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    Recently I bought a home in Newport, Rhode Island. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in America as well as the home of some of America’s earliest motorists, none more prominent than Willie K Vanderbilt. He was not only one of the richest men in America, but also one of the automobile’s staunchest advocates. He used his great wealth to promote racing whenever he could. He even had his name on the first major open auto-racing event, the Vanderbilt Trophy.

    / #1976-BMW-2002 / #1976 / #BMW-2002 / #BMW

    In 1904, Willie K, in a Mercedes, set a World Land Speed record at Daytona Beach, Florida, of 92.30mph. He was often seen racing his Pierce-Arrow down Newport’s ritzy Bellevue Avenue. So it was fitting that a concours should be held in the grounds of his massive 70- room mansion, The Breakers. I’ve been attending automotive concours events for over 40 years, but I’ve never really had much input in putting one together until now.

    The man behind this undertaking is Nick Schorsch, owner of the Audrain Auto Museum in downtown Newport. Nick is one of the most committed enthusiasts I’ve ever met. How he convinced General Motors to release to his museum its rarest and most groundbreaking concept cars, such as the Buick Y-Job, the Firebird III and a handful of others for an exhibit called ‘Styling The Future’, I have no idea. My good friend and professional auto appraiser, Donald Osborne, and I were asked to lend our support. Donald works with me on my TV show, Jay Leno’s Garage. With the staff of the Audrain Museum we were able to secure 40 of the automotive world’s best judges from five different countries, along with 98 world-class automobiles from 1899 to 1970.

    Unlike a lot of concours events, the emphasis was not on technical restoration of the vehicles but on the story. The theme of our event was History, Luxury, Sport, so any vehicle that had all three could easily beat another which was missing one of them.

    I also thought we should trim down the number of awards. A lot of concours events have become like Little League, where every kid is a winner and everybody gets a trophy. And when sponsors get involved it can become mind-numbing. To keep the award presentations brief, second and third places were given to the owners on the field and only the class-winners drove up to the podium. For the record, the Best in Show went to Joseph and Margie Cassini for their 1927 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A S Roadster, commissioned by film star Rudolph Valentino.

    Of course Newport is a very high-end area with 30 or 40 mansions built at the turn of the last century, mansions no-one could afford to build today. Some remain, and Bugatti, Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz were each able to rent one right on the water to show off their wares. The Bugatti one was like a French château. It all made for a good atmosphere for the event.

    My contribution, though, was more rooted in the hoi polloi. I worry a bit about the greying of our hobby and how millionaires end up competing against billionaires. Where, I often wonder, is the next generation of enthusiasts going to come from?

    So I came up with the idea of an event called ‘30 under 30’, for men and women 30 years of age or younger, who spend no more than $30,000 restoring their vehicles. The response was tremendous. We got MGAs, Corvairs, BMW 2002s, a Nissan GT-R, a Mercedes-Benz 300D, Chevy pick-up trucks… you name it. These young people all drove their cars to the event. Their enthusiasm was infectious.

    Quite a few of these young people brought their parents with them, as if to prove to them: ‘See, it’s not a complete waste of time.’ The winner, Carter Kramer with his 1976-BMW-2002 , damaged his car on the way to the show and had to repaint his front spoiler on the morning of the event.

    These young people all restored the cars themselves. One even cried because his car was being honoured on the same field as Bugattis and Ferraris. Normally the only time you see millionaires and billionaires crying on the concours field is when they lose.

    That’s how we can inspire the next generation of enthusiast: by making it about the blood, sweat and tears of our hobby. So if you’re an old guy like me, the next time you go to a car show find the youngest entrant there and give them the thumbs up. It might just save our hobby.

    Younger people embrace new technology like 3D printing, too. There are no more junkyards as cars get recycled but, with 3D printers, there is almost nothing you can’t make. Our hobby must evolve. I hope this event and the appeal to younger hobbyists will keep it going.

