In addition to collecting, restoring and customising a garage filled with literally hundreds of rare and valuable vehicles, the US comedian has written regularly about the topic for a range of publications, and produced dozens of videos for his YouTube channel, Jay Leno’s Garage. He is also generous with his vehicles. As a consistent supporter of organisations that help care for US soldiers, Leno has auctioned a number of cars, with all proceeds going to charity.
Leno got an early start to the giving season, donating a 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT, one of the very first built, to Gooding & Company’s January 2015 sale in Scottsdale, Arizona. It would go on to sell for $360,000, and other bidders would add another $205,000 in donations, for a total benefit to the USO – an organisation providing entertainment programming to US soldiers – of $565,000.
Leno recently took time to discuss charity, his coming programme on US cable news channel CNBC, and the controversy around his recent encounter with the police in a new Chevrolet Corvette Z06.
Brett Berk: How did your charity consignment for the Scottsdale auctions come about?
Jay Leno:We’ve sold a lot of vehicles to raise money for the Wounded Warrior programme, or the Fisher House [nonprofit organisations that benefit wounded US veterans]. This will be the first one that we’ve done for the USO. I went over to Afghanistan a few months ago and did some shows with the USO at Bagram Air Base, and it was great fun meeting everybody. People kind of forget about the USO a little bit. Not that it’s fallen by the wayside, but they need money, too. I think that entertaining the troops is as important as any of the other things. Plus, 100% of the money we raise goes to the charity. We don’t deduct for the transportation of the car. I don’t think Gooding even takes a commission on it.
Something that really annoys me are these charities where only 10% or 18% go to the soldiers and the rest goes to “administrative costs”. You know what kind of sleazy, crooked thing that is.
Tell us a little bit about the car you sold?
It’s car number four, it’s one of the very first Challengers built. We put new tires on it.
Assuming you drove the old ones right off of it?
No, not really. The car only had 2,200 miles on it. It’s like a brand new car. It’s a collector car. It was one of the first batch of Challengers built. But the tires are now eight years old, or whatever it is, so we put new tires on it before we sold it to somebody. And changed the oil. And I sent it to Chrysler to have them go over everything and make sure it’s fine, and it is.
You don’t buy at the auctions, do you?
I… I’ve kind of got everything I need.
But is there anything you’re looking for, or looking at?
I like everything that rolls, explodes, and makes noise.
I like everything that rolls, explodes, and makes noise. But there’s nothing I’m really looking for.
What is the basis of the show you’re doing for CNBC?
It’s gonna be a car show, so that will be fun. It’s still all pretty new. It’s not going to be one of these restore-a-car-in-a-week shows. We’ll do a lot of history and driving.
You had an adventure recently in a Corvette Z06 that seemed to go a bit wrong.
Yeah, that was great fun. That’s a great car. A terrific car. It is the best value car for the money that there is. It’s really unbelievable.
You got pulled over, correct?
Ahhh. There’s all kinds of rumours. You never know what to believe.
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