A Lesson In Preservation: Jay Leno And The Jag

Disclosure: This site may receive compensation from some link clicks and purchases.

Most classic car enthusiasts know Jay Leno’s Garage. And with some 3.4 million subscribers, his Restoration Blog on YouTube gets plenty of attention too. The Blog is an every-few-month progress update for fans, designed to show how Jay and his team solve the problems that crop up among his many vintage autos. Here on YouTube is a most amazing episode, detailing the discovery of a low-mileage Jaguar convertible just a mile from the Garage. As he tells it, a neighborhood policeman stops by the Garage one day and mentions that a nearby resident had passed away and that there was “some kinda car” amongst his items. So Jay goes to take a look. The house is derelict, with newspaper covering the windows and a thoroughly overgrown yard. Lo and behold, hiding in a garage under old water heaters, blankets, and whatnot is a 1963 Jaguar XKE roadster. The car has just over 17,100 miles on the clock and as we’ll see, that’s original mileage. This XKE probably lived within a mile of Jay’s Garage for as long as Jay’s Garage has been in existence.

The car is Opalescent Sand, a very unusual color. The tan interior is in nearly new condition. The car retains its full tool set, the factory-supplied Dunlop canister containing a bleeder hose, service and owner’s manuals, factory markings on the firewall, and even the fibrous “ignition wire conduit” that separates the spark plug wires between the two valve covers. That never survives. The top is original. The exhaust manifold is still the dark gray factory color – no weathering. The tires are original. This car is so new and untouched that it can be a “reference” for restorers aiming to perfect the factory look. Of course, a car like this offers a perfect opportunity to preserve – not restore. Jay shows that the radiator overflow tank must be replaced due to rust; and of course, brakes and tires will be replaced. While the tires are being renewed, the car will also receive wider wheels to improve the driving experience. But replacements will be as minimal as possible, and the crew will make no attempt to hide any of the car’s very few blemishes. What a rare opportunity to experience a car that remains as it came from the factory in 1963!

Aside from the lesson in preservation illustrated by the XKE, Jay also visits Just Dashes to interview the founders about how they renew dashboards. If you have ever had a cracked dash and needed a replacement, you probably know these guys. The photo above shows vinyl being sucked onto a TransAm dash prior to the trim and paint process, which will completely renew this piece.

As if this wasn’t enough, Jay discusses his Doble steam car which has fallen victim to a bad oil change. The result was scored engine parts, which the Garage’s machinist is remaking. The intricacy of this work is astounding. I am currently struggling to mold-cast a Studebaker backup lens, and here we have a metalworker fashioning complicated precision pieces from scratch. Enjoy his video. I certainly did!

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. HoA Howard AMember

    Weeeeeellll, yeah, that’s a nice story, but let me remind you, it’s Hollywood, baby, believe none of what you hear, and half of what you see. With modern graphics, even that last part is iffy. Don’t get me wrong, Jay Leno is about the coolest person you’d ever want to talk to, but he knows shmaltz, and MAYBE it’s true, where ever it came from. I had a short phone discussion with Jay several years back. He followed up on an email of mine, which is rare for anyone in Hollywood, we talked Packard, Diamond T, at the end, I asked, if he was looking for any help at the “Garage”, he said no, but never know. I believe the shop is kind of a secret location, although, I think it’s in Burbank near Bob Hope Airport. Once while in Burbank with my son in law, I saw Jay and a passenger driving some brass era car, and a parade of followers, so he does drive them. I think Mr. Leno wanted this low mileage Jag. The story? His team of writers will take care of that.

    Like 14
    • Dave

      How nice. So you begged him for a job, he turned you down, now nothing he does is “real”. Got it.

      Like 43
      • HoA Howard AMember

        Ah, a new “Howard Hater”, personal attack #617. What the hell are you babbling about? Where does it say “begged”? Where does it say “turned me down”? And furthermore, where does it say I don’t think Jay Leno is real? Knock it off, will ya? You are so full of it,,there, now you made me lower myself to your level, and your 11 lackeys. That’s what happens in an unmoderated forum, I gave you a story, you give us some stupid comment about nothing, and I’M the idiot,,apparently someone doesn’t know how Hollywood works.

        Like 11
    • Todd Zuercher

      It is near the airport – in a very industrial part of town (maybe that’s a lot of Burbank?). I was fortunate to get a tour of it last summer.

      Like 10
      • Robert Morris

        In 2005, myself and older son, along with15 other knowledgeable car guys, were given a private tour of Jay’s garage with Jay being the host. Jay was great; he told many jokes in the 2 hour tour but he sure knew his cars and motorcycles! He is a solid citizen and not your typical Hollywood guy. I have some 35 mm slides of tour. I need to find them!

