There must be something in the water trough that stand-up comedians drink from — two of the biggest, most fanatic car collectors are funnymen Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld.
Lantern-jawed Jay has 107 vehicles, including super-rare Bugattis and Duesenbergs, but the flat-out raw speed of one ultra-special car makes him pick it out as probably his favorite. It’s the million-dollar McLaren F-1. That’s F as in Formula One. Developed by McLaren racing engineers, the 627-horsepower car has been officially certified as the world’s fastest production line vehicle. It leaps from zero to 60 in 3.4 seconds and tops out on the asphalt at 240 miles an hour, or a blurred-out mile every 15 seconds.
Only 64 were ever made, but fashion designer Ralph Lauren acquired two of them and another comedian — the rubber-faced Rowan Atkinson — got another. Sadly, Atkinson, aka Mr. Bean, was driving his burgundy F-1 at less than 30 mph when he rear-ended another car — and did so much damage the F-1 had to go for a factory rebuild.
Leno has another unlikely favorite in his collection: an ancient three-wheeled, two-cylinder, chain-driven Morgan.
“It’s pretty loud,” says Jay. “It goes, ‘Pow-pow-pow.’ I’m on Mulholland Drive and I come sliding around this corner and I see a cop with his radar gun and I think: ‘I’m screwed!’ ‘Then I go by and he goes: ‘Hi, Jay, how are you?’ and I realize I’m only going 33 miles an hour. It’s so frightening in this thing. It’s the kind of car where you’re scared to death, you’re holding on for dear life and girls are passing you, applying lipstick in their Honda Civics.”
Late-night Leno also owns a Lamborghini Miura; a 1932 Packard Twin Six 12-cylinder coupe; a 1913 Mercer; several Bugattis, Duesenbergs and Lamborghinis; two Stanley Steamers; a 1956 Chrysler Imperial; a 1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi; A Dodge Viper; and a 1955 Buick Roadmaster.
“I believe we don’t really own these cars,” he says. “We just keep them for the next owners.”
Jay’s comedy counterpart Jerry Seinfeld also is an artist at collecting cars, but unlike Jay, who admits he’s “stuck in the ’60s,” Jerry focuses on decade-old Porsches. He spent $1.4 million and two years having a 20-car garage-gallery built in Manhattan for his mechanical masterpieces.
The collection’s centerpiece is a $700,000 Porsche 959, one of only 200 ever built. To Jerry’s frustration, he isn’t allowed to drive it. US government emissions and crash-test standards have never been tested on the car because Porsche refuses to hand over four vehicles for destruction tests. Jerry, therefore, has had to bring in his rare Porsche under an “exhibition only” clause — the car must never set rubber on an American road.
Included in Jerry’s collection is a 1959 straight-16 GT speedster; a Porsche 911S; a 1955 Spyder 550 — the same model and pearl-grey color actor James Dean was driving when he crashed and died in September 1955 near Cholame, Calif. At a recent count, Jerry had 47 Porsches parked in his garage. Jerry loves Porsches so much he gave his wife, Jessica Sklar, a 1958 Porsche 1600 Speedster as a wedding present in 1999. The car cost him a reported $40,000, chump change for the yada-yada king who topped Forbes magazine’s list of top-earning celebs of 1998, when he raked in $267 million.