From his signature smirk and shouldershrugging chuckle to his impeccable delivery of jokes, Jay Leno is a downright funny guy. So funny, in fact, that he is revered around the world for his sense of humor. And so entertaining that television audiences everywhere dedicate their nights to his witty banter.
Last May, Leno stepped down from 17 years of hosting NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” leaving an indelible mark on late-night television. Fortunately for his small screen followers, the legendary comedian will soon return to the network with his own program, “The Jay Leno Show,” a prime-time talk show scheduled to debut September 14.
During his summer hiatus, Leno takes advantage of his down time by enjoying a hobby for which he has also become famous: cars. On August 14, the avid automobile enthusiast pays a visit to the Monterey Bay area to be honored with the prestigious “La Bella Macchina” award at Concorso Italiano, which happens the Friday before the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Now in its 24th year, the Concorso Italiano is a celebration of Italian style, and an event with a rich history and international reputation.
“The award is given to those who have had a meaningful impact on the automobile industry,” says Concorso owner Tom McDowell. “Most of the past recipients have been either designers or manufacturers… This is the first time we’ve recognized a collector, and we are excited to do so. “We selected Jay Leno because of his continual contributions to the car collection hobby. Jay’s…collection is world renowned and he enthusiastically shares his knowledge with those who are interested.”
Indeed, Leno has one of the world’s greatest car collections, which is housed in one of the best-equipped private garages around. At 17,000 square feet, Leno’s “Big Dog Garage” in Southern California is custom built to accommodate a huge amount of car equipment in the machine shop, a team of skillful mechanics, and a collection spanning more than 100 years of automotive history. The oldest automobiles in his assortment are a 1906 Baker electric car and a 1906 Stanley Steamer.
“I’ve heard the word ‘eclectic’ to describe his collection,” McDowell says. “He has an eye for the unusual and is not swayed by trends.” Leno’s own Italian collectibles include the 1959 Fiat Millecento and the 1937 Fiat Topolino, among his several attractive Lamborghinis.
“Jay is certainly passionate about his automobile interests, and that is backed up by his frequent presence at many of the premier automobile events around the country,” says McDowell.
At this year’s Concorso Italiano, the largest event in the world focused on Italian cars, Leno is to be part of a crowd that will embrace the nearly 1,000 collectible Italian cars, motorcycles and boats, including the anticipated largest-ever gathering of the Ferrari 288GTO in celebration of the supercar’s 25th anniversary.
Leno is also a frequent participant at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, spouting off wisecracks along with donations at the charity raffles and also winning a class award in 2004 with his 1916 Crane-Simplex.
His collection ranges from rare vehicles such as a Bugatti Atlantic, a Monteverde and a turbine motorcycle, to his treasured 1955 Buick, Leno’s first car purchase during his struggling comedian days. Leno can often be seen taking any of his cars or motorcycles out for a weekend spin.
“The ‘La Bella Macchina’ award is not for lifetime achievement as it would seem,” says McDowell. “On the contrary, I think Jay’s only getting started.”
For more information on the event or tickets to the Concorso Italiano, go to www.concorso.comor call 425/742-0632.