105-year-old Tesla-powered electric hot rod? Just another day in Jay Leno’s Garage
It’s no secret that Jay Leno has one of the most incredible and diverse collections of cars in the world, but something we may not think about is the upkeep required to service and restore his vast fleet. On this week’s episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, we catch a glimpse of the projects and restorations happening behind the scenes prior to their on-road debuts. From a Firebird Sprint to an all-electric hot rod, these are the projects you won’t want to miss.
Leno starts us off with a hybrid. Not that kind of hybrid, but the ’60s definition involving a Eurpean chassis with an American V-8—in this case, the Jensen C-V8. A 1965 model year, the C-V8 was the precursor to the more well-known Interceptor. This Jensen features aluminum and fiberglass bodywork, three-speed Torqueflite transmission, and a Mopar-sourced 383-cubic-inch V-8. A full restoration on the car is all finished, so we can anticipate that an on-screen review for this British-American bruiser is in the works.
Next up, Leno shows the progress on his Wills Sainte Claire project. The brainchild of Childe Harold Wills, a brilliant engineer who defected from Ford, these extraordinarily expensive cars of the 1920s (costing up to $4000) featured some impressive technical feats not seen in other vehicles of the time. The engine, which has been restored at the garage, is a 265-cubic-inch overhead-cam V-8 with 67 horsepower—triple the power of a contemporary Model T. The rest of the car, including the body and chassis, have been repaired, repainted, and awaiting reassembly.
Another project receiving significant work is a 1914 Detroit Electric, though it’s probably not what you’d expect. Leno jokingly refers to this car as having “Tesla power” as its 78-volt electric drive system has been removed and in its place will go a new, 400-volt powerplant. In addition to the motor swap, the garage is adding air conditioning, Bluetooth, and hidden stereo system, making this a truly unexpected tech-savvy sleeper. With four skinny, “NO SKID” tires, tiller steering (like maneuvering a boat with a rudder), and a curb weight that has to be under 2500 pounds, this phone-booth-on-wheels should also be a wild (if not terrifying) ride.
The final car on display is a baby-blue 1968 Firebird convertible, which, aside from the hood tach, appears to be an ordinary pony car. This particular example, however, is a Sprint model, featuring a four-speed manual transmission and 4.1-liter overhead-cam straight-six. The package was highly influenced by John DeLorean as a means to compete with sophisticated European sports cars, such as Jaguar’s XKE. Though the performance version with increased compression and Quadrajet carburetor had an impressive 215 hp on tap, it was ultimately overshadowed by the more-powerful and equally-affordable V-8 options of the time. Leno plans to fully restore his sprint to its former, eccentric glory.
These cars are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the featured projects, so give the full video a watch if you’re itching for more. What are your favorite project vehicles from Jay Leno’s Garage? Let us know in the Hagerty Forums below.