With all of this success comes the inevitable collection. Fortunately for us, Gabriel has decided to forego hoarding American Bisque cookie jars or Vargas Girl paintings, and focus instead on cars. He now has quite an eclectic collection featuring everything from a 2013 Audi A8 to a 1979 Trans-Am signed by Burt Reynolds.
We gave Gabe a call to discuss the motivations behind his collection, and to tell his life story through his cars.
Autoblog: You grew up in California with five siblings? That's a lot of kids to cart around. What vehicles did your mom drive in your childhood?
Gabriel Iglesias: I have four sisters and a brother, but I'm the last of six. So by the time I showed up, everyone was up and gone. I basically grew up with just my mom and myself. Around then, my mom had a Rambler, and a Ford Maverick, and a Dodge Dart.
What kind of car did you learn to drive on?
I learned to drive on a 1988 Ford Escort. That's also how I learned how to drive stick. My sister took me out into a mall parking lot, and I learned how to drive and learned how to drive stick in the same car.
And is that the car that you passed your driver's exam on as well?
No, actually, my sister didn't want to let me use her car for the DMV test, so a friend of mine let me borrow her Toyota Camry, to take the test. It was automatic. I didn't want to work with the stick anyway during the test. So I took the test in a Toyota Camry and I passed it in that.
Any problems in passing the test?
No, I was good at driving. I just wasn't good at the reading/writing part. That's the one I had problems in.
So when you started to work, what was the first vehicle you bought?
Well, before I became a comic I had a job selling cell phones. This was the late '90s. The first car that I had was a 1968 Volkswagen Transporter – a Volkswagen bus. And this bus was torn up, man. I got it for a few hundred bucks. I was just happy that it got me from A to B, and I tried my best not to take it out on the freeway.
Did you ever have any mishaps in that on the freeway?
Not necessarily mishaps, but just knowing that I wasn't fast enough to keep up with the rest of the traffic just really scared me. And there was so much play in the steering wheel that it was like sailing a boat, where you gotta' anticipate the turn coming up. You'd have to start turning it before you got to where you were gonna' turn.
Wow. So what was next car you bought?
Right after that I got a gold 1985 Delta 88. And then right after that one, I made a little bit of money, and I got myself a Regency 98. It was basically the same car, but much nicer. And that thing was like a boat, dude. So I had that car for a while and then once comedy started kicking in, I said you know what, I'd like something more recent. And I wound up getting myself a Volkswagen Beetle Turbo. They'd just come out with the new edition of the Beetle, and I drove the turbo version of that, and I just fell in love with it. And then once I did my big deal with Comedy Central, I bought a Hummer H2. I had this little tiny car, then I had this giant monster of a car. And then the following year was really, really good, so I bought a second Hummer, and I sold the Beetle. So there was a point in time when I had two Hummers.
We got a list of some of the cars you have now, it's sort of a crazy collection. There's a lot of vintage and new vans and SUV's. There's a Trans-Am, a Tesla, an Audi. If you had to describe something that unites all of these vehicles, what would you say it is?
I love driving them all. If I don't like the car, I don't keep the car. But I still get stuff from each and every one of them when I can. That's funny, I sound like my friend talking abut his dates. I get a little something from all of them, you know? I give them all attention, start them all up, take them all out individually so they all know that I do care.
There's a whole bunch of vans and SUVs. Do you have a big family, or do you just like a big vehicle?
No man, it's just my girl my son and myself. I recently bought a building where I run my online clothing company. But it allows me to start getting crazy with my mini car collection. I have a huge fascination with Volkswagen buses. Since that was my first car, I always wanted to have it back. So I went out and bought myself a 21-window bus. Well, after I had the bus I got invited to go to Jay Leno's Garage. They featured the bus on the show, but I mean, just hanging out with Jay – and Jay has one of the most impressive car collections. Oh man, it was inspiring.
In fact, I had so much fun hanging out with him, and driving around town, that I said, you know what? Who says I can only have one bus? So I talked to my guys who helped me get the first bus, and I got a second one. I went from a 1966 Volkswagen 21-window bus, and the second one I got was a 1967 21-window bus. I was like, man, this car's nice. And then I saw online a 1956 Wolfsburg Edition 23-window bus, which is super rare. And I wound up like, why not? Let's go for broke. And I got a phone call from my accountant, and he goes, "What the hell are you doing?" He goes, "You've never done this before I'm concerned." I go, "Well, I've decided to become the aficionado of Volkswagen buses."
So did he let you get the third one?
Yeah, yeah, I got the third one. I'm actually gonna' get a fourth one soon. I'm gonna' get a truck version. And what's really cool is the TV show Tanked – with the fish tanks and stuff like that? They came over to my building, and I told them how I'm starting to collect Volkswagen buses, so they're gonna' build me a fish tank, and it's gonna' be an actual Volkswagen bus converted into a tank, or a tank in the shape of a Volkswagen bus.
That sounds hilarious.
Yeah. That's my thing. I like these cars. They're simple. They're easy to keep. Don't get me wrong, I'm also getting a Dodge Hellcat. But, you know, I'm pretty extreme. I like really, really fast, or really, really slow. Maybe that's the pattern. I'm pretty extreme-either I'm driving a Volkswagen Bug, or I'm driving a Hummer. Really fast, really slow. Really big, and really small.
If you had to get rid of all of your cars except one, which one would you keep?
Oooh. You know what? I've thought about that. I guess if I could only keep one, it would be the Chrysler 300. I like this car because it looks stock, but under the hood it's a monster. And I put Lambo doors on it. I like this car because I can drive it around and no one messes with, it but it still looks cool. And all the other cars, I'm so paranoid about going out in them. I have to know where I'm going first. If there's a nice lit area, if there's valet or something, then Ill do that, but otherwise, I'm just kinda' like, errr.
Do you have a dream car, something you've always longed for?
You know what? The fact that I have that Volkswagen bus that, for me, was the dream car. So I was very excited that I was able to get it, that Jay liked it, that I was able to feature it. It was so cool, you know? I had finally gotten it, I'm enjoying it. Will I buy more cars? Absolutely. I got the Tesla. But now I find myself looking at the BMW I8.
Oh yeah, it's very nice. A lot of fun.
So I got a call from Jay, and he goes, "I heard you're looking for one of these. There's a long waiting list for it." But he goes, "I know a guy." I just thought it was funny that he said it like that. "I know a guy." So I go, "Well, if you know a guy." So we're probably gonna' go look at that car together. I told him, I said, "I'm kinda' nervous," 'cause I'm a big dude, and I just want to make sure I fit right in that car before I decide to go for it. We're gonna' have a little play car day.
Last question. What's the most embarrassing thing that's happened to you in a car?
In my first Volkswagen Bus, I was constantly being stranded in different places, because I'd flood the carburetor, or there were issues with the starter. But you know, that was then. I wasn't Gabriel Iglesias yet, I was just, just some poor kid stuck on the side of the freeway. So when I got my new 21-window bus, I was so pumped up, I just wanted to drive this thing everywhere. And sure enough man, I took it to the gas station, flooded the carburetor like an ass, and then there was an issue with the starter too, I couldn't get it started. So I'm stuck at this gas station, and I was getting recognized this whole time. They see me working on the car, and they're like "you alright?" Then they realize it's me, and nobody wants to help me fix the car, they just want to take pictures. So next thing I know, I'm pushing the van myself to get it started to roll it and pop the clutch. There's people taking pictures. I guarantee you, there's pictures of me somewhere online, of me pushing this bus.