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Jay Leno’s Big Dog Garage is a Muscle Museum and More11

By Dan Berry

There is No Bigger Dog Than Jay Leno – He’s Got Real Muscle… in His Garage, Too!

Everyone knows Jay Leno as a legend of comedy and the king of hosts for late night talk shows. But, many also know Jay as one of the most passionate automotive enthusiasts and the guy with one of the largest and coolest car collections on earth. Leno’s Big Dog Garage is stocked with some of the most rare and highly regarded rides to be found anywhere on the planet. In fact, if he were to allow the gang from Graveyard Carz to take a tour of his garage, chances are they wouldn’t leave – and wouldn’t have anything to do. Restoring and resurrecting classic cars is also Leno’s passion. From boats, to motorcycles to movie-set cars, Jay has them all – and in mint condition. For a taste of the muscle Jay’s got in his garage, here are a couple of classics and modern throwbacks from Jay Leno’s Big Dog Garage.

Graveyard CarZ – Episode 1

CLASSIC MUSCLE

Don Prudhomme’s “The Snake”

In the glory days of drag racing, men were men and the trophy girls knew it. Don “The Snake” Prudhomme was one of these racing pioneers who got a kick out of the adrenaline rush and went on to earn a prominent place in the record books—and a cool nickname, too.

The Snake was best known for his yellow 1970 Plymouth Barracuda Hot Wheels “Snake I” Funny Car, in which he raced rival driver Tom McEwen in his red 1970 Plymouth Duster, named Mongoose. The Hot Wheels ‘Cuda was an integral part of Mattel’s legendary Hot Wheels “Snake vs. Mongoose” promotion, which saw Prudhomme and Tom McEwen square off in match races across the country while also making countless appearances at toy stores, retail outlets and other locations. Both drivers gained wider public attention from Mattel’s “Hot Wheels” toy versions of the cars that were released in 1970.

There is only one yellow 1970 Plymouth Barracuda Hot Wheels “Snake I” Funny Car remaining from the original two Funny Cars ever produced. The car made appearances on Plymouth’s 1971 Rapid Transit tour and was eventually acquired by Prudhomme, who began an extensive in-house restoration that was finally completed in 2008.

Originally built by Ronnie Scrima at Exhibition Engineering in Van Nuys, California, this original restoration features the original 446 cubic-inch motor, original body and original rolling chassis. It also includes an original 671 blower and original front (Cragar) and rear (Hallibrandt) wheels.

1970 Hotchkis E-Max Dodge Challenger 340 T/A

Sweet gods of motoring modification, is nothing holy?

For nearly two decades, Hotchkis Performance has been making muscle and sports cars faster on the track and more fun to drive on the street. The Hotchkis philosophy, of engineering bolt-on no-cutting required performance parts that have been thoroughly track tested and race proven, means enthusiasts can modify their car for a dramatically improved, grin-inducing driving experience without permanently altering their car.

The 1970 Hotchkis E-Max Dodge Challenger 340 T/A started out as a totally stock ’70 Challenger converted by a previous owner to 340 Six-Pack trim, and they went and built an auto-crosser. This was one of two Chrysler E-body cars conceived in the late 1960s (the other being the slightly smaller Plymouth Barracuda) to compete against the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, Mercury Cougar and Pontiac Firebird.

Hotchkis components include new fabricated steel upper a-arms with bolt-in relocation suspension pickup point brackets, fabricated strut rods with Heim joints to eliminate excess front suspension play, bump steer corrected aluminum steering rods with adjustable Heim joint ends, a new balanced front and rear sway bar package, performance springs that lower the car two-inches and fabricated steel sub-frame connectors for improved rigidity.

These front suspension products create a proper negative camber curve, sufficient positive camber for high speed stability and full bump and droop travel without bumpsteer. Essentially Hotchkis has revised the antiquated front suspension with modern geometry. E-MAX also features Stoptech Brakes, Forgeline Wheels, Yokohama Tires, Flowmaster Exhaust, Red Line Oil and engine fluids and power by Optima Batteries. The car retains its 340 Six Pack powerplant and Hurst Pistol Grip equipped four-speed transmission.

1966 Dodge Hemi Coronet 500

Introduced in 1965, the Coronet would carry much of Dodge’s performance banner through the balance of the decade. Bolstered by a mighty 426 Hemi V-8, the car was so badass that one ad for the ’65 Coronet slyly stated, “Our new 426 Coronet ought to have its head examined.” But what Dodge failed to make clear was that this was the race Hemi, with a volatile 12.5:1 compression ratio that made it ill-suited for street use. However, that all changed in 1966 – the year of the Street Hemi – as Hot Rod magazine called it “one of the fastest and most fantastic sedans ever.”

