Long before Jay Leno became an international celebrity, he was spinning wrenches at a local car dealership. While there, he crossed paths with Paul Annunziata, a brilliant mechanic with a penchant for Mopar muscle. While Leno was busy doing stand-up comedy and working his way toward network television, Annunziata was doing something really interesting: building a street-legal pro-stock drag car out of a 1975 Duster. After winning $10,000 in the lottery, he started with a body-in-white chassis before snapping up a 426 Hemi V8 from a Super Bee. Not satisfied with wedging an impossibly huge engine into the confines of the Duster's engine bay, Annunziata bolted on a massive Roots blower.

The rear of the body had to be tubbed to keep the tires under the factory sheetmetal, and the Duster also underwent extensive engine bay modification to house its new powerplant. Even so, everything on the machine is fully functional as it would have been from the factory.

Unfortunately, Annunziata was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Rather than sell his pride and joy, he offered it to Leno for free under the stipulation that he never sell the machine. Leno agreed, but only if he could actually pay Annunziata for his creation. The two compromised by setting up a scholarship for those who are interested in pursuing a four-year degree in auto mechanics or restoration. We call that a win on every front. Scroll down to see Leno take the 1,000 horsepower Duster out for a run.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 38 Comments
      protovici
      • 2 Years Ago
      Roots blower + Hemi = Hell on wheels.
        ngiotta
        • 2 Years Ago
        @protovici
        While I agree that a Hemi with a giant blower is awesome, there's no denying: Roots blower + Cammer > Roots blower + Hemi
      JD
      • 2 Years Ago
      Jay is such a class act, truly a gentleman.
      johnb
      • 2 Years Ago
      What a great tribute to Mr Annunziata. I loved when Leno said "I wish I had this car in HS." That about sums it up.
      snap_understeer_ftw
      • 2 Years Ago
      every car has a story some are just more legendary than other RIP, homeboy. you were definitely a gearhead
      AMG THIS
      • 2 Years Ago
      Great video and tribute. I remember seeing my first pro-street car driving on the street back around 93/94 and thought it was the coolest thing ever (fully tubbed yellow 87 Monte Carlo SS). I am sure his duster had the same effect on many kids as well. God bless
      AE86
      • 2 Years Ago
      That car is too cool. RIP to him wish I knew someone like that in my life who was that into cars. But what happens to all these cars one Jay leno passes away ?
        JaredN
        • 2 Years Ago
        @AE86
        I'd bet that Jay Leno and his stable of estate planning of attorneys have already addressed that in his will. It would not surprise me if his estate is required to keep the collection as a museum, or that his estate will donate his collection to an existing museum (e.g., the Peterson). Either way, he has more than enough money to create an endowment that will care for the vehicles indefinitely.
        Brian
        • 2 Years Ago
        @AE86
        I hate to think about the world without Jay the car guy.
      4gasem
      • 2 Years Ago
      Paul was 4 years younger than my dad... RIP Paul!
      Doug Danzeisen Sr
      • 2 Years Ago
      Cool car, great guy and a wonderful story- Jay Leno has one of the most varied collections of all time- what a class act he is to share these marvelous machines with us. Thanks Mr Leno!
      Xedicon
      • 2 Years Ago
      Totally badass car, love it! Glad to see the car found a good home, even if it won't get driven much. Rest easy Paul, you earned it!
      Cesar
      • 2 Years Ago
      That's one sweet ass ride.
      Travisty
      • 2 Years Ago
      Great, amazing story. I'm not a huge fan of Leno the comedian, but Leno the car guy is one of my idols. And Paul was only 63 years old... If that's not an anti-smoking PSA I'm not sure what would be. (Based on the assumption that his lung cancer was due to smoking. If it was due to genetics/asbestos/other, I apologize)
      Skean
      • 2 Years Ago
      That is a genius build, Mr A. There is a late 60s Mustang fastback that rolls around Jeffersonvilke IN with a similar setup. I giggle with glee every time it rolls by; I bet Jay does too when he takes that for a spin.
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