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    Jay Leno
    Jay Leno joined the group BMW Neue Klasse Club
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    Robb Pritchard
    Robb Pritchard is now friends with Jay Leno
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    Paul Hardiman
    Paul Hardiman is now friends with Jay Leno
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    I often wonder if younger readers today are as awestruck by magazine covers as I was back in the ’60s. One of the most iconic for me was the May 1965 issue of Road & Track, which featured Carroll Shelby with three of the cars he would be racing that year: the Cobra, the Shelby 350 Mustang and the Ford GT40. He’s the reason I own those three cars today. When he visited my garage I asked him to recreate the photo, and he graciously complied.

    / #Ford-GT40 / #Ford

    Another magazine cover, a bit more obscure but no less riveting, was the September/October 1965 issue of Antique Automobile, the official publication of the Antique Automobile Club of America. It featured an enormous chain-driven aero-engined monster nicknamed Rabbit-the-First. At that point in my life I was more into muscle cars and hot rod magazines than antique automobiles that puttered down the road, but this one was different. So different that I saved that copy of the magazine, which I still have. The thought that I would one day acquire that car never crossed my mind. It finally happened about ten years ago. Unlike many aero-engined cars today, this one was assembled in period. It was once thought to be one of Count Zborowski’s Chitty Bang Bang cars, an easy mistake to make because the build was somewhat identical.

    The original owner, Lord Scarisbrick, had an engine taken from a German aircraft that had been shot down. Someone had buried the engine in their back yard, hoping to put it in a car or a boat when the war ended. Scarisbrick acquired the engine and had it put in a beefedup 1910 Mercedes frame. The car quickly acquired the name Rabbit One because of the name Scarisbrick called his wife. Use your imagination to figure that out. The earliest photo I could find of the car showed it in the 1940 Easter Parade in New York. After several American owners it was acquired by famous automotive illustrator Peter Helck, who first saw it in 1950. By then it had a radiator from an early Locomobile, still on the car today. Helck came up with the badge on the radiator that says ‘Benz-Mercedes’. And according to Bill Boddy, the car was run at Brooklands in 1921, we think just the once.

    When I got the Rabbit it just about ran. It had a clutch that barely functioned, which I believe is the original clutch from the 1910 Mercedes, and brakes on the rear wheels only that barely stopped the car. The restoration took so long because the steel water jackets surrounding the cylinders were rusted through; you’d fill the radiator, run a mile or two, and all the water would have gone. We had to hand-make new water jackets out of brass, which took about a year. Hands haven’t changed, so I hope this hand-made engine will now last another 100 years. To make the Rabbit driveable we took off the front axle, which we saved, and fitted an axle from a 1929 Lincoln, which had front brakes. We made a periodlooking drum with hydraulic discs hidden inside them.

    We can always go back to original if need be. We also fitted a modern McLeod clutch and put a clutch brake on the gearbox input shaft using a disc brake from a motorcycle, making it easier to shift the non-synchro transmission. I don’t think any previous owners drove it more than a few hundred miles, at best. After Peter Helck had made a wonderful job of restoring the engine, I don’t think he drove it much at all. Probably because of the clutch and the lack of braking.

    It’s a fascinating vehicle to drive on its thin, almost bicycle-like tyres. Its most impressive part, besides the giant sprockets and huge chains, is the six-cylinder, 18.5-litre, 230bhp engine with its polished brass water jacket and four overhead valves per cylinder. Scarisbrick must have had some male brass parts himself to run this thing at a documented 113mph.

    To sit behind such a mechanical beast is truly a treat. It is so unlike any modern automotive experience; 1600rpm is pretty much the end of the world and the valve springs are not covered. Oil drips down on them from an overhead spigot. You’ve seen those old photos of racers who have taken off their goggles and they look like raccoons because their faces are covered with grease and oil. That’s what it’s like when you drive this thing.

    Once a group was touring my garage and an elderly man with a walking stick yelled out at the top of his lungs, ‘Oh my God! Is that Rabbit One?’ His father had seen it as a boy and told him about it. This man had researched almost all the aero-engined cars at Brooklands, but this one had eluded him. He didn’t look at another car in my collection; he just stayed with this one until the tour had finished. That’s what makes this hobby worthwhile. Fun as it is to preserve history, it’s way more fun to drive it.