Unlike the race Hemi that snuck under some 1965 Coronet 500 hoods, the one in the ’66 had a more tolerable 10.25:1 compression. But while it was basically a detuned edition of the earlier race Hemi, the street version could still handle the same wallop of torque. Dodge rated the result at 425 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 490 pounds/feet of torque at 4000. Pure stock, it would blast the 3400-pound unibody Coronet to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds and through the quarter in 13.8 seconds at 104 mph. The acceleration, said Motor Trend, was “absolutely shattering.”

1970 Dodge Challenger R/T

The Dodge Challenger is the name of three different automobile models marketed by the Dodge division of Chrysler. The first generation (built from 1970 to 1974) was a pony car, with the R/T (Road/Track) being the Dodge Challenger’s performance model. Made famous in the film Vanishing Point, the 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T sported a 383 CID Magnum V8, rated at 335 bhp (249.8 kW), and a standard 3-speed manual transmission. Optional R/T engines were the 375 bhp (279.6 kW) 440 cu in (7.2 L) Magnum, the 390 bhp (290.8 kW) 440 CID Six-Pack and, of course, the 425 bhp (316.9 kW) 426 cu in (7.0 L) Hemi that is loaded into the manual four-speed ’70 Challenger R/T found in Jay Leno’s Garage.

Critics never liked the ’70 Dodge Challenger R/T with the Hemi due to the ride’s poor handling. But when you’re going faster than all hell and looking damn sexy doing it, who cares about handling, let alone gas mileage? That’s right… Chicks dig it!

1967 Chrysler Imperial Crown Coupe

The ultimate boulevard cruiser – they don’t make cars like this anymore… probably because it’s one of the last rides to use ancient alien technology. And I’m not talking teleporters here. I’m talking back when your youngest son was the TV remote technology: “Hey, dummy, go flip the knob on the DuMont!”

Still, the 1967 Chrysler Imperial Crown Coupe is a pretty sweet ride… if you’re a 92-year-old lady on her way to AC to hit the slots. No, but seriously, the Imperial is a tank—a big Chrysler 440, with cast-iron torque flight three-speed transmission, that is fast, comfy and virtually bulletproof. It’s a true driving car.

NEW MUSCLE

Richard Petty Signature Series Challenger

Petty’s Garage, the winningest shop in NASCAR history, took it to the streets in 2010 by producing performance daily driver Challengers for the enthusiast market. With over 60 years of racing experience, they took that knowledge and passion for driving and poured it into the 2010 Richard Petty Signature Series Challenger. With over 600 bhp and 550 ft lbs of torque managed by the Petty’s Garage custom coilovers, anti-roll bars and Brembo’s Gran Turismo brakes, they have built the ultimate Challenger for the street. Of course, only 43 customers were given the opportunity to own a 2010 Richard Petty Signature Series Challenger. But guess who one of the 43 just so happened to be. That’s right. Jay Leno.

2009 Hurst/Hemi Challenger Series 4 SRT8

A true gentleman’s hot-rod, the 2009 Hurst/Hemi Challenger Series 4 SRT8 is everything you love about the muscle cars of yore, but with steering and brakes—which I guess, you know, is some sort of a good thing or something.

Hurst started in 1958 and has been synonymous with “go-fast” parts and special edition vehicles ever since. If your car has a Hurst shifter on it, it was a simple upgrade; but it was the right upgrade. Once you wrap your hands around it, the car feels more ready for business and a boatload of fun—much like the greatest mullet ever.

The same holds true with the Hurst Challenger. This is a car that is definitely ready to run. Springing to life with the push of a button and the arousing rumble of a 6.1L HEMI engine strapped to a sexy Vortech supercharger, it growls and it whines, showcasing the street eating power beneath the hood. The Dodge Challenger is a car that sounds good, but the Hurst Challenger is a car that sounds truly nasty. It is rated at 572 hp and 528 lb-ft of torque all aching to be released through those rear wheels. On paper this car should be a handful, but thanks to the centrifugal supercharger it is incredibly docile around town. But when you do decide to grab your sack and slam the pedal through the floorboard, the beast snaps from its slumber, the supercharger slaps its mother in the face and your main vein becomes engorged as your back becomes well acquainted with the comfortable seat.

