Jay Leno’s favorite kind of car show has no awards
I don’t know about you, but cars and coffees are my favorite kind of car show. I like them because there are no awards, there’s no best car/worst car, you simply show up and talk cars for a couple of hours. And I don’t even drink coffee! I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my life. OK, once, with Jerry Seinfeld on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. That was my first cup of coffee ever, and it was my last. It was terrible! Hot, acrid, awful—don’t like coffee.
On Sundays, I used to take a motorcycle out to the famous Rock Store on Mulholland. Then I got a little older, so I decided I should really be taking the cars out more. Especially if I had a TV appearance or some big show, because if I fall off a bike, I’m out. So I’ve been taking the cars, and I meet the best people. Last year at a cars and coffee, I met a 16-year-old kid, Jack Mintz, who has a ’65 Mustang. He had wanted a Mustang since he was 12, and when I met him, he had just earned his license and bought this six-cylinder Mustang hardtop. He did everything a 16-year-old could do on a 16-year-old’s budget, replacing the tires, tuning it up, and polishing everything to within an inch of its life. I had him come to the garage and we shot a video with him. Jim Farley, the president of Ford, saw it and invited Jack to Detroit, where he sat in Farley’s chair and walked the Mustang assembly line. Jack’s a Mustang guy for life now, and the whole thing was just fun. That’s what I like about cars and coffee—it’s literally anything.
Despite what you may have heard, I’m not officially involved in the Malibu cars and coffee. It started at 6 in the morning, and I would get there at 10, right as they were breaking up. I would pull in and talk to Jerry if he was there, and the TV writer Spike Feresten would hold a space for me, and I would stay maybe a half-hour and leave. But this being California, everything causes a problem with somebody and things can get out of hand.
Neighbors were complaining about the noise and guys in Lamborghinis doing burnouts, and the parking lot owner was upset. A reporter from the Los Angeles Times called and asked me what I thought. I said that it seems pretty harmless, that it’s an upscale crowd and they’re spending money on the $4 coffee and $17 turkey sandwiches with avocado, and that you’ll always have a couple of idiots doing burnouts and I understand why people get mad about it.
But the story got reported as “Jay and his gang” are taking over Malibu, and people were saying stuff like, “Maybe Leno would like it if we parked on his lawn.” But I’m not on anybody’s lawn, I’m in a parking space in a parking lot—a parking lot that would otherwise be empty! It became one of those non-stories people talk about for weeks. It even made the Daily Mail in London. The English called it “Leno’s car parade,” like I’m leading a line of hundreds of cars into Malibu.
Oh well, it’s still my favorite kind of car show. The one I go to by my place in Rhode Island is also great, and there’s definitely a difference between East Coast and West Coast collecting. On the West Coast, you often meet people who have a lot of cars. When you go to the East Coast, you meet a lot of guys who have one car, usually in a one- or two-car garage hidden away in some modest neighborhood. It reminds me of when I was a kid growing up in Massachusetts and I would see people polishing their Ford Model As in a one-car garage next to the house.
There’s a lot more personal professionalism versus professional professionalism on the East Coast, because it seems like more of the guys back east are machinists or in some other kind of manual trade and they have the whole winter to do projects on their cars. The Malibu crowd is a little different from, say, the Pomona crowd, of course. But the real “problem” is that in California, it’s beautiful almost every day, so even if you like to work on your own car, it’s hard to get started on any projects because you just want to go drive. Well, I guess that’s a problem I don’t mind having.