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    Jay Leno
    Jay Leno joined the group Renault Caravelle
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    Andy Talbot
    Andy Talbot is now friends with Jay Leno
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    Jay Leno
    Something I don’t understand, yet I see quite often, is supercars - some fairly new and some over a decade old - with almost no miles on them at all. Recent ones I've seen for sale are a 2005 Ford GT, white, with 105 miles. And a 2003 Ferrari Enzo, red, with 165 miles. Are these real car people? Why do they buy these automobiles? Is there any real pleasure in owning something that you never use? As much as I hate the investment aspect of it, I understand it. Still, do these cars bring the owners any actual joy or pleasure?

    To me the real fun of owning supercars is learning more about them every time I take them out, knowing I will never be good enough to drive them to their limit.

    I’m now in my fifth year of #McLaren-P1 ownership, and I love the car even more now than when I first got it. I’m rather proud of all the nicks and chips picked up in the last half-decade, and can tell anyone where I was and what I was doing when each one happened. Like the time I slid across the track, touched the wall and shaved a hundredth of an inch off the side of the front splitter.

    I took it back to my shop, got some 2000-grit sandpaper, rubbed it down and touched it up. From that moment on, I loved the car even more because it took away all the mystique. I repaired it as I would a Ford or a Chevy or any other vehicle I might own.

    It might be the ultimate hypercar, but its still a car. It was the same thing when it needed new tyres. Rather than go to the dealer, I ordered the tyres and we mounted them in my garage. I was astounded at how hard it was to get those massive tyres stretched on the rim. It took about a gallon of tyre lube to get them on and then took all night before they finally, under pressure, beaded themselves to the rim with a bang that sounded like a .44 Magnum.

    The technicians that work on these supercars are like surgeons. They are specialists. They travel from dealership to dealership around the globe and know every aspect of the engineering. And the one thing they will tell you, whether it s Porsche, #Ferrari , #Lamborghini or #McLaren , is that you have to drive them.

    I know a few guys with Porsche 918s who have had battery problems, because they don t drive them enough or they forget to put them on the battery charger. You can’t let lithium-ion batteries go dead. You’d think they would remember that, with batteries about $80,000 each.

    I remember once, as kids, we found an abandoned engine and we thought we’d take it apart so we could learn about it. It had been left outside for a number of years but the sump was still filled with oil. When we took it off, everything below the sump level still looked good. Everything above it was rusty and corroded. That’s what I think of every time I see any kind of vehicle sitting in a museum where the cars are just outside. The parts not lubricated are more likely to fail than the ones that are.

    Something I use on some aero engines I own is a pre-oiler. These were popular during the war years. I have a 1915 #Hispano-Suiza aero engine on a 1915 Hispano chassis which uses a rubber bladder under pressure to flood the engine with oil before you hit the starter. The Merlin-engined Rolls has an electric pump that you run for a minute until you see 60-70lb of pressure on the gauge. More damage is done in that millisecond of running cold than in hundreds of miles of driving. I often wonder why pre-oilers are no longer fitted. They would surely prolong engine life.

    That said, the old days when supercars were troublesome and finicky are pretty much over. Even Ferraris, considered pernickety for years, now come with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty and a seven-year service plan.

    My PI has never spent more time in the shop than what’s been needed to perform routine oil changes. With the exception of the initial price (oh my God!) and the insurance (oh wow, wow!) it’s not bad at all. If I had bought my P1 five years ago, parked it and put a cover over it for the same time period, I guess the hybrid battery would have to be replaced, every seal would be dried out and beginning to leak, and the oil sitting in the sump would be starting to break down. And whatever petrol that had been in the tank would have begun to separate. Modern blended fuels really only stay viable for a few months before the ethanol and the water go their separate ways and the fuel loses all hope of volatility.

    I don’t know what s worse, high mileage or no mileage. The answer is somewhere in the middle. Most modern cars are just broken in at 20,000 miles. Its a myth that a car is worn out at 60,000 or 70,000 miles. I’ve got a 1968 Mercedes-Benz 6.3 with 326,000 miles on it and, with the exception of the clock, everything works fine.
    Why don’t I fix the clock? Because I have a wristwatch.
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    This past 18 July I woke up at 3.15 in the morning to drive to Tustin, California, home to two of the largest free-standing wooden structures in the world. They stand 17 storeys tall, are 1000ft long and cover about seven acres of enclosed space. They were built after the attack on Pearl Harbor as hangars for blimps, or LTAs (‘Lighter Than Aircraft’) as the Navy called them. These airships were used to patrol the California coast, looking for enemy submarines. The hangars were built entirely out of wood because steel was in short supply during the war.

