Jay Leno

Inducted 2020

1950 -

Jay Leno uses his celebrity status to heighten storytelling of the history and importance of all things auto in his Emmy Award winning show, “Jay Leno’s Garage.” Leno has turned his passion into a television series that explores the cultural obsession with all things automotive. Jay covers classic cars to supercars and everything in-between. He showcases technology, innovation and colorful history of the automobile.

Jay Leno was born in New Rochelle, New York in 1950. He grew up in Andover, Mass., and attended Emerson College earning a Bachelor’s Degree in speech therapy. While in college, Leno was known for his stand-up comedy, starting a comedy club in 1973, but he was also known as a car and motorcycle aficionado. Leno’s comedy career eventually began and he became the host of The Tonight Show in 1992 and hosted until 2013 (officially). It was in 2013 that Leno began hosting, “Jay Leno’s Garage,” which started as a mini web series for NBC.com. Today, the show airs on CNBC, which explores our obsession with all things automotive. From classic cars to supercars and everything in between, Leno hits the road to discover the most exciting, weird and wonderful vehicles ever made.

Leno’s passion is evidenced in his massive car collection – one of the largest and most expensive car collections in the world, with approximately 286 cars and counting. Each one-hour themed episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage” features a mix of stunts, challenges, reviews, and celebrity interviews that showcases the colorful history of the automobile. Whether he’s exploring the story of an iconic brand, road-testing the newest super car, or investigating the latest automotive innovations, there is no wheel Leno won’t get behind and to tell the story of our love affair with the car.

As for his collection, it includes several Duesenbergs, eight steam-powered cars including an original 1912 Stanley Steamer, a rare 1913 Mercer Raceabout, and a 1918 Stutz Bearcat, a 1964 Studebaker Avanti, and many more. His passion for classic cars led him to an affiliation with the Automobile Restoration Department at McPherson, Kansas. He is an honorary member of the National Advisory Board for the college’s automotive restoration program and helps fund the Fred Duesenberg Memorial Scholarship.

This work is important in its simplicity and purity. The subject matter is squarely at the center of each show and is heightened by familiar and well-known personalities without the slightest attempt to pander to people who do not eat, sleep, and breath motor vehicles. In this way Jay Leno’s work has the proven capacity to bring the uninterested lay person into the fold of the car obsessed, opening-up the marvels of innovation and invention to new audiences. He has inspired people to enjoy automobiles, from the most prosaic to the most exotic. There’s something in every machine that draws his interest, he knows the stories of the people who built them as well. He is truly America’s automotive ambassador.

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Class of 2020

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