Jay Leno Was Lucky Enough to Drive a Car That Was Owned by One of His Heroes

Jay Leno’s Garage continues to be a popular series in which Jay Leno features, drives, and discusses various models. He’s sat behind the wheel of everything from the classic and vintage to the most revolutionary and exotic. 

But in one episode, Leno was especially fortunate to drive a car with incredible sentimental value. In fact, it was a model that had once been owned by Leno’s own heroes. Grab the tissues for this one, if you were a former fan The Tonight Show.

Jay Leno getting interviewed by Johnny Carson
Jay Leno being interviewed by Johnny Carson | Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank

A heartfelt episode and sentimental drive for Jay Leno

In this episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, Leno introduces the audience to a 1939 Chrysler Royal four-door car. The impeccable ride is impressive in its own right, as a vintage and classic model. But that’s not what makes this episode so unique.

This particular Chrysler was once owned by the legendary and Emmy Award-winning host of The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson. Leno, having been a comedic colleague and friend of Carson’s, ends the episode by taking this iconic car for a sentimental drive.

The former king of late-night television, Johnny Carson, had actually driven this Chrysler Royal when he was a teenager. It had belonged to his father back then.

The car was featured years later in a television special that portrayed Carson receiving the car once again because his producers had purchased it from its second owner, according to TheDrive.com. The Royal was then lent for display in Las Vegas, where it remained until Johnny Carson passed away. Upon his death, Leno was surprised to learn that the 1939 Chrysler Royal had been left to him in Carson’s will.

A classic and vintage car

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Jay Leno talks about the specs of this vintage Chrysler and describes it as a former “workhorse of the Chrysler fleet.” And he’s not lying. Under the hood, the 1939 Chrysler Royal is powered by a 242 cubic inch inline-six engine that harnesses 114 horses, according to Motor Authority.

Some sources suggest the standard engine for this car was capable of 100-horsepower traditionally. Maintenance and tuning up a car like this can be more difficult, as Leno points out just how low the engine sits between the fenders. But overall, Leno applauds the Royal’s simplicity.

Johnny Carson is the king of late-night television

If you don’t remember watching Johnny Carson on late-night television, you might at least recognize the name. He has been crowned the king as he led The Tonight Show for 30 years. He took over for Jack Paar on the NBC show in 1962.

And his format, of hilarity from behind the desk while interviewing celebrity guests, has become the staple of late-night television still today. His farewell episode upon his retirement in 1992, is reported to have drawn 50 million viewers.

Passing of the torch and mutual respect

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When Johnny Carson retired from his beloved show, NBC producers were slated with finding a replacement host. Jay Leno was a top pick and no stranger to The Tonight Show as he had previously guest hosted.

The torch was passed from Carson to Leno, and while fans were sad to see Carson step out of the limelight, most agreed Leno was an ideal fit. There has always been a mutual respect between the two comedian hosts, although Leno would say Carson was more a hero and mentor to him.

This episode of Jay Leno’s Garage was certainly special, especially for anyone who recognizes the history between Leno and his former host pal and hero, Johnny Carson. The car is classic, and the story behind the sentiment is heartfelt. And it’s not every day a vintage car is owned by two celebrity television hosts.