    / #2020-Chevrolet-Corvette / #2020-Chevrolet-Corvette-C8 / #2020 / #Chevrolet-Corvette-C8 / #Chevrolet-Corvette / #Chevrolet /

    I was invited to this historic site because the new mid-engined Corvette was to be unveiled here. The official unveiling was going to be happening 13 hours in the future, but I was given the honour of being the first person to get behind the wheel of this ground-breaking new car. It really is ground-breaking for a number of reasons. Number one is the price, starting below $60,000.

    Like most people, I have envisioned that Corvette would become a brand in itself, with a number of cars in its line-up. We have just assumed that General Motors would continue to make an entry-level, traditional Corvette with a front engine and that a mid-engined C8 would be its high-end supercar. After all, isn’t that what most manufacturers do?
    Most manufacturers are afraid of alienating their fan base, so they keep making a new version of the same thing over and over. Think Harley Davidson and Porsche, for example. The shock of the new is not something most traditional car enthusiasts crave. To paraphrase Mark Twain, I like progress; it’s change I don’t like. Anyway, we were wrong. It’s going to be mid-engined or nothing. I immediately assumed, given the price point, that it would have some sort of torque-converter automatic transmission, with the usual excuse of ‘we did it because it’s lighter in weight’. But no, the transmission is bespoke and it’s a dual-clutch, just like the big boys have. And if you pull both paddles simultaneously you can rev the engine and dump the clutch.

    One feature that I love, and as far as I know nobody else has in such sophisticated form, is a front-end lift which has a GPS connection, and you can programme up to, literally, 1000 different locations to lift the front end automatically as you approach. How cool is that?

    My favourite thing about this Corvette launch was that everybody I spoke to, including the CEO, Mary Barra, is an engineer. Hers was a degree in electrical engineering. Mark Reuss, the president of General Motors, has a degree in mechanical engineering and is also head of the performance division. He’s been driving and testing the C8 from the beginning, and not just on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. On the Nürburgring, too.

    Talking with executive chief engineer Tadge Juechter and chief Corvette engineer Ed Piatek is like hanging around with your car buddies in Cars ’n’ Coffee. The only difference is that these guys actually know what they’re talking about. There were no marketing guys or PR people listening in over their shoulders, ready to jump in and correct some ‘mis-statement’. Another cool feature they’re very excited about is the electronically adjustable braking. Chevy calls it ‘eBoost’ braking. The driver can adjust the brake feel depending on what mode the car is in. It also saves space and weight by combining the master cylinder, vacuum booster, vacuum pump and electronic brake module all into one unit.

    Something I find truly fascinating is that with a normally aspirated 495bhp engine, this C8 is quicker to 60mph than last year’s top-of-the-line, 775bhp, supercharged ZR1. How is that possible? Once again, by some very clever engineering. In the old days it would have been done with cubic inches and massive amounts of brute horsepower. This time it was done with science and engineering. Moving the driver six-and-a-half inches forward and putting the engine behind him/her helps, as well as all-new suspension. Gone are the transverse leaf springs of old (albeit made of high-tech composite in later years), replaced with coil springs. Combine that with the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission and some cutting-edge Michelin tyres, and you have an extremely sophisticated sports car to rival the best of Europe’s at a third of the price.

    The last time GM moved the engine behind the driver, it was called the Corvair and was considered the most European car America had ever produced. GM is taking a big risk by bucking tradition with this C8. Among the Corvette faithful it has really upset the apple cart. Oh, and the top comes off too. So, how do you like them apples? Is there still Corvette in their cores?

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    Jay Leno
    Jay Leno created a new group Chevrolet Corvette C8

    Chevrolet Corvette C8 Open Group

    2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8

    View Group →
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