        Like 10

      He gave you a hint in the video of the location, it is in one of the old buildings from the Lockheed martin Skunkworks organization. LMSW moved to Palmdale in the late 80’s from Burbank, and Leno acquired a few of the buildings later. Interesting these buildings “Could” have been used to develop the SR, U2, Haveblue and the Woblin Goblin, or they could have been used for much more boring task.
      Burbank at this time was a very industrialized city, and Johnny Carson’s quip of “From beautiful downtown Burbank CA” was a bit of a joke.
      He is accurate about the workers for Lockheed, as I worked for LMSW during the 90’s to early 2000’s in Palmdale (Would have much preferred Burbank) and the parking lot featured a lot of unusual cars, most were normal sports/pony/muscle cars but also Pantera’s, Lotus, Alfa’s and Ferrari’s were nut uncommon, and more than a few home built specials and other oddballs, wartburg anybody.
      As far as his garage being secret, I don’t think it is that much of a secret. If you are really into cars you will run into Leno in LA, I ran into him 3 or 4 times at a car bookstore in Burbank as well as the various shows, but meeting one of the guys that worked for him is what got me invited to the shop. I ran into him at an SAE event, and we got to talking about vintage Lancia’s, and was asked to come by and take a look at a car. I don’t think it was even called “Big Dog’s garage” at that time, I think it was just Leno’s garage. I went their 3 or 4 times to deliver parts or look at something, but I never actually saw Leno there, but this was during the time he was still working at the tonight show.
      As a side note I also met Phil Remington at the same SAE event, without knowing who Phil Remington was. He figured out that I worked for LMSW and Scaled Composites and we talked about airplanes for an hour. Someone later asked if I knew who he was, and I didn’t have a clue. I had to look him up. Never saw him again and I had a lot of questions for him.
      To Howard’s point, I had a good friend of mine who called California “The land of Illusion” which I found accurate. From talking with Leno a little and his workers more, I find Jay to be a very genuine car guy and a likeable person. But because of my experience in Los Angeles I always look at anything coming out of Cali, particularly those connected with the entertainment business with more than a bit of skepticism.

      Like 6
      • Todd Zuercher

        That sounds about right – as the main building is at least 100K sq. ft. in size. I could see it being something associated with Lockheed. I know one of the guys that works for him as well and that’s how I got an invite as well. Jay wasn’t there when I was there last year either but he did come by Autobooks/Aerobooks the next day when I was having a book signing there – made me feel like a million bucks. I’m told he comes in there nearly every Saturday morning.

        Like 6
    • Dave

      And you’re a Leno hater. “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see”? “With modern graphics even the last part is iffy?” “His team of writers will take care of the story”? So Leno just makes all this stuff up? To impress who? You? And anyone is to believe you that you’re not a Leno hater? I’m afraid it’s far too late for you to grow up. Maybe you should just comment on the car and keep all your snide comments to yourself, blowhard.

      Like 12
      • EuromotoMember

        Stipulated, Dave: Most all of us love Jay; plenty of testimony here and, indeed, everywhere else on the web. You’ve defended him with two (!) replies to Howard’s post; speaking for many, judging by all the up-votes. But I think Howard makes a point: Jay is a shrewd showman and there is no doubt in my mind that there is some embellishment to the story. The local cop just stopped in (for a donut, perhaps?) and told Jay there was some old car in a garage down the street? Give me a break. I like Jay, and I think Howard does, too.

        Like 2
  2. RoughDiamond

    Nothing at all against Jay Leno, what a great car (anything vehicle related) enthusiast. I just wish the average Joe, who’s wanted one of these their whole life, had ended up with it. IMO, I believe the celebrity thing is one reason so many restorable cars are disappearing as they get the tips from people where you and I don’t. It seems, thanks to various youtube channels, that a lot of individuals would rather sell their vehicles to some of those content creators. They could probably get more money for them in the long run selling them to individuals who always wanted those vehicles and had no plans to flip them.

    Like 10
    • Eric B

      Make the process easier that should say.

      Like 0

    Note to Jay…..

    Don’t listen to them.
    I still believe in you.

    That other guy not so much.

    But you? You have the makings of a great friend.

    Call me……

    Like 21
  4. JEV

    If I lived on a deserted island and this guy was the only vintage car restorer for my classic car, I’d walk!

    Like 0
  5. RichardinMaine

    Nothing against Leno, he’s had an enviable career and living a car guy’s dream life. And he’s going to do an admirable job of preserving the car I’m sure. But, it should have ended up with one of the little guys, like me, who had an Opalescent Sand E Type over 30 years ago, lost it in a collision, has never gotten over it and would treat her like a queen.
    But at least it didn’t end up in auction or with a butcher.

    Like 4
  6. Joe Haska

    Interesting story and comments, they all have some valid observations. When a celebrity is involved the comments become, a little biased, one way or the other. I do not know Jay Leno ,I do know several people that do know him. I met and spoke to him, very briefly one time (He wouldn’t remember it) also saw him driving one of his cars late at night on L.A. freeway ,as I was driving to red eye flight from LAX. And on top of that, I have seen him on T.V. So as you can see, I like others, I have all the credentials to comment on him, his lifestyle and if he really is a car guy. Wouldn’t it be great to be a celebrity and have all your so called friends judging your behavior.

    Like 2
  7. Jace F.

    If their goal is to preserve it as a reference car, why are they going to put wide aftermarket wheels and tires on it? Why not just keep it stock?

    Like 3
    • RichardinMaine

      ‘Wide” in this case means the 1” wider wheels from the V12 E Type.
      Looks the same; common upgrade for driveability and totally reversible.

      Like 5
  8. Howie

    Jay is the best!!!

    Like 6
    • LMK

      Jay is a credit to the hobby. He has a passion for it and has the coins to go after what he wants. And I enjoy watching. I do the same on a much smaller scale and I am completely content. Each one of my car stories can be an episode in most cases. No embellishments needed. But put a film crew behind me and some director or producer will inject the embellishments that they think will make it better.

      Like 3
  9. chrlsful

    “I know a guy, who knows a guy, who once…”
    Anyway, I very much like it when a vehicle shows up that allows the rest of us to observe & replicate something closer to the factory out put at the time of manufacture. Lotta fun for me…

    Like 0
  10. Scott HMember

    I would like to hear more about how he purchased the car. How did the policeman know it was there? Did he buy it from the family? All this information would help the rest of us have a better chance to purchase some of these cars. It can be pretty tricky getting stuff out of an estate.

    Like 0

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Get new comment updates via email. Or subscribe without commenting.

Barn Finds