“Comparatively few celebs over the years have actually been obsessive enough in their enthusiasm for cars and motorsports to be considered accomplished drivers or lifelong gearheads…”
It’s no surprise that celebrities gravitate to cool cars.
For the vast majority of them though, cars are just fashion accessories. Comparatively few celebs over the years have actually been obsessive enough in their enthusiasm for cars and motorsports to be considered accomplished drivers or lifelong gearheads. Here are six with real cred:
Jay Leno is probably one of the best-known celebrity gearheads. His “Jay Leno’s Garage” website is well trafficked and his videos garner thousands of views on YouTube. Leno is no poser; he’s a consummate car guy and he has a very independent collecting philosophy – he’s out to impress no one. He buys what he likes and what he finds technically interesting, and he even has been known to turn a wrench or two.
The King of Cool, the late Steve McQueen owned some of the greatest collectible cars of all time, from a one-of-16-built Jaguar XK SS to a Ferrari 250 GT Lusso. Whenever any of the movie actor’s former cars hit the auction circuit, they sell for several multiples of what a non-McQueen car could expect to garner. Hell, even the guy’s sunglasses once fetched $70,000 at auction.
Most people remember the late James Garner as the laidback private eye Jim Rockford who drove an equally cool Pontiac Firebird and devised the trademark Jim Rockford “J turn.” The owner of numerous classic cars over the years, Garner starred in the 1965 John Frankenheimer racing epic Grand Prix, where the real drivers serving as technical advisers told him that he had serious talent. As a team owner in the 1960s, his cars had frequent successes included taking five of the first seven places in the brutal Baja 500 race.
As a New Yorker, it seems odd that comedian Jerry Seinfeld would turn out to be one of Hollywood’s most accomplished gearheads. Conventional wisdom holds that New Yorkers don’t own cars, and to the extent that they interact with them, they’re yellow and have a light on the roof. But Seinfeld has over the years become one of the world’s premier Porsche collectors. The exact extent of his collection is not widely known, but it is said to include some of the earliest Porsches from the late 1940s as well as some of Porsche’s most famous racing cars. Not a subscriber to the trailer and velvet ropes philosophy of collecting, Seinfeld actually drives most of his cars on a regular basis.
Grey’s Anatomy actor Patrick Dempsey is a fixture at many of the big collector car auctions, particularly Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale sale in January, and he maintains a serious collection of vintage cars. But Dempsey’s biggest footprint is in the motorsports world. He’s competed at serious venues like Le Mans and Daytona and in the Baja 1000. At this point, it’s difficult to say whether Dempsey is an actor who races cars or a racer who acts.
Paul Newman was no stranger to cool street cars. We loved him in the hockey epic Slapshot in a Gold 1970 Pontiac GTO and in the Porsche Speedster from Harper. Out of films and on the street, he tended to be more low-key though, famously taking to the streets of Westport, Conn., in an innocuous-looking Volvo wagon that hid a fire-breathing GM V-8. But it was on the race track that Newman earned his gearhead cred – successful showings at The 24 Hours of Le Mans, Daytona and numerous races in the SCCA Trans Am series were among his major accomplishments. Respect for him as a driver was universal and he was posthumously inducted into the SCCA Hall of Fame in 2009.
Rob Sass is the vice-president of content for Hagerty Insurance. Hagerty is the world’s leading specialist provider of classic car and boat insurance. Learn more at hagerty.ca
Recently retired late night show host, Jaguar collector and classic car enthusiast, Jay Leno, and Jaguar Design Director, co-driver Ian Callum, are legends of the automotive industry…
The famous Mille Miglia rally in Italy was packed full of famous cars and equally famous drivers this past week.
But when it comes to prodigious competition histories paired with A-list names, the combination of Jaguar Heritage Racing’s 1951 Ecurie Ecosse XK 120 roadster with Jay Leno and Ian Callum was hard to beat.
Well, maybe. Regular Driveway readers will recall that yours truly and my friend George Holt did the recent Hagerty Spring Thaw rally around BC in a 1954 XK 120 roadster.
But I digress.
Recently retired late night show host, Jaguar collector and classic car enthusiast, Leno, and Jaguar Design Director, co-driver Callum, are legends of the automotive industry – and at the famous road endurance rally, the rare roadster complemented their presence.
Prior to the event, Callum said: “As a Scotsman, Ecurie Ecosse is incredibly close to my heart – so the chance to drive this incredible XK 120 through Italy is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Factor in a co-driver who’s almost as much of a Jaguar man as me – and there’s no doubt I’m going to love every minute!”
Leno commented: “I’m fortunate to have an XK 120 in my garage – not to mention a few other incredible cars from Coventry – but this Ecurie Ecosse XK 120 is one of the most beautiful Jaguars ever built. I absolutely adore it. It’s a real honour to be asked to drive it on the Mille Miglia and to be able to revel in its history with someone like Ian is a true privilege.”
One of the most valuable and important XK 120s in the world, ‘LXO 126’ is the only surviving example of three original cars built to launch the Scottish racing team in 1952. A race winner in its period, it is most famously associated with raffish Anglo-Scottish aristocrat Sir James Scott-Douglas.
Scott-Douglas competed in a number of endurance races across Europe with Ecurie Ecosse and even went on to keep ‘LXO 126’ as a road car in 1953. In the same year, the car returned to the race track at the infamous Nurburgring; Ecurie Ecosse mechanics hastily converting it back into a competition car when one of the team’s C-type’s met with an accident.
Since then the car has been the subject of a meticulous restoration. Resplendent in the classic Flag Metallic Blue of the Ecurie Ecosse racing team, it was recently sold by Bonhams Auctions for more than $1-million at the end of 2013 and has been loaned to Jaguar Heritage Racing for the event.
It wasn’t the only Ecurie Ecosse car in Italy for the event – the Ecurie Ecosse C-type and D-type the original Ecurie Ecosse racing transporter were also present at the start in Brescia.
At press time, Jaguar Heritage Racing planned to tackle the legendary endurance event with a line-up of top-name drivers. The route includes more than 1,000 gruelling miles (1,600 kilometres), hence the name, from Brescia-Rome-Brescia in ten of the most revered and sought-after historic Jaguar cars ever produced.