was featured on Discovery Channel a year or so, ago along with the motorcycle building. But since then he has closed his garage for tours, due to some "problem"

Wet Coast Scootin

Canajun said...

A thrill of a lifetime indeed. And I love the way it happened - a friend of a friend.... FLHX_Dave nailed it.

GF said...

I am glad you had the opportunity to see his cars and garage but he's a pompous a$$ not allowing people to take pictures. I guess if you paid him enough he would allow. What the hell does he want all his cars and bikes for? at least he could let non "millionaires" take pictures. Maybe he's afraid guys like us will publish a book about his cars. I'm sorry, I don't appreciate his type. I have four cars in my house, anyone can take a picture of them. It would be the same if I had 100, it would actually be a pleasure and I would be proud.

Eve said...

When you told me to look for some really great cars coming up, I thought to myself, I bet Gary is going to Jay Leno's Garage!! You'll have to keep good memories on that one Gary, since you couldn't get any we say here in the south...DANG!!!!

redlegsrides said...

You're truly a fortunate fellow....too bad for us that you couldn't take pictures of course but then again, its something you'll never forget. I wonder though, why no pictures? It's not like his cars and motorcycles have not been on several "specials" on TV.


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Axel said...

Amazing, what a great opportunity.
I can understand Jay not allowing pictures to be taken, its not a museum, and envy is around the corner. Real envy, as we can already feel in some comments and myself, and criminal envy. So better keep this private collection what it is: private, open for private viewings.
You are a lucky guy Gary...

IHG said...

That is so awesome! Jay Leno is a good guy. My father had a collector car that he wanted to sell and he sent photos of it to Jay Leno asking if he'd like to purchase the car. One night my mother answered the phone and a man asked for my father. When my father got on the phone he said well hello Jay, thanks for calling. Jay Leno called my father about the car. He did not purchase it but gave my father some ideas of places he could try to sell the car at. I liked him before but after that he jumped up on my list of cool people.

Gary France said...

Paul – Indeed.

Beck – I didn’t know whether it would come off, but Jim came through just as he said he would.

Gordon – Yes, it was amazing.

Ian – It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Oz – It was a shame about the pictures, but I was just pleased to have the chance to have a look at the collection.

Dave – Thanks for you kind words. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time to have the chance to meet the one person who could arrange this. I have never considered myself to be a lucky person, but throughout my whole trip across the US, luck has been just about everywhere I have been, so I have to revised my view! This whole trip has been about the ride. There have been many destinations, many great places to see, and many wonderful people to meet, but it is the ride that ties it all together.

Bob – There is one part of LA I will always look back at fondly. If you try to imagine what seeing over 100 cars and over 100 bikes is like, then triple it, that is how good it was!

Canajun – A friend of a friend can often open many doors....

George – I really didn’t mind about not being able to take pictures, as I just considered it a privilege to be there. I don’t know why he doesn’t allow pictures, but I am sure he has his reasons. I did learn something from my day though. Jay is a real car and bike guy. He buys them not to show them off, but to drive and ride them, which he does almost every day. He is very interested in the mechanics of the vehicles and collects them if they are unusual in their design. While he has a team working for him, he gets his hands dirty and works on the cars and bikes himself. He is genuinely interested in the vehicles, so he went up a lot in my estimation.

Eve – LOL. It was clever of you to think of that. Good memories indeed. It would have been nice to have got pictures, but I was happy with seeing the collection. I kept saying wow and we went around!

Charlie6 / Dom - I am very fortunate indeed. I thought about asking why no pictures, but I didn’t. It didn’t seem right to ask somehow and besides, I could hardly speak for all the drooling....

Axel – I am not sure why, but you might be right. My luck on this tour seems to be continuing....

IHG – That is a great thing to have happened. I didn’t get to meet Jay and that was a real shame, but from what I was told about him, telephoning to give your father some ideas seems like just the sort of thing he would do. He sounds like a really genuine and down-to-earth guy. That is a very good thing.