2009 Hurst/Hemi Challenger Series 4 SRT8 — Vitals:

To achieve the ultimate Challenger, Hurst Performance Vehicles took a fully loaded 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8, with a sticker price around $42,000 and applied Merlin-esque magic on the vehicle. Among their Performance Series options are a Series 2, 3, 4 and 5, as well as the Competition Plus.

The Series 4 upgrade costs $29,150 over the price of the Challenger SRT8, bringing the total damage to $70,086, and gets you the following:

Drivetrain: 6.1-liter, 572-hp, 528-lb-ft, supercharged V8; RWD, 6-speed manual
Vortech supercharger
0-60 mph: 3.6 seconds
Hurst “Pistol-Grip” Shifter
Hurst 20′ polished forged wheels
Katzkin leather interior with a prominent Hurst logo
BF Goodrich KDW performance tires
Magnaflow cat-back exhaust
Eibach coil-over suspension and sway bar
Hurst rear spoiler
Hurst floor mats
Hurst exterior graphics and badges
Series 4 sequentially numbered interior dash plaque
Limited Edition Paint Scheme: White or Black with Hurst gold racing stripes

And finally… last, but most certainly not least:

Black car cover with gold racing stripes

2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8

Powered by the 6.1-liter HEMI V8, this HEMI orange muscle car puts out 425 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. of torque for a total of 69.8 horsepower per liter. How fast is it? Good question. It’s not nearly as powerful as the Hurst Hemi Challenger with its Vortech supercharger, but it can still hold its own. Think zero to 60 mph in the low 5-second range and a standing quarter in the mid-13s. Of course, a better measure of performance is the 0-100-0-mph test, and with Brembo four-piston calipers on all four wheels, the Challenger SRT8 runs high 16s and has a 60 to 0 mph stopping distance of approximately 110 feet. Not bad for a 4,200-pound car.

2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302, Laguna Seca Edition

The Boss is back and it’s a proper homage to the 1968 classic. The 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 (with or without Laguna Seca package) will offer a 440 horsepower (380 lb-ft torque) 5.0 liter V8, improved brakes, short-shifter, upgrade clutch, and an upgrade suspension that gives the Mustang over 1.0Gs of lateral traction. Other upgrades include a reduction in soundproofing, dark metallic interior trim, Recaro seats, and Alcantara sheathed steering wheel.

The Leguna Seca package—which is available in black or silver and deletes the rear seats and adds a tubular crossbrace along with the limited slip differential and Recaro front seats—provides even more exclusivity with improved body stiffness, strengthened chassis, and an aero package. A unique front splitter and rear spoiler combine to add 90 pounds of downforce at 140 mph, which will keep the Pirelli Corsas firmly glued to the tarmac.

Need further proof of the Boss’s potency? Ford claims it will outpace a BMW M3 on Laguna Seca.

SEMA 2010: American Muscle

SEMA is the Mecca of automotive enthusiasts and is the showcase for the muscle cars of today. Needless to say, a few of Jay Leno’s cars are shown at SEMA every year, but that’s beyond the point. The SEMA Show is the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world. It draws the industry’s brightest minds and hottest products to one place, the Las Vegas Convention Center. As part of the AAIW, the SEMA Show attracts more than 100,000 industry leaders from more than 100 countries for unlimited profit opportunities in the automotive, truck and SUV, and RV markets. In addition, the SEMA Show provides attendees with educational seminars, product demonstrations, special events, networking opportunities and more. But of course, the cars are the stars, and at the 2010 SEMA show, they most definitely did not disappoint.

The 2010 SEMA show added a new highlight to the already stellar event with an award for the hottest car of the show. The inaugural winner was Bryan Chambers (President, Alternative Automotive Technology) for his sweet-ass Camaro. The ZL 585-hp supercharged beast is a true beauty and epitomizes SEMA’s goal of spotlighting the near-limitless options available to people looking to restore, resurrect and/or simply add style and muscle to their mean machines.

Graveyard CarZ – Episode 2

Watch more episodes of the reality/car restoration series Graveyard Carz

Dan Berry began writing and performing stand-up comedy while skipping class and drinking heavily at New York University. An inexplicably instant success, he has since appeared in clubs and on college campuses nationwide and is frequently featured on radio and television. Aside from creating the humor site “Jotter of a Rotter” and the internationally acclaimed website “The Prison Kite,” Dan has also lent his warped writing skills to a pair of failed pilots for FX and NBC, as well as to several current network shows that are somehow proving successful in spite of his crazed contributions.

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