What does the host of 'The Tonight Show' drive? Whatever he wants. Jay Leno has been collecting and restoring cars since he was 14, when he restored a 1934 Ford V-8 truck. Since then, the comedian has managed to collect more than 30 classic cars. To get your engines running, here's a list of what I think are the six hottest rides in Jay's garage.
1- 1966 Ford GT40
When Ford sent the GT40 to Le Mans, France, and it came home with four titles, it put the car manufacturer on the map. True, Ford was already a well-known company in the '60s, but being the first American entry to win at Le Mans meant that Ford had secured its place next to the European sports car designers. Only 126 GT40s were ever built, but that didn't stop Jay Leno from getting one -- actually the first one, since his GT40 has the number one serial number).
The Ford GT40 has a total height of 40 inches, which isn't much, even by race car standards. Nonetheless, there's a lot of power packed into the small frame. It set the record at Le Mans with an average race speed of 124 mph. That's not just fast, that's fast and tough.
Best feature: Aside from being Jay Leno's top pick for best-looking American sports car, the GT40 is known for its superfast average speed.
2- 2005 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren
This car comes from good lineage. The SLR can trace its origins to three predecessors: the 1955 300 SLR roadster, the classic Uhlenhaut Coupe and the Formula 1 Silver Arrow race car. The 5.5-liter V-8 engine is hand-built, and the SLR pumps out more than 617 horsepower.
But better than the sheer speed on tap in the SLR, is its use of Formula 1 technology, notably in the body. The SLR is made of the same carbon fiber composite used in F1 cars, making it stronger and safer.
Best feature: I love the gullwing doors on this car. The front hinge gives you the ability to park it anywhere and not worry about tight spaces. Of course, Leno has his own spot at NBC, and he probably uses the valet everywhere else he goes.
3- 1966 427 Ford AC Cobra
Jay calls it his favorite car from the '60s and, according to him, it can blow the doors off a Viper. That's probably why lucky owners treat the Cobra as more of a religion than a car. Cobra clubs proliferate all across the country, and kit cars are widely available for those who can't afford to buy the real thing.
It's a popular car for two reasons: looks and speed. This car is fast, very fast. Its V-8 427 engine puts out 425 horsepower. That might not sound like much, but the Cobra has one of the best power-to-weight ratios around. Taken on looks alone, the 427 Cobra is an American classic.
Best feature: We all love engines, but the body makes the car. The 427 Cobra has a tube frame, aluminum body and coil spring chassis that not only sets it apart; it puts it well ahead of the pack.
4- 2005 Ford GT
Since it's a Ford, let's start by looking at the engine. How does 550 horsepower sound? The GT comes with a 5.4-liter V-8 that provides 500 lb-ft of torque. But this ride is also too sporty to be dismissed as just another muscle car.
The GT has a long, sleek design with great lines. But as good as it looks standing still, it looks even better carving out a fourth dimension on country roads. Just be sure to keep enough money aside for a few speeding tickets.
Best feature: I love the racing stripe option, which covers the hood roof and rear hatch. This is an all-around hot car that takes us back to a golden age for sports cars, which is probably why Leno was the second person in the United States to buy one.
5- 1995 McLaren F1
Is this the best car ever? That's what Jay Leno says, and he should know; he's one of the lucky few to own one. The concept behind this car was to give the driver racing quality performance that could be used every day.
The McLaren F1 features a custom built BMW S70/2 engine that is a 6.1-liter, quad-cam, 48-valve V12. With all that artillery, the McLaren can shoot by the competition at a top speed of 240 mph.
Best feature: To quote Jay, the McLaren F1 provides the "perfect example of form following function." This is a car built to do a job rather than look a part (although it does look hot). What really sets the McLaren apart -- and what makes it the best car ever -- is what it lacks. Look around and you'll see that this car doesn't need any modifications to make it go faster or perform better. This is the design that sets the universal benchmark for performance.
6- 1967 Lamborghini Miura P400
Jay said that he likes this car because Lamborghini's founder began his car company in response to a snub from Ferrari. When Ferrari refused to customize a car for him, Ferruccio Lamborghini went ahead and started his own company. Its history aside, there's a lot to like about this ride: Its V12 engine rockets out a top speed of over 170 mph and produces 350 horsepower.
Best feature: The slanted rear window gives a unique look to the Miura, and it's in just the right place. When you get dusted by a Miura, you'll know who beat you.
On the Road With Leno
OK, so you may not be Jay Leno, and you may not own any of these cars. But you can't fault the guy for making such good use of his money. If you could afford one of these cars, wouldn't you indulge in a few of these road babies?