Jay Leno Motorcyclist | Exclusive Interview

2009 Concours d’Elegance

Late night talk show host, Jay Leno, is well known for his insatiable fascination of cars and motorcycles. His first foray into motorized vehicles was as a teenager on an old mini-bike. Much to the horror of his mother he took off on his maiden voyage across a rutted field next to the family home, being bounced around on the rigid frame, feet off the pegs, dirt in his teeth. It was true love.

In the ensuing years Leno’s fame and fortune have allowed him to build an exemplary collection of automobiles and motorcycles that encompass an impressive range of years and makes. Today his three-hangar garage is seeded with beautiful examples of extraordinary machines. Along the way Leno has become the de facto ambassador of the Concours d’ Elegance, often showing cars and providing his famous schoolboy enthusiasm for all things motorized.

Jeff Buchanan spoke with Jay Leno one-on-one August 14th at the 2009 Concours d’Elegance.

UMC: What are your thoughts on the Concours’ decision to include motorcycles at an event known for ardently and exclusively showcasing four-wheel vehicles?

Jay Leno: "I’ve been coming here since 1980. We’ve come to a point where all motorsports (enthusiasts) can appreciate what other people do. I think if you’re a Deusenberg or a Bugatti guy, you can look at a Brough Superior and go, ‘Wow, look at the engineering on that.’ Motorcycles are different than cars, especially antique motorcycles, they tend to wear all their mechanicals on the outside, like early cars."

UMC: How would you sum-up the prestige of the Concours?

Jay Leno: "What this is…. is it gives your vehicle provenance. You can prove the mother is Lassie and the father’s Rin Tin Tin, and this is the puppy. There are so many fakes out there, you come here, experts look at it and give you a sheet of paper saying your car or your motorcycle is 100% authentic. When I was a kid everybody was selling Rollie Free’s famous 150 MPH Black Lightning. A lot of people would buy those things thinking they had the original bike. Well, you bring it here, you get the sheet of paper and you get the numbers matching document that tells you this is the real one. And that’s the nice thing about this (Pebble Beach)."

UMC: After visiting the motorcycle exhibit and later taking the limited-reproduction Brough Superior Motorcycle for a spin, what are your thoughts on that bike?

Jay Leno: "It’s fun to see people bring back the history because, to me, driving an old bike fast is so much more fun than riding a modern bike fast. I can’t make a GSX-R do what it can do, I can’t come close. But with an old bike, like my Harley WR race bike, or my Brough Superiors, it’s great fun to go 70, 80, 90 MPH and feel like you’re going 150. You’re actually involved with the bike."

UMC: Do you intend to bring one of your motorcycles to a future Concours?

Jay Leno: "Maybe, some day," then after thinking about it, added, "(but) I don’t have the time to sit there with a Q-Tip and get around all the pieces."